According to reports in some Malayalam dailies, the anganwadi has been functioning in an underground room without enough light or air, but the reality is different.

Anganwadi functioning in underground room in Keralas Parassala Heres the reality
news Human Interest Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 15:51

The Kerala State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights on Monday sought clarification from the Department of Social Justice on reports that an anganwadi was functioning in an underground chamber in Parassala panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram.

The anganwadi, according to news reports that appeared in some Malayalam dailies, does not have enough air or light, risking the lives of the children inside.

Anganwadis in Kerala function under the Social Justice department. The department staff have been forced to look for another building to shift the anganwadi following the furore caused by the reports.

But what is the reality? TNM did a check. The anganwadi is, in fact, spacious and not functioning in an underground room. It is located in the basement of a building, but is more spacious than the rooms in which anganwadis normally function.

The strength of the children in the anganwadi is 10 while the minimum required strength is five. There is adequate light, air and enough space for the children to play. There is a spacious kitchen and a bathroom. The entrance to the anganwadi is through a staircase that is narrow, but not too narrow – we found that two persons can comfortably go down at the same time.

“There was a raid by the Civil Supplies Corporation in its warehouse in the same building recently. There were some local reporters covering the raid. Some of them might have seen only the entrance, then they went back and wrote reports without actually checking. No one came down to see how we are functioning here nor did they ask us anything. We are shocked; I have been going through a lot of mental stress since the reports came out. It has been 1.5 years since the anganwadi shifted to this building. Not even once has any parent raised a complaint. Now you have come here and seen, right?” asks Sreeja, teacher at the anganwadi.

The anganwadi is located at Naduthottam in Parassala town, hardly 4 km from Kaliyikkavila which is on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. It is hardly a 2-min walk from the National Highway that leads to Tamil Nadu.

The rent provided by the government for anganwadis in the rural area is Rs 750 per month and for those in urban areas is Rs 3,000. Two anganwadis are functioning in every ward of each panchayat as well as in municipalities and corporations.

“Here we have abundant water supply. Normally anganwadis function in rooms that would be maximum 700 sq ft; but here the space is double. Now we are forced to look for another place,” Sreeja rues.

“We haven’t slept properly for the past many days. We are not torturing the children here. We are taking good care of them,” helper Sujatha says.

Sujatha (Left) and Sreeja

“We don’t have any problem in sending our children here, we are content with the facilities,” Anu, a parent who came to pick up her three-year-old daughter, tells TNM.

The Child Development Project Officer and Integrated Child Development Service supervisor of the Social Justice department visited the anganwadi on Tuesday. They are also under pressure to look for another building.

“But it is not easy with the allotted rent. The anganwadi is near the National Highway in a very convenient location for parents to drop off their children. It is not possible to get another building in the area nearby for the same rent. Some panchayats would incorporate anganwadis in some of their projects to provide extra funds for rent so that rooms or buildings with better facilities can be rented out. In some cases, we have even heard that teachers and helpers contribute to the rent from their salaries. But we don’t have any special assistance and hence need to manage with the funds we have,” says supervisor YS Shereena.

She adds, “The news reports say that there is no light in this anganwadi; that is also wrong. It has electricity and has also got a fitness certificate. We don’t know with what intention those reports were published.”

Sowmya, another supervisor, echoes Shereena’s opinion. The staff has received a direction from the department’s top officials to shift the anganwadi following the public outrage caused by the reports. “We have written to the panchayat president and secretary to look for another place, which is what we can do,” Sowmya says.



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