Reports suggest that anganwadi workers struggled to feed children and pregnant women post the government's demonetisation announcement. The Times of India spoke to anganwadi workers who explained that they had to go through great amounts of hardships to arrange for enough cash to get supplies. Yet, they fell short on several occasions.
"The self-help groups borrowed money from everybody, stood in bank queues, pleaded with officials and even spent from their own meagre savings to feed the children and expecting mothers," Nisha Chaurasia, a anganwadi worker in Rajnandgaon district in Chhattisgarh told The Times of India.
According to the report, official monthly data put out by the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) showed a decline of six percent in the number of children being fed by anganwadis in November, compared to the preceding month. The demonetisation came into effect on 9 November.
Anganwadis fall under the ICDS scheme -- which was started in 1975 -- by the Indian government to tackle widespread child malnutrition. Of other things, one of the primary functions of anganwadis is to provide free, nutritious meals to children living below poverty levels.
The report states: "Part of the reason is a continued squeeze on funds for the program. This was hugely magnified due to the currency ban."
An anganwadi worker in Uttar Pradesh told the newspaper that they were forced to give dry food to the children as it had become difficult to buy supplies for hot, fresh meals.
This report comes just a day after woman and child development minister Maneka Gandhi asked anganwadi workers to strive towards a cashless economy. According to a report on The Indian Express, Gandhi said, "If the army of 24 lakh Anganwadi workers communicate to the parents who come to them that they must use cellphones to pay and accept salaries, to buy and sell vegetables, then we can create a new future and a new nation."
Gandhi was speaking an award ceremony, which also hosted a presentation to familiarise anganwadi workers with e-wallets and other modes of digital payments.
A worker at the event pointed out the irony of the government asking anganwadi workers to use smartphone and familiarise themselves to e-wallets. "We also need money to be able to buy a smartphone and access internet. I earn Rs 4,000 a month and I only have a basic phone," Maladevi from Nasirpur told The Indian Express.
It would cost her approximately Rs 2000 to buy the cheapest smartphone available in the market at the moment -- more than half her month's pay.
An anganwadi worker gets Rs 3000 as salary from the government and a meagre amount as honorarium.