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Strengthening the Integrated Child Development Services scheme

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Government policies and programme: Health


Context: The article emphasizes the need to strengthen the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme in India to address issues of malnutrition and health among children.

Status of malnutrition in India:

For under 5 years, stunting has reduced from 38.4% to 35.5%, Wasting has reduced from 21% to 19.3% and Underweight prevalence has reduced from 35.8% to 32.1% (As per NFHS-5 (2019-21) vs NFHS-4 (2015-16))


About ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services):

AboutThe ICDS is a centrally sponsored scheme implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It was launched in 1975, to break the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition.
Major Objectives of ICDS·        To improve the nutritional and health status of children aged 0-6 years

·        Promote proper psychological, physical, and social development of the child

·        Reduce mortality, morbidity, malnutrition, and school dropout rates

·        Coordinate policy and implementation among various departments for child development

·        Enhance the capability of mothers to meet the health and nutritional needs of their children.

·        Empower adolescent girls to become self-reliant and aware citizens


Schemes Under ICDS
Anganwadi Services SchemeProvides services for early childhood care and development, including supplementary nutrition, preschool education, health check-ups, and referral services.
Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana YojanaProvides cash incentives to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and lactation.
National Creche SchemeOffers daycare facilities for children of working women aged 6 months to 6 years, including nutrition, education, and health services.
Scheme for Adolescent GirlsEmpowers out-of-school girls through nutrition, life skills, and education, aiming to improve their social status.
Child Protection SchemeAims to improve the well-being and protection of children in difficult circumstances, reducing vulnerabilities to abuse and exploitation.
POSHAN AbhiyaanTargets the reduction of malnutrition and undernutrition in children, with a focus on adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
Services provided under ICDS·        Supplementary nutrition (SNP).

·        Non-formal preschool education (PSE).

·        Immunisation.

·        Health check-up.

·        Referral services.

·        Nutrition and Health Education (NHE)


Significance of ICDS

  • Interventions focusing on nutrition, education, and health during early childhood, such as ICDS, can significantly improve human capital, particularly in developing countries.
  • The ICDS has a positive impact on cognitive achievements, especially among girls and those from economically disadvantaged families.
  • Children who were exposed to ICDS during the first three years of life completed more grades of schooling than those who were not.



Challenges with ICDS:


  • Overworked: Anganwadi workers are frequently stretched beyond their limits.
  • Variations: There is a significant variation in the implementation of the ICDS and the level of skills of Anganwadi workers
  • Jurisdictions: Anganwadi worker recruitment falls under the jurisdiction of State governments. This sometimes creates coordination issues between the centre and the state.
  • Quality of Services: inadequate infrastructure, lack of trained and motivated personnel, and insufficient availability of essential supplies and equipment.
  • Supplementary Nutrition: There have been instances of “nutrition interruption,” where beneficiaries were not provided with supplementary nutrition for the recommended 300 days a year.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation issues: E.g., inadequate data collection, limited capacity for data analysis, and a lack of timely feedback and corrective measures.
  • Urban-Rural Disparity: ICDS implementation faces specific challenges in urban areas, where population density, migration, and a lack of adequate infrastructure pose hurdles in reaching and delivering services to vulnerable populations


Measures to improve ICDS implementation include:

  • empowering Anganwadi workers by increasing their numbers
  • providing specialized training
  • improving infrastructure and resources
  • strengthening monitoring and evaluation systems
  • promoting community participation and awareness
  • enhancing coordination among departments
  • utilizing technology and innovation for efficient program management



Empowering Anganwadi workers in India strengthens ICDS by improving health and education outcomes for children, reducing malnutrition, enabling easy implementation, creating job opportunities for women, and optimizing resource allocation. It is a crucial step in unlocking the full potential of ICDS.


Insta Links

 Integrated Child Development Scheme


Mains Links

Discuss the pitfalls in ICDS and Poshan Abhiyan interventions as a cause of concern in so far eradicating nutritional deficiency in mother and child in India. What interventions would you suggest to overcome these pitfalls? (250 Words)


Prelims Links

  1. Which of the following can be said to be essentially the parts of ‘Inclusive Governance’? ( UPSC 2012)
  2. Permitting Non-Banking Financial Companies to do banking
  3. Establishing effective District Planning Committees in all the districts
  4. Increasing the government spending on public health
  5. Strengthening the Mid-day Meal Scheme


Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3 and 4 only
(c) 2, 3 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4


Ans: C