Kerala anganwadi reopens without power supply, children and parents sweat it out and exit early

  • The HM of a government school pulled the plug on the anganwadi; KSEB, panchayat, and school are now passing the buck
  • 23 children and their parents came to Mundothparamba anganwadi reopening fest; many left because of the unbearable heat
Photo: Special arrangement
23 children and their parents came to Mundothparamba anganwadi reopening fest; many left because of the unbearable heat. Photo: Special arrangement

Malappuram: With "stories, songs, and games", 33,115 anganwadis reopened across Kerala on Tuesday. Minister for Women and Child Development Veena George inaugurated the reopening festival named 'Chirikilukkam' at the 'Smart' Anganwadi run from the Social Justice Institute at Poojappura in Thiruvananthapuram. Inspiring.

But of the 33,115 anganwadis, one anganwadi in Malappuram gave its 23 little children and their parents a perspiring start. For the anganwadi run from Government Upper Primary School in Malappuram's Mundothparamba reopened without a power supply.

The anganwadi which is run from an old three-room building at the Mundothparamba school. Photo: Special arrangement

Eight months ago, the school's headmistress Shahina R M and PTA president Shareef A K disconnected the power supply saying the faulty wiring in the anganwadi -- a three-room tiled-roof block -- was tripping the power connection in the school building.

"Though that's the official reason, the real reason is the HM and the PTA president do not want the anganwadi to function from the school campus," said Amjatha Jasmin T, member of Parappur grama panchayat representing  Mundothparamba ward.

Last week, Onmanorama reported the plight of the children and the anganwadi. CPM's independent panchayat member A P Hameed had told Onmanorama that he held talks with the HM and the PTA president and they gave in writing that the power would be restored before the anganwadi reopened on Tuesday.

"Yes, the power should have been restored by Monday. But today the anganwadi reopened without power," said Hameed. He said he gave the consent letter from the HM and the PTA president to the secretary of Parappur grama panchayat. "The secretary should have ensured there is a power supply," he said.

The reality is no one cared. On Tuesday, 23 children aged between three and six years turned up for the reopening festival, with their parents, said anganwadi teacher Shiny. "We organised cultural programmes from 9.30 am to noon," she said. But the children could barely sit in the classroom because there was no fan. "Except for a few, many parents took back their children," she said.

Malappuram anganwadi
The officials and teachers of GUPS, Mundothparamba, dumped broken chairs, benches, pumpset, water tank, pipes in the anganwadi's kitchen-cum-diningroom before the panchayat engineer came for the fitness test. Photo: Special arrangement

On Tuesday, Mundothparamba's temperature hovered around 32 degrees Celsius. But the humidity was dangerously high at 75%. When there is high moisture in the air, evaporation of sweat will be slow to the point of making children uncomfortable. "Without a fan, it is difficult to sit in class," said the teacher.

Of the 23 children, 13 are new admission. Every year, the state government organises the 'welcome fete' in all anganwadis to increase the enrollment of preschool children (three to six years), ensure holistic development of children, and increase the awareness of services provided by anganwadis in society, said a press statement from the government on Monday.

But is the government aware of the condition of the anganwadi? Parappur grama panchayat secretary Dinoj said he wrote to KSEB 10 days ago to give a new connection to the anganwadi building. Earlier, when the panchayat tried to get a new connection, the HM intervened and said that she was the custodian of the building and Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) should not give power supply without her consent. "But in my latest letter, I attached KSEB's own circular which directs its engineers to give power connection to anganwadis without insisting on ownership certificate," said the panchayat secretary. But KSEB officials have not acted on the letter and the issue is before the ADM (additional district magistrate), he said. "In the summers, we cannot sit in the room for five minutes during a power outage. The children are being subjected to cruelty," Dinoj said.

Malappuram ADM Mehar Ali did not respond to the phone call.

In the last academic year, only four to five children were attending the anganwadi regularly. This year might be the same if the government did not restore the power supply.

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