Whose permission?

Whose permission?

21st December 2007

Anganwadi Kinthali Sector Meeting

When we had gone around to distribute the sOLLu pindi (ragi flour) several women asked us why they werent getting anything from the anganwadi though their names were registered. We asked them if they had asked the anganwadi themselves and they said “you think they will tell us anything. They will just push us aside and say who asked you to come here?”

So after visiting the anganwadi ourselves, we thought of meeting with all the anganwadi workers and discussing these issues. I thought before calling them to our meeting it might be good for us to attend one of their meetings so that we could better understand the program and how they ran it. Just for good measure we thought we would also introduce the “READ India” program in which we were collaborating with Pratham, which is also meant to link with the anganwadi to utilise the children’s story cards, etc. The local anganwadi worker told us the time and place and said we could come to the meeting. We went back to the women who had first asked us why they werent getting the rations and asked them if they would also come to the meeting.

There was one woman from the village who was interested in attending the meeting with us, though she too had expressed reservations about coming alone, since then only her caste would be represented and only her caste would face any reprisals. They said that if the entire group was going, including members of various castes, then they were willing to go along. SO we said that day may come later, for the first meeting we werent planning any confrontation, we just wanted to ask basc questions and offer our cooperation, keeping things amicable and low key to start with. In the end the woman chose not to come so I went along with two of the village volunteers, neither being beneficiaries of the anganwadi program.

The meeting started out well enough. As we approached the meeting place, the anganwadi center in Kanimetta, we saw a group of women and a couple of men seated oustide in what appeared to be a construction site. Was this where anganganwaditings were heal. ? We entered via the anganwadi building and met the women. Several had notepads out, it looked like the meeting was in progress. Maybe the current was gone so they went inside, I thought. Actually it turned out that the meeting had not yet begun.

It was well past 11 and the meeting was supposed to start at 10. We chit chatted with a few of the women while waiting for the others. We saw her records of what foodgrains she had distributed in her village. The main headings were in English words or abbreviations, transliterated in to Telugu. THR = take home ration. Spot feeding is the material they cook and prepare for the children to eat at the center itself. P & L = pregnant and lactating, though they only give for the first 6 months of lactation. After that the child is eligible for “spot feeding” which, if actually provided is usually taken home.

All her columns were filled right to the decimal place.

When we asked how much rice do you give to each pregnant woman per month, she replied, 80 gms per day. I asked if she measured it out each day. She said no. I asked when she gave it. There was some confusion and all talking at once. Finally I asked, do you give it every month? They seemed to agree that that was about right. So how much do you give every month, I asked. Again cross talk but no answer. Finally one said, it is 80 gms per day. Multiply that by 25. Someone pulled out the calculator and came up with the grand total of 2 kg. SO again I asked, do you give 2 kg per month? No one answered. How do you measure it out and give them, in bags or boxes, or what? Finally the supervisor said, show them our kg measuring can. One women searched and held up an old, rusty nestle can.  All the anganwadi workers agreed that this was the kg measuring can they would use to take 2 kgs and pour it out. Again I asked, “into what? Do they bring a bag or a box?” Someone said softly, they just carry it home in their sari. Which meant that in all likelihood, the quantity they got was less than 2 kg. Probably much less.

Later we learned that they received rice and dal in large 50 kg packets which they were expected to open, measure and distribute. Similarly oil came to them in 1 kg plastic bags which they were supposed to open and measure out 250 gms per beneficiary (garbhinilu, balintalu or pregnant and lactating women). However some complained that they did not get the oil and for the spot feeding they ended up using their own household oil.
Newly introduced into the program was “bamsi ravva” or cracked wheat which they were supposed to give 9 days’ worth, and accordingly reduce the rice ration to 16 days’ worth. Remaining 5-6 days of the month are “off days” – either Sunday or some other holiday like karthika Pournami, Mukkoti Ekadasi, they said. So they gave only 25 days supply of the rations at the rate of 80 gms / day.

We asked them in general if they got the rations on time and in correct quantity. There was general nodding that they did not always get them on time nor did they get sufficient quantity. We said that we wanted to help them resolve these issues and they nodded.

As we discussed these matters their supervisor arrived. We introduced ourselves and said that we were here to learn more about the program. She said this is our meeting time, but gave us 15 minutes. Seeing the direction of our questions she said, I can give you the complete list this evening. We said ok. We continued talking. I said, in the event that the supplies don’t arrive or people dont get the supplies then whom do they ask.

Immediately the supervisor turned irate. Whose permission did you get to come here? What is your organisation doing? Tell us all the services you have provided and then we will tell you what we have done. This is our valuable time and we dont need you here.
All this and much more we said. I tried to explain – first to her, then seeing that she was not listening, to the assembled workers, that it was not on behalf of any district or department head that we came but on behalf of the mothers and children who needed their services.

The village volunteers were angry.  At the bus stop we sat and reviewed what happened and when things took the ugly turn.



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