The word Anganwadi means “courtyard shelter” in Indian languages. Indian government initiated Anganwadi’s across India in the year 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development services. The intention of the designers were to combat child hunger and nutrition but their activities now would range from pre-school education to even contraceptive counselling and supply. The institutional structure also provides for an Anganwadi helper. The helper helps in basic things like cooking, cleaning etc. The Anganwadi worker and helper are the basic functionaries of the ICDS who run the Anganwadi centre and implement the ICDS scheme in coordination with the functionaries of the health, education, rural development and other departments. Their services also include the health and nutrition of pregnant women, nursing mothers, and adolescent girls.
Today in India, about 2 million Aanganwadi workers are reaching out to a population of 70 million women, children and sick people, helping them become and stay healthy. Anganwadi workers are the most important and oft-ignored essential link of Indian healthcare. But they are often not paid adequately. This functional aspect of Anganwadi’s deeply touched us during our study. As part of our study on citizen’s perception of state we got several opportunities to interact with various Anganwadis in and around Haryana. We were left shocked to realise that the Anganwadi workers end up paying more out of their own pockets than their salary and reimbursements put together. In most cases these Anganwadi workers are from poor economic background and are expected to first meet all Anganwadi related expenses on their own and later apply for reimbursement. This is how Anganwadi as a state organ function on a daily basis, first payoff the expenses on their own and later reimburse. When we think of it theoretically it sounds feasible but field takes you to another perspective. On field as mentioned above we realised that most of the Anganwadi workers are financially insecure who are expected to meet all expenses initially. Naturally more than effectiveness of their interventions they will be concerned of nothing but money. To our surprise they said that there were instances wherein they received the reimbursements a year later and not received at all as well.
I am personally of the opinion that this meagre salary explains the inefficiency of various Anganwadis in India to a large extend. This connects well with our Panchayats wherein each Panch is paid only 3000 rs per month. What is even more surprising is that it is through these Anganwadis and Panchayats is government dispensing most of the welfare schemes. Institutionally and theoretically both Aganwadi and Panchayat are structurally sound but outside the theoretical world, these institutions mostly fail why? Lack of appropriate reward can be a good reason as pointed out by the Anganwadi workers themselves. As any reasonable individual they will always try to ensure their security over the institutional preferences.3000 rs per month do not even ensure the bare minimum sustenance.Knowledge about the difference in various state institutions on paper and ground is a reality check and will aid in formulating effective implementation designs in future.The on-field knowledge counts here.