In a show of solidarity against malnutrition, 12 gram panchayats in Angul district organised a Gram Sabha each on the Independence Day for freedom from malnutrition.
The gram panchayats included Gadasila and Badatribed from Kaniha, Kothabhuin and Purunakote from Angul, Barasahi and Patrapada from Chhendipada, and Parachhat, Rohila, Iwaranagar, Dimiria, Chasagurujanga and Baliposhi from Pallahara.
The Gram Sabhas had a very clear agenda: It was to improve nutrition in their villages and fight malnutrition on a war footing. The Sarpanchs participated in the Gram Sabha believed that there is huge scope to improve the access of Anganwadi Centre (AWC) services. In this regard, some important issues were highlighted during the discussion to overcome some of the challenges.
The participants of the Gram Sabha discussed about the importance of Jaanch and Matru Committees. Jaanch and Matru Committees are unique to Odisha as the Government has given importance to community monitoring of ICDS services. There is supposed to be a JC and MC for every Anganwadi Centre whose primary responsibility is to ensure that all feeding programmes maintain prescribed standards of quality and quantity. The MC is supposed to ensure proper management of ICDS services in Anganwadi Centres. The participants at the Gram Sabha discussed the importance to revive these monitoring committees so they played an important role in increasing access.
The ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) is one of the world’s largest programmes for early childhood care and development and aims to break the vicious cycle of under-nutrition in India.
The other issue that was discussed by the Sarpanch was the importance of consumption of eggs by the beneficiaries to counter malnutrition. This was the second agenda taken up by the Gram Sabhas. 0p Odisha provides 12 eggs per month to children from the age of 6 months to 3 years and 12 eggs to pregnant and lactating mothers as take home ration (THR) under the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) of ICDS. The Government of Odisha spends Rs 60 per beneficiary per month on eggs in THR and Rs 100 per beneficiary per month on eggs in the Hot Cooked Meal (HCM).
Manas Ranjan Naik, Sarpanch of Kothabhuin in Angul said that eggs are a very crucial part of the meals in villages as they provide the right type of nutrition. “I have observed that the egg that is provided as part of the ICDS is consumed by the whole family rather than the mother and child,” he said. He very strongly urged people that encourage consumption of eggs by the rights beneficiary.
The Gram Sabhas discussed Village Health Nutrition Day (VHND), supposed to be organised once every month at an AWC in a village under ICDS. Frontline health workers including anganwadi workers (AWW), ASHAs and ANMs are supposed to inform and educate people on issues related to health and nutrition on this day. The Sarpanch suggested to the community to demand VHNDs as it helps in providing important services to mother and child, especially critical for fulfilling the Mamata conditions.
While most of the revenue villages in the country have an AWC but tagged hamlets still have access problems even after more than 70 years of independence. As part of these Gram Sabhas, community members from tagged hamlets demanded for mini AWCs. The Sarpanches resolved to take up this issue with the district administration.