Government didn’t explain reason for decline in the number of both women and children.

The government’s anganwadi programme has seen a decline in the number of beneficiaries by nearly two crore, according to the latest data submitted before Parliament recently.

In 2014-2015, there were 10.45 crore pregnant women, lactating mothers and children in the age group of six months to six years enrolled at nearly 14 lakh anganwadi centres. Over the years, this number has seen a steady decline and dropped to 8.55 crore by March,2020, according to Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani.

The Integrated Child Development Scheme offers a package of six services administered at various anganwadis. They include supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunisation, health education, health check-up and referral services.

The number of children dropped from 8.49 crore in 2014-2015 to 6.86 crore in March 2020. The number of pregnant women and lactating mothers had come down from 1.95 crore to 1.68 crore between the same period. The government didn’t explain the reason for the decline.

“The number of enrolled children could have gone down for several reasons: firstly, those who were unable to submit Aadhaar were knocked out as ‘fake’. We have seen this phenomenon with every other scheme that the Aadhaar has been linked to. Secondly, there might have been some genuine fakes that Aadhaar helped identify. Thirdly, the previous census shows that absolute population in the younger age groups had started declining in States with a low fertility rate, so some of it may just be the result of changing demographics,” says Reetika Khera, economist and associate professor at the IIT Delhi.

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