1 lakh girls in 11-14 age group brought back to formal education fold since July 2022, say officials
According to government sources, approximately one lakh adolescent girls in the age group of 11-14, who had previously dropped out of school, have been successfully reintegrated into mainstream education. Over the years, there has been a significant decrease in the reported numbers of drop-out girls in this age group across states. In 2013-14, the figure stood at 1.14 crore, which decreased to five lakh in 2020-21, 3.8 lakh in 2021-22, and finally to approximately one lakh in July of the previous year. This reduction in numbers indicates the removal of fake beneficiaries and incorrect entries, as per the sources.
A senior official, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that these one lakh girls have been reintegrated into mainstream education and subsequently, the scheme for adolescent girls has been revised. The Scheme for Adolescent Girls (SAG) in the age group of 11-14 years has been discontinued and replaced with a revised scheme that falls under the Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 Mission. The revised SAG now encompasses girls in the 14-18 age group in aspirational and northeast region districts, with a total of 22.40 lakh identified adolescent girls. Out of these, 19 lakh have undergone Aadhaar seeding.
Furthermore, the official mentioned that the Poshan Tracker, which monitors and tracks activities of identified anganwadi centers in real-time, has successfully Aadhaar-seeded 9.38 crore beneficiaries out of a total of 10.06 crore. Additionally, the official shared that 10 lakh anganwadi centers have been geo-tagged, and efforts are underway to complete the remaining centers. The government is also focusing on designing an age-appropriate take-home ration for children up to six years old, with a proposal already sent to the finance ministry. Moreover, Aadhaar-seeding of migrant workers is being carried out to ensure they can access the benefits of the anganwadi scheme across the country. Currently, 57,000 migrant workers have started benefiting from this initiative, indicating an increase in coordination within and between states, according to the official.
The official further stated that 2 lakh anganwadi centers have been identified for transformation into "saksham" centers by 2025-26. In the first year of 2022-23, the aim was to upgrade 40,000 centers, but the number reached 41,000, and it is expected to reach 81,000 by the end of the year. Additionally, 1.60 lakh mini anganwadis have been identified for upgrade to full-fledged anganwadi centers under the program.
Meanwhile, officials from the Women and Child Development Ministry highlighted inconsistencies in malnutrition figures. The National Family Health Survey-5 reported 7.7% of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and 19.3% under SAM and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) cumulatively. However, data from the Poshan Tracker of the WCD Ministry indicates that only 2.27% of children suffer from SAM, and 7.06% suffer from SAM and MAM.