ICDS - VI: The new Mission mode to reduce the number of Underweight Children and improved Early Childhood Education

After more than 30 years of rich experience in the programmatic perspective, a paradigm shift is required in the ICDS Programme because though successful in many ways, the ICDS Scheme has failed to make a significant dent in reducing the proportion of underweight children, which continues to be one of the highest in the world (46% in 2005-06 in 0-3 years age group). While the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) did register a significant decline from 146 per 1,000 live births in 1951 to 58 per 1,000 in 2004 (SRS 2006), no such impact was visible during the last decade. Wide regional disparities continue to exist within States, Districts and even Community groups - for example Kerala has an IMR of 12 while Madhya Pradesh has an IMR of 79 per 1000 live births in 2004 [SRS 2006].

With the above perspectives, the Ministry of Women & Child Development has initiated a consultative process to develop a revised implementation framework for ICDS in the new name of ICDS VI and with a shifting from "Programatic Mode" to "Mission Mode" to achieve reduced child malnutrition through expansion of utilization of nutrition services and awareness and adoption of appropriate feeding and caring behaviors by the households of 0-6 years of age; and improve early child development outcomes and school readiness among children 3 to 6 years of age; in selected high burden districts/States. Special focus would be given on girl child and children from disadvantage sections.

Based on the findings of a study titled "Mapping and Profile of Target Districts" carried out by the World Bank, eight States viz., Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh have been selected for intensive support under the project. While the first seven States have been selected due to highest concentration of child malnutrition, Andhra Pradesh has been selected in view of

State's best practice experiences in the activities of Mother's Committees/Self Help groups and community participation in development activities, which can serve as a model for other States to follow. About 160 districts from these States have been identified for intensive support under the project.

Under the proposed project, there would be a mechanism to address the needs of those areas (states/districts/blocks) where prevalence of malnutrition amongst children is more pronounced and participation of 3-6 year olds in ECE (Early Childhood Education) is below average. This would enable to have a level-playing field for these nutritionally backward areas with the others within a State or between the States. These States/Districts/Blocks would be provided additional interventions to combat child malnutrition and thus to correct the intra and inter-State imbalances.

It is expected that the project would be made effective during July-August 2008. Duration of the project will be for a period of five years.

The exact project cost will be determined through the development of Project

Implementation Plans (PIPs). The Ministry of WCD has, however, initially worked out budgetary requirements for the 11th Five Year Plan as Rs.41764.80 crore, which has been further revised tentatively to Rs.72877.52 crore (equivalent to US$ 18 billion). The budgetary allocation (BE) for ICDS during FY 2007-08 has been made as Rs. 5293.00 crore (US$1.3 billion). It is expected that the IDA assistance to the proposed project will be to the tune of US$ 450 million with US$ 250 million for the Nutrition component and US$ 200 million for the ECE Component for five years.

For detail see www.wcd.nic.in/icds4gl.pdf

On the eve of 61st Independence Day a bundle of schemes on education

While the much exaggerated Sarba Shiksha Aviyan is struggling with the number of never enrolled children and high rate of drop-out and while the central legislation on right to education is still waiting to be tabled in the parliament, the central government has come out with a bundle of new schemes and modified versions of old schemes on education.

Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) or SUCCESS (Scheme of Universalization of Access to and Improvement of Quality at Secondary Stage) , as the scheme is alternatively called, will be a centrally sponsored scheme for universalizing access to secondary level through substantial enhancement of access so that by the end of 12th Five Year Plan, there would generally be a high school within 5 kms of any habitation. The main objectives include improvement of the gross enrolment ratio for classes IX-X to 75% by 2012 from 52.26% in 2005-06 and to provide facilities for estimated additional enrolment of 63 lakh by 2011-12 through strengthening of 44,000 existing Government high schools and opening of nearly 12, 000 new high schools, through upgradation of higher primary schools, appointment of 2.50 lakh additional teachers and construction of 1.33 lakh additional classrooms.

Pursuant to the announcement of the Prime Minister, during his address to the nation on the Independence Day last year, the scheme of model school supports 6,000 new high quality schools - one in every block of the country. These schools will play a pace-setting role for other schools in the Block. The schools would have quality infrastructure, innovative curriculum, pedagogy and assessment system, effective and innovative use of educational technologies including ICT and a superior system of school management and governance. 3500 of these schools will be set up in the Government sector whereas 2500 will be set up under public-private partnership.

To bring meritorious students belonging to dis-advantageous and socially and economically backward section of the society to the secondary schools, the Central Government has launched a scheme to award one lakh new scholarships every year to students of class IX. Each selected student will be given Rs. 500 per month for study in classes IX upto XII. This is intended to arrest the drop-out at class VIII and to encourage the students to continue upto the end of the higher secondary stage.

Gender disparity in secondary education is a cause of concern. In 2005-06, the enrolment ratio for girls in the secondary stage was 46.23% as against the figure of 57.72% for boys. Similarly, the drop-out rate for girls from class I to X was 73.7% as against 68% for boys. The disparity in case of SC/ST girls is even more alarming with the enrolment for ST girls at a lowly 32.6% and drop-out rate at a high of 79.8%.In this background, the Central Government has launched a centrally sponsored scheme to encourage higher participation of girls. Under the scheme, a sum of Rs. 3000 will be deposited in the names of all SC/ST girls and also all girls who have studied in Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, who pass class VIII and enrol for class IX in Government and Government-aided schools. The amount with interest will be payable to the girls after they reach the age of 18 provided they complete at least class X successfully.

Another scheme specially aimed at enhancement of participation of girl students, is to provide hostel facility so that they don't discontinue secondary education due to distance from home to school. The scheme will assist the State Governments for construction of one 100-seater hostel in each of about 3500 identified educationally backward blocks in the country. The target group would be the girls studying in classes IX to XII, with special focus on SC, ST, OBC, minority and families below poverty line. The Central Government will also assist the States in meeting a major part of the recurring cost for running the hostels during the 11th Plan. An allocation of Rs. 2000 crore has been made in the 11th Plan for this purpose.

The existing Centrally Sponsored scheme of Vocationalisation of Secondary Education was launched in 1988 and has already covered 10,000 schools with 25,000 vocational sections through establishment of capacity for an annual intake of 10 lakh students. Presently 150 vocational courses are being offered. The scheme of Vocationalisation of Secondary Education is under revamp to make it more need-based and to reduce the demand and supply gap in the economy. Besides introducing new skill-based courses at the higher secondary level with appropriate curriculum, 10,000 new vocational schools are proposed to be opened so as to enroll about 25 lakh students in these courses. Linkage with industry, scope for horizontal and vertical mobility, training of vocational teachers, modularity of courses with multiple entry and exit facilities, career guidance and counseling, apprenticeship etc., will be insisted upon so as to ensure that the courses practically benefit the students in choosing the career and in specialization in higher education. (Source : www.pib.nic.in)

Insurance Coverage for the workers of Unorganised Sectors

The workers in the unorganized sector constitute about 94% of the total work force in the country. One of the major insecurities for workers in the unorganized sector is absence of health cover for such workers and their family members. Insecurity relating to absence of health cover, heavy expenditure on medical care and hospitalization and recourse to inadequate and incompetent treatment is not only a social and psychological burden borne by these workers but there are significant economic costs resulting from loss of earning and progressive deterioration of health. Thus, with a view to providing health insurance cover to Below Poverty Line (BPL) workers in the unorganised sector and their families, the Central Government has announced the "Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana".

Coverage under the scheme would be provided for BPL workers and their families [up to a unit of five). The definition of BPL would be the one prescribed by the Planning Commission for the purposes of determining the eligible BPL population in each

State/district. It would be the responsibility of the respective State Government to verify the eligibility of specific BPL workers and their family members who would be the beneficiaries of the scheme, and to share such information with the insurance provider. The enrolment of the beneficiaries will be undertaken by the Insurance company selected by the State Government and approved by the Government. The Insurer shall enroll the BPL beneficiaries based on the soft data provided by the State Government/Nodal Agency and issue Smart card as per Central Government specifications through Smart Card Vender and handover the same to the beneficiaries at enrolment station/village level itself during the enrolment period.

The scheme will be implemented by the State Government in a phased manner in the next five years. The entire country will be covered by 2012-13. In districts where the Scheme is introduced, it would supercede the Universal Health Insurance Scheme (UHIS). The Cost of Annual Premium is borne jointly by the central (75%) and state government (25%), while the cost of the smart card issuing will be borne by the central government. The beneficiary only has to pay Rs. 30 annualy as the registration/renewal fees. In the state of West Bengal total 19 district must covered under this scheme within 2012-13 while in the first year at least three districts must come under coverage. The selection of the district solely depends on the state government. For details visit http://pib.nic.in/archieve/flagship/faq_rsby.pdf