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Implementation of Food Schemes in West Bengal
A Report based on Field Survey in Four Districts
Office of Commissioners of Supreme Court (CWP 196/2001)
(in the case PUCL vs. Union of India and ors.)
Office of Adviser to Supreme Court Commissioners,
At the outset of the report we would like to thank Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity
and Shramajivee Mahila Samity for their cooperation in conducting the survey. The
survey team constituted of Amita Dey, Ashtabala Maity, Bela Adak, Harisadhan Rai, Jaba Murmu, Kalpana Sardar, Kanai Halder, Khushilal Sardar, Mizanoor Rehman, Molina Pramanik, Namita Gayen, Pratima Halder, Sandeep Kumar Singha, Subhash Tudu, Suchitra Halder, Sunil Mahato and Tahomina Mondal, coordinated by Shreya Bhattacharya.
We would like to thank all the above members for their valuable contribution towards the study.
We would like to thank the Block Development Officers of all the eight blocks we surveyed in, namely Moynaguri and Falakata blocks of Jalpaiguri District, Thakurpukur Mahestala and Canning 1 blocks of South 24 Parganas District, Burdwan 1 and Katwa 1 blocks of Burdwan and Medinipur Sadar and Sankrail Blocks of Paschim Medinipur.
We would also like to thank the Department of Women & Child Development and Social Welfare, Department of School Education, Department of Food and Supplies, Department of Panchayats and Rural Development and Department of Health and Family Welfare for sharing their information with us and making this a comprehensive report.
Anuradha Talwar Advisor To The Commissioners Of The Supreme Court 1, Shibtala Road, Maheswarpur, Badu, Kolkata 700 128 West Bengal Telefax: 033-25382064/9433002064 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Summary The main objectives of the study were to assess coverage, availability (vis-à-vis entitlements), access and quality of service under all the schemes; to understand implementation problems; and to assess grievance redressal systems. The study report is based on field surveys done in 40 villages of 8 blocks in Burdwan, Jalpaiguri, Paschim Medinipur and South 24 Parganas district as well as on government reports and orders.
Integrated Child Service Scheme (ICDS) Services Coverage- Despite the 2001 Supreme Court order for universal coverage, 41.2 lakhs or about 40% of children under six in the state remain to be covered. Only 3.5% of the eligible population amongst adolescent girls is covered, while 17% of pregnant and lactating mothers identified by the Department themselves are yet to be given supplementary nutrition. Most of the non operationalised AWCs are located in Howrah, Hooghly, Coochbehar, South 24 Parganas and Purulia districts.
Coverage under feeding has been only for 242 days in2009 as opposed to 300 days in a year as per the Supreme Court order.
By our calculations, the West Bengal Government is barely able to provide 39% of the calorie requirements and 64% of the protein required to cover the entire 0-6 age group population for 300 days of feeding. If we were to also to take into account leakages and bad quality, this percentage would reduce further. The State government is therefore very far away from meeting its legal obligations under the Supreme Court orders.
Staff Shortage- There is severe staff shortage both at supervision and implementation level bringing down the quality of services provided by the ICDS. The Department had a 24% shortage of CDPOs, 55% ACDPOs and 51% Supervisors in March 2010. In 45899 or about 42% Centres, an AWW had either dual charge of two centres or worked without a helper.
Nutritional Value of Food- Nutritional value of food, in terms of calorie intake, provided by the State Government has been below the norms set by the Supreme Court, through out 2009-10 for all groups, with protein content also being below the norm for severely malnourished children from November 2009.
Supply of food - Despite Court orders banning contractors and giving preference to community groups for food supply, less than 2.5% of the Anganwadis in the state are run by community groups.
On the other hand, complaints of irregular food supply, bad quality of cereals and pulses and using sub-contractors have been made against the WBECSC Ltd, a Government of West Bengal Undertaking that is the supplier.
Infrastructure-About three fourths of the centres in the state do not have their own buildings, two thirds do not have drinking water and four fifths do not have toilets, leading to a huge impact on the quality and regularity of services provided by the AWC. Storage of food, preschool education, health and nutrition education are impossible in the absence of a centre.
Services other than Supplementary Nutrition- Centres are open for two hours in a day. Only 25, (36%) of the centres surveyed conducted preschool education. Health care and health and nutrition counselling were also neglected with medicine kits functional in 48 (68%) centres. Health worker visits, mother meetings and home visits are highly irregular. In 63(90%) centres weighing scales were functional, but only 81% did weighing on a regular basis, and even less (66%) did grading and growth monitoring. 71% parents knew about the weighing and an even smaller number (39%) had been informed about growth monitoring by the AWW.
Severely malnourished children- ICDS is not giving sufficient attention to severely malnourished children. In addition to SNP, we found during the survey that the parents of about half or only 21 of these children (51%) had received nutrition counselling. Extra rations were provided to 41% children and only 24% were referred to the health centre.
Social Exclusion- We found no evidence of exclusion on the basis of caste. However, work still needs to be done on inclusion of disabled children. Disability survey was done in only 31 out of 70 centres in the last one year. 24 centres admitted to not ever conducting such a survey and AWWs in 13 centres said that they had no information about the survey.
People’s Involvement- There has been little attempt to involve people, either by pro-active disclosure or by informing people about their entitlements. Specific orders of the Supreme Court that encourage community involvement such as the provision for Anganwadis on demand, involving SHGs and community groups in supply of food, and making information available on the web site have been mostly ignored.
Mid day Meal (MDM) Coverage – Despite Supreme Court orders in 2001 for universal coverage, planning and budgeting for the scheme assume that the programme will cover 85% of the enrolled students. In December 2009, 10.72 lakhs children in primary schools (11%) and 20.33 lakhs(43%) in upper primary schools were uncovered. While the Court asked for 200 days of feeding, the number of feeding days was 164 in 2008-09 for primary schools and 110 for upper primary schools. If we take both the actual number of days of feeding and the actual number of enrolled students availing the MDMS, the West Bengal Government was able to provide only 75% and 20% of the total number of meals required to cover all enrolled primary and upper primary school students respectively in 2008-09.
Coverage was remarkably poor in Kolkata, the State‟s capital, where not a single child in upper primary schools was covered till December 2009 and only 37% of children enrolled in primary schools were covered.
Regularity, Quantity and Quality issues - The number of feeding days, quality as well as quantity is affected adversely by the irregular supply of food grains and irregular reimbursement of cooking costs to SHGs. Inflation in food prices has led to deterioration in the quality of food provided under the MDMS. The situation in West Bengal has been worsened by a gap of four months in notifying Central Government increases in cooking costs. Payment to cooks still remain below minimum statutory wages even with the revised rates.
Infrastructure -While there is considerable progress in providing sheds and drinking water, 100% coverage has not been achieved. A problem in terms of plates to eat in was very visible. Proper storage of food grains was a major problem leading to deterioration in quality of food grains and theft.
Monitoring and local participation- Elaborate monitoring guidelines formulated for the scheme are not being followed at all. Many of the problems concerning quality, theft, regularity and same menu continue because of the absence of a community monitoring system.
Targeted Public Distribution System Coverage: Identification of BPL households- West Bengal has not implemented the 2001 order of Supreme Court which asks for identification of all BPL households. The Rural Household Survey done by the state to identify BPL and AAY families has resulted in widespread complaints about exclusion and inclusion errors, with lack of transparency, no visible evidence of Gram Sabha participation, reluctance to publicly display lists, and the absence of an effective grievance redressal system Coverage: Issue of ration cards -The total number of ration cards issued (8.98 crores in March
2010) in West Bengal is more than the projected population for the state (8.95 crores for 2011). This is despite the fact that huge numbers of complaints are there about non issuance of cards all over the state, implying that there are a huge number of bogus cards As per the Court orders, the State is to provide subsidized rations to 35.66% of the population of West Bengal. Even though population has increased over the years, quota of BPL and AAY cardholders have remained the same. With the total projected population for 2011 for West Bengal being 8.95 crores, and the total BPL card holders (BPL, AAY and Annapurna) being 2.65 crores, BPL card holders thus form 29% of the projected population. In other words, without any real reduction in poverty, the Government of India has reduced the percentage of people who are to be given subsidised food.
Within the quotas given by the Government of India, the Government of West Bengal is providing subsidized food grains to less than sanctioned quota. Thus, under BPL it covers 3.05 lakh households less than the Government of India quota, while under AAY, 6.12 lakh households remain uncovered.
Further, the State has individual cards instead of family cards, leading to anomalies like issuing of APL, BPL and AAY cards for different members of the same family.
Coverage: Supply of Food grains-Government of India allots less than the entitlement for BPL and AAY card holders amounting to a shortage of one and a half weeks for BPL card holders and three and a half weeks for AAY card holders. Shortages are compounded by off-take being lower than allotment, leading to a shortfall of about a month for BPL card holders and one and a half months for AAY card holders across all districts.
Along with shortages in allotment and allocation, leakages at the lower level result in greater shortages, with 73% of the respondents in the field survey reporting disruptions ranging from 7 days to 70 days in a period of 3 months. Other studies have given estimates of leakages ranging from 30% to 80%. The involvement of private wholesalers or distributors who are responsible for supply of grains from Government procurement agencies to the FPS and the widespread prevalence of bogus cards are the two major factors leading to these leakages.
The problem for APL card holders is severe, as central quotas were drastically cut in 2007. This has affected even the viability of the ration shops, as 70% and 90% of the card holders in rural and urban ration shops resepctively are APL card holders.
Fair Price Shops- Fair price shops in West Bengal are privately owned with only 3% being under co-operative ownership. Access to the FPS is a major problem. 51% of the shops surveyed were more than 3 kms away from the card holder‟s home. Shops are open generally for 2-3 days a week (75%) as opposed to 5 and ½ days.
A substantial number (35 %) of beneficiaries did not have their ration cards with them, with ration dealers often retaining the cards. Overcharging is common with 46% villagers said that they were charged more than the official price for food grains.
The facility of buying rations in installments as per the SC order was found non-existent. The order on public display of information was not being implemented - half or less of the shops displayed orders on timings, prices and quotas, while only 21% had displayed the cardholder details for APL, BPL & AAY categories.
Monitoring-There is total absence of any monitoring at the lowest level, with no vigilance committees been formed at the village level. Records on grievance redressal and punitive action are also poor. No measures have been taken to deal with powerful and organised ration dealers, who have managed to keep government measures like setting up community vigilance mechanisms in abeyance.
Social Assistance Programs (IGNOAPS, Annapurna, NFBS, NMBS and JSY) Coverage- These schemes are limited to the BPL list, which often excludes those who are genuinely in need. Even amongst those on the BPL list, during the field survey we found that about half (56%) in the case of IGNOAPS, 17% for NFBS and less than 60% under JSY or NMBS had been covered.
In addition, the number of beneficiaries in the Annapurna Scheme have reduced drastically, while beneficiaries in NFBS have also been declining.
Leakages- We found evidence of possible leakages in IGNOAPS and NMBS. In IGNOAPS, the projected eligible population for 2011 is 12.34 lakhs. However, figures on the NSAP website show that for IGNOAPS and Annapurna combined were 12.57 lakhs beneficiaries in 2009-10. Thus the number of beneficiaries is more than the projected eligible population, while field level surveys show that about half of those who are eligible have been covered. In NMBS, while most beneficiaries are to receive at least Rs.1150 for hospital deliveries, 76% of the beneficiaries in the field survey had received less.
Timeliness- While pensions are to be paid by the 7th of every month, in most cases pensions were received once in three months or once in six months. For NFBS benefits, all families in the survey got the money after 7 months or even after a year of death of a primary breadwinner, though the Court order is for payment within 4 months. In the case of NMBS and JSY, where payment is to be made within 8 to 12 weeks of pregnancy, only 31% women were paid during pregnancy, while almost half received money many weeks of delivery.