New Delhi (ILNS): A plea has been filed by Dipika Jagatram Sahani before the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the Centre, all states and Union Territories to forthwith re-open all Anganwadi centres in the country which were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M. R. Shah is hearing the plea.
On an appeal for resuming basic education at the centres also, Justice Bhushan said that having regard to the present situation education services cannot be given.
The bench had earlier issued notices to the Centre, States and Union Territories and sought their responses after which the Centre filed a detailed affidavit on working of Anganwadis and food distribution during the lockdown.
The petitioner has submitted that functioning of all Anganwadi centres in the country came to a sudden halt and poor pregnant and lactating women and children were left in the lurch and hence sought a direction to the Centre, all states and UTs to conduct growth monitoring of children to record the growth in the wake of the after-effects of the pandemic, more particularly of malnourishment among children and anaemia in girl children and initiate corrective steps forthwith.
The petitioner has also sought for a direction to the Centre, states and UTs to provide hot cooked meals, take home rations in consonance with the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013 as well as The Supplementary Nutrition Rules, 2020.
On the previous occasion the Centre had informed the Supreme Court that the Anganwadis have been doing a great job and have been providing supplementary nutrition to children every 2 weeks even during the pandemic.
Today Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Union of India, read the affidavit filed by the Centre on November 20. She submitted that all meals could not be served in Angadwadis because the Anganwadis have been closed in certain areas.
The ministry of women and child development has been asked to take a decision to reopen Anganwadis outside containment zones.
A detailed guideline and SOP have been filed for Anganwadis.
Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, said that an “utterly wrong picture has been presented to your Lordship. From March till now the Anganwadis have been closed and no meal has been provided. For pregnant and lactating mothers a hunger situation is prevalent in the country.
“Growth monitoring programmes have been stopped and necessary vaccinations completely stopped,” he added. He also said: “Children upto 6 years get essential education services at Anganwadis that should not have been stopped.”
Justice Bhushan at that point said that having regard to the present situation education services cannot be given.
Gonsalves said: “These are not containment zones and children can be called in batches and provided meals.”
It was decided that a detailed affidavit is to be filed by all states, stating the measures taken in context of the guidelines issued by the Centre. Two weeks have been granted to the petitioner to file an affidavit giving detailed figures of the non implementation of the scheme in Anganwadis
Matter is listed for December 14.