On 13th January 2021, the Supreme Court gave the Central government and the states, directions to circulate financial guidelines with regards to nutritional support to the Anganwadi centres.
It asked all of the states to make a decision before January 31st, 2021 on letting the reopening of the centres located outside their containment zones.
The Apex Court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, and M.R. Shah heard the filed plea of Dipika Jagatram Sahani, which sought directions from the court to the Centre, Union Territories as well as all the states on the reopening of the Anganwadi centres across the country.
The centres were closed due to the COVID-19 virus spreading and have remained closed since the lockdown.
The bench directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to let all the states and union territories know that they must open any unopened Anganwadi located outside the zones of containment, anytime before the 31st of January.
The Supreme Court stated that arrangements must be made by states and UTs to open the Anganwadis right after consultation with their corresponding State Disaster Management Authorities.
They must also assure the facilitation of nutritional support to the residing mothers and children, while maintaining the standards under the 2nd schedule of the Food Safety and Standards Act.
Previously, the Centre, Union Territories and all the states were issued notice from the court on a response on the concerning matter.
Following the given order, the Centre filed an elaborate affidavit on the work of the centres and food distribution to them as well while the lockdown was still in place.
The bench led by Justice Bhushan issued these directions as a response to the PIL filed, which asked the Centre along with the states to provide food along with facilities for healthcare to the children and several lactating mothers, residing in the Anganwadi enclosures owing to the pandemic situation.
The court responded that the states must provide sustenance for the lactating mothers and the children during the time period of the pandemic and must maintain all the nutritional standards stated under the law of food safety, while doing so.
The submission made by the petitioner in the plea gave information regarding how the Anganwadi centres functioning came to a halt due to the country-wide lockdown during the pandemic period and how the poor pregnant women along with the lactating mothers were left to fend for themselves.
The plea also asked for the SC’s direction to the Central and all the state and union territory authorities to conduct regular monitoring of the children’s growth in order to record any after-effect changes to their growth in the pandemic’s wake.
This was a request made due to the increase in malnourishment rates in children and particularly, anaemia rates among girl children and the monitoring would help with the initiation of the correct steps necessary for bringing these rates down once again.
The plea included the SC’s direction be given to the Centre and all the state and union territories to ensure warm cooked meals and home rations be provided, in accordance with the National Food Security Act of 2013 and the Supplementary Nutrition Rules of 2020.
This matter is listed to be judged on January 14, 2021 before the Supreme Court bench.