As many as 19.96 lakh ghost beneficiaries have been identified at Anganwadi centres in Assam through a daily headcount, according to an RTI query. There are around 14 lakh Anganwadis across the country and 10 crore beneficiaries, which include children under the age of six and pregnant women and lactating mothers.
In Assam, there are a total of 62,153 Anganwadi centres in which 36,24,973 beneficiaries, including 5,94,296 pregnant women and lactating mothers, are enrolled.
The Centre has asked all states to conduct headcount of all beneficiaries of Anganwadi centres, a type of rural child care centre set up by the government to combat undernutrition and stunting among children below the age of six years and also meet nutritional needs of pregnant and lactating women.
In reply to an RTI query, the Women and Child Development Ministry said a total of 19.96 lakh ghost beneficiaries (both children and pregnant women and lactating mothers) have been eliminated from the Anganwadi services in Assam while report from other state governments are still awaited.
The ministry further said the beneficiaries under the Anganwadi Services Scheme are identified on the basis of Aadhaar which is used as identity document for delivery of services or benefits in a bid to bring transparency and efficiency.
“The beneficiaries not possessing Aadhaar card are assisted by the field functionaries to obtain the Aadhaar card. Till such time they get the Aadhaar card, they are provided the Anganwadi services on the basis of alternative identification document,” according to the RTI reply.
Officials said the identification of fake beneficiaries is an ongoing exercise and a report in this regard has been received just from Assam yet.
According to the revised cost norms for supplementary nutrition, children from six to 72 months get Rs 8 per day while severely malnourished children (6-72 months) get Rs 12 per day and pregnant women and nursing mothers get Rs 9.50 per day.
The identification of fake beneficiaries is also being done through smartphones having Integrated Child Development Services-Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) app, officials said. These smartphones have been distributed to over 1.2 lakh Anganwadi centres.
The nutrition monitoring app has been developed under the Poshan Abhiyan, also called the National Nutrition Mission, launched by the Centre in 2018 with an aim to bring down stunting in children in the age group of 0-6 years from 38.4 per cent to 25 per cent by 2022.