Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)


The role and position of the mother with regard to her child is so fundamental that any scheme   that targets children must perforce impact and involve the mother. The concerns of the scheme are wide in their reach and women are covered in it in their roles as mothers and would -be mothers. Therefore, this module has been included in this paper. It examines the ICDS, enumerating the pros and cons of this ambitious scheme and critiquing its performance in the states.

History and Background of the Scheme

Launched in 1975 on Mahatma Gandhi ‘s birthday, i.e., the 2nd of October, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) represents one of the world's largest and most unique programs for early childhood development and is the foremost symbol of India's commitment to her children. Commendable in its intention, the purpose of the scheme is to provide pre-school education on the one hand and break the vicious cycle of malnutrition, morbidity resulting in reduced learning capacity and mortality, on the other. It also has to take care of all the needs of pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as their babies.

The Journey of the ICDS is as follows:

Our society has failed the children in the country, especially those who belong to the deprived and marginalized sections of society. In terms of nutrition and education thousands of children get almost nothing, despite tall claims by the Government. They certainly require the special attention of the Ministry by way of proper mechanisms for monitoring the Scheme and making it functional. In fact, the idea of introducing schemes targeting children is an old one and it has been preceded by several schemes and projects before this particular one appeared.

As early as 1954, Balvadis were started at the village level for pre-primary school children. Thirteen years later, in 1967, a new project was initiated in the name of Women and Child Welfare. This was followed in 1970 by the Mid-day-meal programme.

It was finally in 1975, that 33 child welfare projects in 33 blocks and 4891 Anganwadi Centres of rural, urban and tribal areas were sanctioned by the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the ICDS was started on a trial basis for 5 years. In Delhi, the Jama Masjid Project was a milestone project of the country and now there are 11150 Anganwadi Centres in Delhi, since its inception in 1975-76.

Aims of the ICDS

Enlisted below are the aims of the ICDS. It is quite obvious that with the given resources, manpower and infrastructure, the expectations from the ICDS are quite unrealistic, far too ambitious and hence, not likely to be fulfilled. However, the stated aims are:

1. To provide basic services at the community level and ensure the all-round development of 0–6-year-old children, i.e., to improve their nutritional and health status.

2.  To give priority in the care to the vulnerable age group of pre-birth to 3-year-old children

3.  To lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child

4.  To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity and malnutrition as well as school- dropout rate

5.  To end disparities among groups (the scheme was to target poor and marginalized sections of society)

6.  To work at convergence interface between other factors like health care, education and sanitation.

7.  To break the generations-old cycle of malnutrition

8.  To address problems of adolescent girls and women

9.  To take care of the education and training, health check- ups, and mental health check- ups so that adolescent girls may grow up to be trained, healthy, aware and empowered women/mothers in the future.

(Also, so that when they become pregnant, they are healthy and physically as well as mentally mature women, so that they can give birth to healthy babies. For this purpose, the Rajiv Gandhi Sabala Yojana was implemented through the ICDS, and through this scheme adolescent girls were provided with supplementary nutrition, a health check-up, training and programmes for empowerment. But this scheme is non-functional for the present.)

10. To provide supplementary nutrition for pregnant women, vaccination, health check-ups, balanced diet, safe delivery, institutional delivery feeding the first milk or colostrum to the infant etc.

Although the aims are quite high-sounding, it seems impossible to achieve all this without a fool-proof mechanism of monitoring for proper implementation of the scheme

For example, where there is paucity of funds, what is to be done to increase sanction of monetary support? How the sanctioned money is being spent also has to be monitored. Besides, regular surveys are to be conducted to check the condition of functional Anganwadis, the delay in construction of new centres, the recruitment and training of staff, the cases of corruption and nepotism which may or may not have been reported.


Funding & Universalization of the Scheme

In the year 2001, the ICDS was first universalized through an interim order of the Supreme Court of India, dated 28 November 2001. This Order was reiterated and extended on 29 April and 7 October, 2004 with further directions on ICDS. The ICDS was universalized after several such projects were found to be successful. In the financial year 2004-05, 1.88 new Anganwadi Centers were to be opened, but even in 2006, these had not been operationalized. In the past 39 years the ICDS has been expanded to only around 14 lakh Anganwadi centres. One can understand the process as given below.


It was after hearing a PUCL Public Interest Litigation on food security, on 1 December, 2006, that the Supreme Court gave a direction for the universalization of the ICDS and its linking with food security. The process was to be completed by 2008 and 14 lakh Anganwadi Kendras to cover a population of around 1 billion were to be constructed.


Although, the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had promised to complete the process by 2012 latest, no proper fund allocation for this was made. In 2007, the Advisor to the Food Security Commissioner said that, to the already allocated Rs. 4087 crores, a measly sum of 700 crores had been added, which actually stood in contempt of the SC directive of doubling the allocation.


The NAC under the UPA Government had estimated that an allocation of no less than Rs. 9600 crores each for the years 2006-07 and 2007-08 was required for the universalization of the ICDS. By 2008-09, 13,56,027 AWCs were sanctioned. But the ICDS was still running short of around 3,11,758 functioning Anganwadi Centers. The Government then planned Restructuring and Strengthening of ICDS for which a sum of Rs. 1,23,580 crores have been granted for the 12th 5- year plan, i.e. 2012-17. The progress of the objective has still to be seen. Ironically, for a scheme aimed at raising nutrition standards among the children, more than 70% of the total allocation is spent on administrative expenses - salaries to contractual employees, on general expenses and training purposes, while only about 30% of actually spent on providing nourishment to the intended beneficiaries.


The Administrative Structure

·   The Anganwadi Worker and Anganwadi Helper at the Anganwadi (Village) level

·   The Anganwadi Supervisor at the Sector level

·   The Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) at the Project level

·   The District Programme Officer (DPO) at the District level

·   Directorate of Child Development

·   Department of Women and Child Development, State Govt.

·   Department of Women and Child Development, Govt. of India

·   Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India



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