//Figures prove hunger exists

Figures prove hunger exists

Friday, June 23, 2006 TIMES NEWS NETWORK

MUMBAI: If state officials are still unsure about malnutrition in city slums, they should peek into government registers. A startling 52.75% of the 1,27,417 kids covered under government schemes are malnourished, said social activist Medha Patkar on Thursday.

The figures recorded in March were those of city children covered by the ICDS (integrated child development scheme) and they had risen from the 50% figure recorded in April 2005.

Patkar addressed the media at Azad Maidan even as state minister of women and child development Harshvardhan Patil took stock of the problem and announced the setting up of more anganwadis for city slums.

"The anti-poor policies of the government, unplanned evictions and poor implementation of government schemes has led to rampant malnutrition," said Patkar, who is the national convenor of the National Alliance of People's Movement.

Anganwadi workers who addressed the press at another meet on Thursday said there was corruption at higher levels preventing proper implementation of ICDS schemes.

"Often we refer cases for hospitalisation or medical aid which is not available in the area," said general secretary of the anganwadi workers union Shubha Shamim. The sevikas had also repeatedly appealed to the government to improve the nutritional content of the food given to children.

The problem of urban malnutritition had come to light after a group of social workers who came together under the banner of the Bal Hakk Abhiyan (BHA) conducted a survey in the Bhandup (east) slums which showed that 63.6% of children below five years of age were malnourished.

On Thursday, BHA activists met with Patil, who assured them that he would initiate a government forum with officials from various departments to address issues related to urban malnutrition.

"The government is considering policies for providing jobs to the unemployed," said health activist Arokya Mary. However, amenities for irregularised slums would need to be worked out, Patil told activists.

"We will be setting up 1,092 anganwadis in Mumbai with 100 located in Bhandup. The process will take a month and they should be functional by July," Patil told TOI. The city anganwadis are among the 12,684 new anganwadis slotted for the state.

Later on Thursday, the minister toured Chamundanagar slums in Bhandup and interacted with slumdwelllers and anganwadi workers. He also visted the two children who are recuperating in Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar.

Activists, however, said they would continue their campaign against urban malnutrition. "Ministers do not commit to providing basic amenities such as water in many areas as they say the slums are not regularised, which is violating human rights," said Mary.

The activists said they would continue their fight against malnutrition till the promises of ministers are fulfilled.