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Supreme Court Reserves Judgment On Issue Of Access To Necessities To Beneficiaries Of Anganwadi Centre's Amid Pandemic

Sanya Talwar
16 Dec 2020 4:15 PM GMT
Supreme Court Reserves Judgment On Issue Of Access To Necessities To Beneficiaries Of Anganwadi Centres Amid Pandemic
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved judgment on the issue of lack of access to nutritional needs, healthcare facilities & education to beneficiaries of Anganwadi Centre's on account of their closure amid the ongoing pandemic.A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy & MR Shah were hearing a public interest litigation seeking directions to provide food and...

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved judgment on the issue of lack of access to nutritional needs, healthcare facilities & education to beneficiaries of Anganwadi Centre's on account of their closure amid the ongoing pandemic.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy & MR Shah were hearing a public interest litigation seeking directions to provide food and healthcare facilities to children and lactating mothers on account of the Anganwadi System allegedly shutting down completely due to the pandemic situation.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves argued on behalf of the petitioner today and informed court that the situation on ground was abysmal, exposing the designated beneficiaries of the system to hunger and starvation. He stated that "hot cooked meals" were a pre requisite under the National Food Security Act but that had been completely done away with. "I shudder to think what would happen if hot-cooked meals are not continually served to the beneficiaries," said Gonsalves.

"The system is totally at a standstill. The NHRC study and recommendation states that he Anganwadi's must immediately restart"
- Gonsalves to Supreme Court

Further, Gonsalves argues that the National Food Security Act makes it mandatory to supply nutrition to lactating mothers and pregnant mothers. "There is also a mandate for a midday meal per day. States are saying we are getting them take-home ration. What is this take home ration? This is a chhooda package. once in 15 days. Instead of a hot cooked meal, they are getting this. This is for 75 Rs. per packet and per day the costing of this only 5 Rs. per day," he argued.

Centre, represented by Aishwarya Bhati, Additional Solicitor General and various states and Union Territories, represented by Counsel argued otherwise.

Bhati informed Court that all states were implementing the requisites of the Act and that, in fact, anganwadi workers had stretched themselves throughout the pandemic for beneficiaries. "These beneficiaries are vulnerable to the disease so to open anganwadi's indiscriminately can be catastrophic. Pandemic has not gone," she argued.

"The mandate under National Food Security Act, 2013 being followed in letter in spirit. Of course there are shortcomings but we are implementing it," added Bhati.

On the aspect of INR 5 being designated per beneficiary as advanced by Gonsalves, Bhati stated that the argument is incorrect.

"The calories are to be seen. However, i have instructions even on the 5 rupee amount. The amount is from 9-16 rupees which has been approved by Finance committee," she said.

State of Maharashtra, represented by Advocate Sachin Patil informed court that the Anganwadi's are providing all benefits under the NFA, 2013."After pandemic, the beneficiaries increased. Whatever is mandated under the act, we are providing," Patil added.

Apart from the above, States of Bihar, Assam, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab informed Court that the Anganwadi system was being facilitated in the respective states.

On the last date, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre & States file affidavits on with regard to implementation of guidelines issued on operation of Anganwadi's.

"Let Government of India file a detailed affidavit with regard to implementation of the guidelines dated 11.11.2020. The States may also file an additional affidavit regarding the measures taken with regard to guidelines dated 11.11.2020 issued by the Government of India," the bench had stated, after which today's arguments were advanced.

The petitioner has submitted in the PIL 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.


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