“हर बच्चा जो ३ साल से छोटा है और उस की माँ को एक नूट्रिशन पैकेट हर सप्ताह आंगनवाड़ी से मिलता है। आपको और आपके बच्चे को यह सब मिल रहा है दीदी? (Every kid below 3 years and her mother should get one nutirtion packet every week from the Anganwadi, are you getting it didi?- Nikita and Jayshree are telling this to every women that they meet in the hamlets and villages in Panna District.
Mercury is now touching close to 45 degrees in Panna but it feels like 100. I’m seriously thinking of getting back to the hotel. But my colleagues Nikita and Jayshree are not relenting. They are keen for yet another meeting with women in the community. Jayshree loves to meet Aanganwadi workers. She checks records of children that are enrolled in the Aanganwadi. Suddenly she came running out and said excitely said her thickly accented Hindi ” बोला आज खिचड़ी खिलायी थी बच्चों को”
To the credit of Government of MP there was an Aanganwadi in every village that we visited in Panna district. But where ever we went there was a similar story of either mismanagement or misappropriation. Villagers alleged that food packets meant for mothers and kids were not given to them but were fed to the cattle by Aanganwadi worker. We spoke to many families who were getting expired food packets from the Aanganwadi. Aanganwadi worker complained that they are not getting enough packets from the Government department in Panna. They can’t give what they don’t get.
In one of the houses I observe a child munching on a dry roti which is probably his lunch. If he is lucky he might get some daal with his roti for dinner. No sign of any vegetable. There is some mangoes and Jamun that they can get I this season else its missing from the diet. Milk is also missing from the diet and so are eggs. Interestingly Madhya Pradesh has banned eggs to be given to children in Anganwadi’s and School.
The promise of mid day meals was to provide one nutritious meal to the child every day. While it was not enough it still meant that children from the poorer households will have something good to eat. A closer inspection of mid day meals and you realise that we are not doing a great job.A elder in the village explains to me- अगर अच्छा खाना नहीं मिलेगा तो पढ़ाई कैसे करेंगे और अगर स्कूल पूरा नहीं किया तो फिर अपने बाप दादा के तरह दिल्ली गुड़गाँव में मज़दूरी करते करते ही ज़िंदगी बीत जाएगी।
I remember reading somewhere that how nutrition is so important in early years. I kept on wondering how will the kids in these villages be able to compete with the million of kids like them in the outside world.
We came back to Panna with many questions in our mind. We asked whose fault it is that we are going to yet again fail another generation of children.