By Anjana Mohan, Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

A country is born and brought up by its citizens. These citizens are the ones that rule the country and endow upon themselves the burden and struggles of keeping the country perfect for human civilization. Yet, many a times, the protection and provision of basic amenities for its people have been neglected. However presently, certain States in India have started realizing the need to mend the health and fitness of its people. One of the most common propositions brought up by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh, is the Balamrutham programme. As of now, it is on hold due to the bifurcation of the State into Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Nonetheless the strategies and the initiatives brought in through this programme are commendable.

INTEGRATED CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICES (ICDS)

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is the largest integrated scheme of Child Development in India. It blossomed in the state of Telangana in Utnoor Block, Adilabad District in 1975. Soon after that, it witnessed an immense growth as years progressed in terms of growing numbers of ICDS Projects as well as the Anganwadi centers (AWCs). The number of AWC establishments skyrocketed between 1991 to 2002-2003 when 110 blocks of predominantly tribal and drought prone regions were chosen for ICDS implementation. By 2005-2006, the project was adopted worldwide and moved onto newer areas. Habitations consisting of 800 people in urban areas, 300 in rural areas and 150 in Tribal areas were copious with AWCs in the State.

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The main aims of ICDS include

  1. Improve the nutritional and health status of children of ages zero to six years;
  2. To provide with a strong foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child;
  3. To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropouts;
  4. To achieve the effective coordination of policy and implementation among various departments to promote child development;
  5. To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child, through proper health and nutrition education.  

The services provided by ICDS consist of-

  1. Supplementary nutrition for six months to six years aged children, pregnant and lactating mothers;
  2. Immunization for children and women;
  3. Health check-ups for children and women;
  4. Referral services for children and women;
  5. Nutrition and Health Education for mothers and adolescent girls;
  6. Non-formal Pre-school Education for three to six years old children.

BENEFICIARIES OF BALAMRUTHAM AT THE ANGANWADIS

ANGANWADI NUMBER OF CHILDREN BENEFITTED
Village Centre 37
SC colony 18
Tribal Thanda 14

DEFINING BALAMRUTHAM

Andhra Pradesh is one of those few states that aim to promote the welfare of its women, children, disabled and senior citizens. The Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) enacted by the State is the crucial element of ICDS to eradicate malnutrition. Its services are offered to Pregnant & Lactating women, and children between the ages of seven months to six years. As a part of ICDS, there were two plans that were incorporated in the Anganwadis (courtyard shelter)- IAH (Indhiranna Amrutha Hastham) and Balamrutham. While IAH is a project that includes spot feeding of one full meal for Pregnant and Lactating women at the Anganwadi centre along with administration of Iron & Folic Acid (IFA) tablet, Balamrutham concentrates of the healthy development and well-being of children. In that sense, the State began with the Balamrutham project. Balamrutham is the weaning food introduced under ICDS to provide improved supplementary nutrition to children between seven months to three years. The food prepared contains a concoction of wheat, chana dal, milk powder, oil and sugar. This particular mixture provides 50% of iron, calcium, vitamins and other RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) that are essential for children every day. This scheme is successfully in operation in three Anganwadis. The children who attend these Anganwadis are given eggs daily at nine in the morning, meals at one in the afternoon and snacks by three in the evening. The table below gives a statistical analysis of the number of beneficiaries of Balamrutham in three of the Anganwadis in the Shetpally village as of October 2014.

QUANTITY AND DISTRIBUTION OF BALAMRUTHAM

It is recommended to give children hundred grams three to five times a day. For children below one year, it can be provided as porridge mixed with hot water. For older children, it can be offered in the form of ‘Laddu’. On the whole, about two and a half kilograms of Balamrutham are distributed to each child per month. It is also provided on the first day of every month to mothers having children of seven months to three years as a Take Home Ration on Nutrition Health Day-1. In addition, these children are given two eggs per week at the AWS (Anganwadi Centre) under ICDS.

REASONS BEHIND ADOPTION OF SNPs

The country is rampant with many deficiencies and imperfections regarding the mental and physical health of its citizens. Right from malnutrition, poverty and illiteracy, there has been a downward slope in terms of human development indices. In most rural areas, the incredulous factors that result in such insufficiencies comprise of improper diets, early marriages, school dropout rates, iodine deficiency, stunted growth, anemia, so on and so forth. The schemes under ICDS aid the mothers and children in meeting their dietary and mental health requirements. These schemes have witnessed a positive outcome and most importantly, awareness regarding these programs has reached masses all over different regions.

MEDIA COVERAGE

The media has also done its part in creating awareness in the State. ‘Maternal and Child Health’, a media guide for Andhra and Telangana by CMS India and UNICEF, covers all topics and information to help those in need and creates awareness among those who are in the dark. It contains information relating to the health and safety of mothers and children and cites certain schemes crafted for maternal and child health.

CONCLUSION
Hence, the schemes enacted in the State are marvelous and fruitful. However, there are few improvements required that can mend the shortcomings in achieving a complete and satisfied adoption of these programs. Having a separate kitchen for the preparation of food, hygienic storage of utensils and ingredients, and neat latrines for children to prevent open defecation, are few areas that need enhancements for a content approach towards meeting the goals. Barring these few adjustments, it is indeed a stupendous effort taken up to protect the present and the future of the State.

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