Jaipur: The lockdown imposed in Rajasthan to contain the spread of the coronavirus has had an adverse impact on thousands of children and pregnant women who are dependent on Anganwadi centres.
The Akshay Patra Foundation has suspended its hot-cooked meals delivery service to the children and pregnant women at the Anganwadi centres across Jaipur, days before the Rajasthan government on Saturday announced a complete lockdown in the state until March 31, barring the essential services.
According to the Anganwadi centres in Jaipur, Akshay Patra offered its services last on Tuesday, March 17.
With the lockdown resulting in loss of livelihood for many slum dwellers in the state, the suspension of food services at the Anganwadis has come as yet another setback to slum dwellers in the state.
Dharamraj owns a tea stall in the Kukar Khera mandi in Sikar. He lives with his parents, wife and two children who go to the nearby Anganwadi.
After the janata curfew on Sunday, Dharamraj tried to set up his tea stall on Monday morning. The cops charged him with lathis and warned him of dire consequences if he leaves his home or violates the lockdown.
“We have been living hand to mouth. Because of the lockdown, we neither have money nor food,” says Dharamraj.
“Earlier, at least once in a day, we used to have dal-roti-chawal together. But now, we eat chappatis with garlic or chutney in the morning and have rice for the night. We are avoiding pulses as it is quite expensive,” he says.
Laxmi is another slum dweller in Vidhyadhar Nagar area in Jaipur and work as domestic help. She has three children – Kabir (4), Pawan (5) and Priyanka (6) – who attend the Anganwadi.
She says the children have been asking her why they can’t go to the Anganwadi and have their morning meal there. “Our children used to eat at the Anganwadi and even bring some home in their tiffin. They would eat this in the evening or offer it to the elderly. Who can understand the importance of food better than us?” says Lakshmi.
The slum dwellers are upset with the government’s decision on putting a restriction on food supply at the Anganwadi centres, without providing any alternative.
“At the Anganwadi, we can be satisfied with the knowledge that our children have one proper meal. In times like these, the government should have made sure that children like ours continue to get food at Anganwadis. Adults can manage by skipping some meals, but the children cannot,” she added.
In Jaipur, pregnant women were provided ‘Take Home Ration’ (THR) packets at their respective Anganwadi centres last Wednesday. Since then, food service has not been available to them.
“ASHA workers gave us packets of panjiri (a nutritional supplement) but if you compare it with the provision of hot cooked meal served every day, we are not receiving enough nutrition,” says Sapna, a woman who is eight months pregnant.
The Rajasthan government has announced that beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) will get free ration for two months. Non-NFSA beneficiaries will be given food packets. But the government has not made it clear how children dependent on Anganwadis will be provided food.
In fact, many slum dwellers in Jaipur whom The Wire spoke to said there is no food supply in their areas. “Nobody in this area has been supplied with any food packet. We are eating whatever little we had in stock. If this lockdown continues for ten more days, we will have nothing left,” says Rukmini, another slum dweller from the Vidhyadhar Nagar area in Jaipur.
Akshay Patra’s Jaipur representative, Raghupati Das, told The Wire, “We suspended our services at the Anganwadi centres after the government’s orders. Since the centres are closed, we are serving food to about 2,000 other people in the city.”
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government had declared that children who consumed food at Anganwadi centres will now get it delivered to their homes during the time lockdown remains operational.
The Kerala government too, while closing the Anganwadis, had announced that raw materials to cook food will be delivered at home.