During the Covid-19 pandemic, anganwadis across Maharashtra have noted a rise in number of beneficiaries by 7.27 lakh. These are children aged less than six, pregnant and lactating women registering for free meals and ration schemes. State officials said with several migrants like construction workers and daily wagers still living in their native hometown, women and children have to rely on angawadis for daily food.
The Women and Child Development (WCD) department provides free meals to children aged between three and six years, and ration for six months to three-year-olds. For malnourished children, an anganwadi provides six meals a day to improve their nutrition content. In tribal areas, lactating and pregnant women are provided breakfast and lunch under the APJ Abdul Kalam Amrut Aahar Yojana.
Until before the pandemic, WCD registered 65 lakh beneficiaries for free meals on a daily basis. Data shows that after the pandemic, the figure has risen to 72.27 lakh. At least 3.42 lakh of the new beneficiaries are migratory population, which are women and their children, who either returned to their home or were served free meals in urban shelters at the onset of pandemic.
“When the lockdown began, we were providing 25 lakh migrants with three meals a day,” said Idzes Kundan, WCD secretary. As migrants began the long walk back home in April and May, some lucky getting a bus or train transport, the beneficiaries shifted from urban areas to rural and tribal regions. The temporary shelters have now been shut and anganwadis have become major centres supporting women and children in floating population.
Over the last few months, with schools shut, 3.85 lakh children under six years of age from government and private schools have been referred to anganwadis to compensate for loss in mid-day meals. Kundan said through the various schemes for women and children, the government has managed to cater to 70 per cent of members in a rural and tribal household. Since December 1, ashramshalas or tribal schools have resumed hostel accommodation and classes for students from standard IX to XII, following a nod from the education department.
The state government still does not have data on how many migrants have moved back to their hometown in tribal and rural regions or how many have returned to seek jobs in cities. The tribal department has now drafted a proposal to track tribal population and account for each tribal who migrates for work through village level monitoring committees.
“The idea is to get data on migratory tribal population so that we can draft welfare schemes for them and provide intervention where necessary,” said Anup Kumar Yadav, secretary, tribal department. The proposal also envisages to record details of locations where the tribal will migrate for work and also the nature of work. In northern stretches of the state, tribals from Nandurbar mostly migrate to Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh or Dhule and Nashik in Maharashtra for work. In Gadchiroli, tribals migrate to Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Nagpur for work.
Maharashtra has 1.10 crore tribal population spread over 19 districts, constituting about 9 per cent of state’s population.
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