Nalanda gets tech aid for eye on child training, health

District introduces hi-tech monitoring of anganwadi centres; supervisors upload photos from phone after each visit

pankaj

Pankaj Kumar | November 8, 2012


CDPO Sabina Ahmed downloads photographs of anganwadi kendra in Sonchari village
CDPO Sabina Ahmed downloads photographs of anganwadi kendra in Sonchari village

Media for Accountability

Sabina Ahmed, a child development project officer (CDPO) at Parwalpur block of Nalanda district, is uber-busy these days. She has to visit and inspect at least two anganwadi centres in Parwalpur each day, assisted by a couple of supervisors. But what’s more, she and her team are also required to take the daily inspections online. Instantly.

On the day Governance Now meets her, Sabina has just finished her inspection tour of anganwadi centre number-58 in Sonchari village and gets down to upload all the particulars on the official website. She looks in a hurry, for she has to visit the other centre on time and follow the process there as well. 

What she might not realise amid the rush is that she is part of an unfolding revolution, with Nalanda as its epicentre.

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Welcome, then, to DRISHTI, the handy acronym for Direct Reporting with Image Information SMS for Handling of Tours, a new technology introduced in Nalanda this month to inspect anganwadi centres. As part of it, each supervisor or CDPO has to upload three different photographs of the anganwadi centre on the official website after their inspection. The idea is to enable government officials at the district or state levels check details of each centre inspected each day, and thereby bring more accountability and transparency into the functioning of Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).

To make the Internet accessible to ground-level officials like Sabina, the district’s 95 supervisors and CDPOs here have been given Android cellphones as part of the Rs 5-lakh project, and trained to upload pictures. The GPS-enabled phones also help them upload location details and other information.

While Nalanda has been taken as a pilot case, with plans to spread the project in other parts of the country subsequently, Bihar also notched up a first on the ICDS front back in 2010. It was the first state to transfer funds directly to CDPOs for better and effective implementation of ICDS.

A centrally sponsored scheme, with state governments contributing 50 percent supplementary nutrition cost, ICDS aims to improve preschool training and nutritional and health status of children from 0-6 years. It is primarily a means to check child mortality and school dropout, enhancing capability of mothers to look after health and primary education.

When the going gets tough, the tough go all out
Parwalpur block has six panchayats, and 58 anganwadi centres in all. But Sabina is also responsible for another block, Tharthari, where two other supervisors assist her. "In all, we have 148 centres to look after with the help of four supervisors,” she says, indicating the amount of work to be done every day. “According to the district magistrate’s direction, a supervisor or CDPO has to visit each centre at least once each month.”

In all, Nalanda has 2,655 sanctioned anganwadi centres, of which 2,509 are fully functional. The local administration is hopeful that the remaining centres would be functional soon. Each centre gets Rs 10, 975 every month to feed and train children and pregnant women.

"Things are improving fast with the introduction of DRISHTI,” Shobha Keshri, a district project officer of Nalanda, says.

Explaining the need to upload photos, Sabina adds: "Pictures do not lie. So senior officials will need only to hit the Web to know who has inspected which centre, and the number of children in uniform at a particular centre, on the basis of the photos uploaded,”.

Sabina, and others like her, cannot, however, upload random shots. As per specifications, the three photographs have to be of three different nature: one showing children at an anganwadi centre, a second of the helper (sahayika), worker (sewika) and children at that centre in the same frame, while the third photograph needs to depict the aanganwadi centre visited by the supervisor or CDPO. 

But despite the hard work, anganwadi workers are not complaining. They realise DRISHTI has started changing the attitude and outlook toward these centres. Stressing that regular inspection will curb irregularities at various levels, a worker named Nikku Devi says, “We are happy with DRISHTI. The system now has more faith in us and our performance is shown on the Web regularly.”

Officials say benefits of the monitoring scheme can already be felt in Nalanda, where 200 anganwadi centres are inspected every day and their details uploaded immediately on the website. "Complaints of discrepancy are coming down now, as we have live monitoring mechanism to check the situation,” district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Agrawal says.

The number of children coming for preschool training and supplement diet is also rising, while manipulation of report through an unholy “nexus” between CDPOs and anganwadi workers is almost a thing of past, officials say.

"We get better inspection reports uploaded on real-time basis, added with GPS location. So functioning of these centres, children’s uniforms and their attendance is improving fast,” Agrawal says.

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