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Supreme Court directs states, union territories to open Anganwadi Centres outside containment zones before January 31

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre and states to issue monetary guidelines for nutritional support to Anganwadi centres. The apex court asked all states to take a decision by January 31 on reopening of anganwadi centres outside containment zones.

The three judge bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R. Subhash Reddy and Justice M.R. Shah heard the plea filed by Dipika Jagatram Sahani seeking directions to the Centre, states and Union Territories to reopen all Anganwadi centres in the country which were closed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier, the court had issued notice to Centre, states and Union Territories and asked for their response on the matter. Following the top court’s order, the Centre had filed a detailed affidavit on working of Anganwadis and food distribution during the lockdown.

The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan has issued directions in response to a PIL asking Centre and sates for providing food and healthcare facilities to children and lactating mothers in view of closure of Anganwaadi centres due to Covid-19 situation in the country.

The Supreme Court bench said that states must ensure that the food is provided to lactating women and children during the pandemic and that nutritional standards under the food safety law are maintained.

The bench issued directions to the Ministry of Women and Child Development that all States and UTs who have not yet opened anganwadis shall do so before 31st January 2021 outside the containment zones.

The court said the UTs and States must make arrangements of opening anganwadis only after consulting their respective State Disaster Management Authorities. It must ensure that nutritional standards given under schedule 2 of Food Safety and Standards Act must be fulfilled by providing nutritional support to children and mothers.

The petitioner had submitted that the functioning of all Anganwadi centres came to a sudden halt during the lockdown. Due to the move, The poor, pregnant and lactating women were left to their own devices. The plea sought a direction to the Centre, 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 malnourishment among children and anaemia in girl children and initiate corrective steps.

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The petitioner had 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.

The matter has been listed for judgement on Thursday by the SC bench.

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