Muslim concentration districts: Is construction of Anganwadi centres justified under MsDP?

By Mumtaz Alam Falahi,,

Under the Multi-Sectoral Development Programme for the 90 selected minority-concentrated districts, the Central Government, in collaboration with the state governments, is spending hundreds of crore rupees on construction of new Anganwadi centres in thousands in Muslim-concentrated districts. The million-dollar question is: Are these centres justified under MsDP, and how much will they serve the community for whose development the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has launched the MsDP in the light of Sachar Committee recommendations?

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Minority Affairs, several projects for construction of Anganwadi centres under MsDP were approved and funds sanctioned for them for the year 2008-2009.

Rampur (Uttar Pradesh), which has 49.14% Muslims, has been sanctioned new 500 units of Anganwadi centre. Each unit will cost Rs 2.95 lakh. The project will be fully funded by the centre. These centres will be constructed in minority concentration villages.

Similarly, in Bihar’s Araria district (41.14% Muslim population) 300 new Anganwadi centres will be constructed and in Darbhanga (22.73%) 200. Each unit in these two districts will cost Rs 3 lakh, and will be fully funded by the centre.

For the same financial year of 2008-09, two districts of Manipur have one project: Tamenglong district will have 1900 new units of Indira Awas Yojna while Thoubal district will have 2000 units of IAY. There is no plan to construct Anganwadi centres there.

The trend for construction of Anganwadi centres in vast numbers continues for Muslim concentrated districts for the current 2009-10 financial year.
Kishanganj (67.58%) in Bihar will have new 594 units of Anganwadi centres and Badaun (21.33%) in Uttar Pradesh will have 1000 units.

Will these centres serve the community? “Leave aside the question whether or not they will serve the community. What is more important is that spending of hundreds of crore rupees on construction of Anganwadi centres in Muslim concentration districts is against the letter and spirit of the MsDP, says Arshad Ajaml of Patna-based Al-Khair Charitable Trust. MsDP was not for such projects.

He says that Anganwadi centre is a normal project and government is bound to open it (according to the Supreme Court order) in an area where there are 40 children. These centres are part of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and should be opened normally on demand. Why MsDP funds are being spent on them, asks Ajmal who will soon conduct a survey on ICDS in the state. Ajmal is one of the five advisors to the Right to Food Commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court.

Five major services ICDS scheme provides generally through Anganwadi centres are providing supplementary nutrition, immunization, health check-up and referral services. These services are provided to children below 6 years and pregnant and lactating mother. Besides, ICDS provides pre-school education to children (3-6 years) and nutrition and health education to women (15-45 years). But generally these services are just on paper.

Ajmal says that MsDP was for innovative schemes and projects at local levels in minority concentration districts so that their overall development could be ensured. There should have been local planning at block and panchayat levels. For instance, a Muslim concentration village has Indira Awas Yojna units but latrines, so sanitation facility is urgent need for them, adds Ajmal, a prominent social activist in the state. In case drinking water is not available then MsDP should have projects to bring drinking water to the village.

Income generation was one of the basic points of the MsDP. But no district authorities of Muslim concentration districts have sent any projects for income generation.

To make the MsDP a successful plan to remove the infrastructure deficits for Indian Muslims in minority concentrated districts, economist Syed Zahid Ahmad suggests three points:

1. The selection of the districts should be based on standard index for socio – economic indicators like Per capita income and per head asset or agricultural land per household etc.

2. Potential Muslim NGOs should be identified and empowered through knowledge, training and capacity building so as to enable them interact with district planning committees in formulizing and execution of the MsDP in selected 90 districts.

3. Creating financial infrastructure for interest free banking and finance so as to ensure financial inclusion of Indian Muslims for inclusive growth.


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