New Delhi, January 13: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered States and Union Territories that have not opened anganwadi centres due to the pandemic to decide on opening those located outside containment zones on or before January 31.
“As per guidance note dated November 11, 2020 issued by Government of India, Ministry of Women and Child Development, all States/Union Territories which have not yet opened anganwadi centres shall take a decision to open anganwadi centres on or before January 31, 2021 situated outside the containment zone,” a three-judge Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed in a judgment, The Hindu reported.
Anganwadis operate under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme, which started in 1975. The scheme was designed as an early childhood development programme to address health, nutrition and development needs of young children and pregnant and nursing mothers. It got statutory recognition under the National Food Security Act of 2013.
The centres were closed during the lockdown. While some States have since reopened them, others have not, despite the lifting of the lockdown.
The judgment came on a petition filed by activist Dipika Jagatram Sahani, calling for their immediate re-opening.
“It is the statutory obligation of the Centre and the States to provide for nutritional support to the pregnant women and lactating mothers, nutritional support to children… Government has a constitutional obligation to preserve human life. Good health of its citizens is its primary duty,” the court observed.
The court directed the States and UTs that a decision to not open anganwadi centres located outside containment zones should be taken only on the direction of the State Disaster Management Authority concerned. It, however, said centres situated in containment zones would remain shut during the prescribed period of isolation.
The court directed States/Union Territories to ensure nutritional standards in these centres as provided under the National Food Security Act, 2013.
“All the States/Union Territories shall issue necessary orders regarding monitoring and supervision of anganwadi centres to ensure that the benefit reaches the beneficiaries and a complaint redressal mechanism be put in place in each district,” the judgment directed.