ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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ICDS Striving for Holistic Development

Insights from a Field Study in Uttar Pradesh

As a national flagship programme, the Integrated Child Development Services is well-conceived. However, more attention has been paid to increasing its coverage than to improving the quality of service delivery, and to distributing food rather than changing existingfamily-based food habits and caregiving. This inertia has resulted in poor outcomes. Past studies have reiterated Uttar Pradesh’s status as an incorrigible offender. Drawing on findings from field surveys administered in nine districts in UP and data from 90 anganwadis, the constraints to the effective functioning of the ICDS are revealed.

The author is thankful to the Indian Council of Social Science Research, New Delhi, for the financial support extended to this project. The author is also thankful to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions and excellent feedback, which helped improve this paper.

Undernutrition among women and children remains a major development challenge across India, and requires several integrated interventions to improve maternal and child nutrition. To address this issue, a set of broadly agreed upon nutrition-specific interventions are delivered through a network of anganwadi centres (AWCs) along the continuum of care under the umbrella of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The ICDS was launched in 1975 and is the largest government programme in India that endeavours to reach children below six years of age by providing supplementary nutrition, preschool education (PSE), growth monitoring, immunisation, health check-ups, and referral services. The ICDS also includes interventions for adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. The programme has been designed in an integrated way so as to address the twin issues of childcare and education on a continual basis, while adopting a holistic approach. The service was universalised following a Supreme Court judgment in December 2013.1 However, systematic data on the coverage of these interventions are limited. Ensuring full coverage and reach requires strengthening policies, providing adequate financing, and building system-wide commitment and a capacity for delivering nutrition (Bezanson and Isenman 2009; Gillespie et al 2013).

As a national flagship programme, the ICDS is well-conceived. However, more attention has been paid to increasing coverage, rather than improving the quality of service delivery. It also focuses more on distributing food rather than changing family-based feeding and caregiving behaviour. No doubt, this has resulted in its limited impact. Researchers have examined many aspects of the ICDS, including its impact on feeding practices (Ghosh 2006) and immunisation (Tandon and Gandhi 1992); and the delivery of services in specific parts of the country, such as Chhattisgarh (Sundaraman 2006), Bihar and Jharkhand (Nayak and Saxena 2006), and Tamil Nadu (Rajivan 2006). Other studies have focused on the challenges in identifying beneficiaries for the ICDS (Borooah et al 2014). The Focus on Children Under Six report (FOCUS 2006) highlights startling contrasts in the effectiveness of the ICDS. Using data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) on child malnutrition levels, immunisation, and incidence of anaemia, it observes that the

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Published On : 6th Dec, 2019

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