(In 2006, while working in the then Development & Planning Department, we prepared a concept paper on preparation of an integrated plan for development of children. Although written in the context of the Eleventh Five Year Plan, significant part of it still valid in the present context. Ideas shared in the concept note can be implemented in order to ensure better life chances for our children. Hence I decided to share the paper on my blog.)

Introduction: a note on the consultative process

Issues affecting children are addressed in different sectoral programmes of the Government- both at the National and at the State level. Ministry of Women & Children at the National level and the Department of Women & Children and Social Welfare at the State level are the nodal Ministry/ Department to look into the issues affecting children. But there is seldom any coordination at the field level and the Department of Health & Family Welfare, Department of Panchayats & Rural Development, Department of Municipal Affairs, Department of Labour, Department of School Education- all work as isolated islands with little attempts at convergence. In the Blocks there is a post of Child Development Project Officer. But she/ he is focused on the ICDS Project only with its focus on supplementary feeding, early childhood education and immunisation, in order of priority. Even in immunisation, the ICDS set up has little intervention except some sort of an incomplete tracking of children receiving immunisation services. The project part has largely eaten out the child development part from the basket available to CDPOs.

In pursuance of the Common Minimum Programme of the Central Government, spoke of a “New Deal for Children” and the process of preparation of the Eleventh Five-Year Plan to be made operational from April 2007 lays emphasis on an integrated approach to the issues affecting children.

It is in this backdrop, the State Government, with active support from UNICEF, decided to engage itself and other stakeholders in a series of consultative process in order to draw some indications as to the direction the State can move in ensuring special focus on issues affecting children in the Eleventh Five Year Plan. Thus the consultations are supposed to result in some sort of an outline of an approach for the Eleventh Five Year Plan towards a coordinated, inclusive and all round development for the children of the State.

The first consultation in the series was primarily an internal one and was organized on 8 June 2006 at the Conference Hall of the State Planning Board. Attended by the officials from the Department of Women & Child Development and Social Welfare, Panchayats & Rural Development Department, Development & Planning Department, UNICEF, and some other practitioners in the field the interactive discussion aimed at designing a framework for a Workshop on Developing a Children’s Plan as part of the 11th Five Year Plan. As a follow up of the interactive discussion, the concept papers on Reproductive & Child Health, Child Development & Nutrition, Child’s Environment & Sanitation, Primary Education, HIV-AIDS and Child Protection for the bigger Workshop were developed.

Next in the series was the big gathering at ITC Sonar Bangla on 20 June 2006. The day-long Workshop was attended by the Additional Chief Secretary in charge of the Development & Planning Department, India Country Representative of UNICEF, Mr. N.C. Saxena, formerly Secretary, Planning Commission and Presently Senior Advisor to UNICEF-India, Secretaries and officials from different development departments associated with child development and numerous field functionaries and activists.

In the Introductory Session, after the initial briefing by the Additional Chief Secretary, the Secretary to the Department of WCD & Social Welfare presented the status of children in West Bengal. This was followed by a presentation by children— Voices of Children. Thereafter the Country Representative of UNICEF spoke on “the Results for Children: an Overview” which was followed by a presentation by Dr. N. C. Saxena on “Outlays to Outcomes” and another presentation on “Child Budget Analysis” by Subrat Das of the Centre for Budget, Governance & Accountability.

In the second session RIDDHI, Indian Public Health Association, Sanlaap and Ramakrishna Mission Loksiksha Parishad shared their experiences in different fields associated with well being of children.

In the next session, the participants were divided into six round tables to discuss, in groups, on Health, Education, Water & Sanitation, Nutrition, Child Protection and HIV/AIDS. Discussions in round tables were followed by presentation in groups.

Finally, Special Secretary to the Government of West Bengal, Development & Planning Department summed up the discussions.

Inputs coming from the day-long Workshop were further refined in a two-day Workshop with selected Departmental Officers, academicians and practitioners at Administrative Training Institute on 11 and 12 September 2006. What emerged from all these consultations were further fine tuned by the officials in the State Human Development Resource Centre and the Development & Planning Department. We now present the broad directions emerging from the entire process.

Priorities for the State in the Eleventh Five Year Plan

Vision

Planning processes must add value to the outcomes for children. We have identified expectations and aspirations relevant to all children of West Bengal, applying across agency, service and professional boundaries and consistent with the principles enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Outcomes

Children in West Bengal should be valued by ensuring that they are:

  • Safe: Children should be protected from abuse, neglect and harm by others at home, at school and in the community.
  • Nurtured: Children should live within a supportive family setting, with additional assistance if required, ensuring a positive and rewarding childhood experience.
  • Healthy: Children should enjoy the highest attainable standards of physical and mental health, with access to suitable healthcare and support for safe and healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Achieving: Children should have access to positive learning environments and opportunities to develop their skills, confidence and self esteem to the fullest potential.
  • Active: Children should be active with opportunities and encouragement to participate in play and recreation, including sport.
  • Respected & Responsible: Children and their care-givers should be involved in decisions that affect them, should have their voices heard and should be encouraged to play an active and responsible role in their communities.
  • Included: Children and their caregivers should have access to high quality services, when required, and should be assisted to overcome the social, educational, physical, environmental and economic barriers that create inequality.

Results

  • Reduce Infant Mortality Rate in the State from the present 40 per 1000 live births to 25 per 1000 live births within the five-year plan period
  • Eradicate severe malnutrition amongst children in the State and reduce mild to moderate malnutrition by 30 percentage points
  • Enroll all children, retain 80 percent of children enrolled up-to eighth standard and ensure quality learning for all children retained in school
  • Provide protection against exploitation to the children
  • Issue birth certificates to 80% of children born in the State
  • Provide access to safe drinking water for all the children of the State
  • Provide sanitation facilities to all the households
  • Promote hand-washing and other childcare practices at the household level

Targets

  • 90 percent of children fully immunized within one year with BCG, OPV, DPT and Measles in required doses
  • 90 percent of the children with diarrhoea use ORS and receive competent care for acute respiratory illness
  • All deliveries are attended by trained / skilled attendants
  • All mothers and neonates receive three quality Post-Natal Care visits by the Health Worker/ AWW
  • Restrict incidence of poliomyelitis in the State to zero
  • Cover all hamlets/ villages with safe drinking water facilities
  • Provide toilet blocks to all the Primary Schools, Sishu Siksha Kendros, Secondary Schools and Anganwadi Centres with separate arrangements for girls
  • Promote household sanitation to such a scale as to achieve complete coverage in 80 percent of the Gram Panchayats
  • Reduce incidence of child marriage by 50 percentage points
  • Introduce Special Learning Improvement Package and other quality interventions in teaching learning process in 80 percent of the Primary Schools and all SSKs
  • Provide at least three doses of Vitamin A in oil to 90 percent of children
  • Ensure ninety percent of the families receive iodine supplementation through use of iodized salt
  • Provide girls suffering from anemia with IFA tablets

 

Special action points at the State level

Health (Action: Health & Family Welfare Department & School Education Department)

  • Strengthening the preventive and promotive healthcare system in the State by adequately staffing all Sub-Centres, PHCs, BPHCs and Rural Hospitals and the outreach system by activating field staff
  • Establishing New-born Care Units with adequate staff in all the District and Sub-divisional Hospitals and municipal matri-sadans and in 30 percent  of the BPHCs/ RHs in the State
  • Strengthening infrastructure in maternity wards including beds and floor spaces
  • Introducing link workers in all the Sub-centres of the State to promote routine immunisation in the families
  • Rejuvenating school health check up system to cover all school children across the State
  • Campaign regarding infestation by worms of women and children
  • A complete mapping of urban health infrastructure, identification of gaps and ensuring nodal role of urban local bodies in urban health
  • Up-scaling IMNCI  to cover more districts
  • Reorganizing and redistributing skilled manpower for essential care of the neonates
  • Strengthening the statistical base for planning of services for the children by regular updating of ECCR

Nutrition (Action: WCD & SW Department, School Education Department, H&FW Department)

  • Accessing in school adolescent girls for iron supplementation and advice on nutrition
  • Accessing  out of school adolescent girls for iron supplementation and advice on nutrition through Anganwadi Centres and Self-help Groups
  • Ensuring convergence amongst the WCD & SW, School Education, H&FW Departments and the Panchayats with the nodal role assigned to ICDS
  • Quality monitoring of mid-may meal programme in Primary Schools and Sishu Siksha Kendros
  • Strict monitoring to ensure that field functionaries weigh every child at birth and developing an institutionalized pattern of growth monitoring and nutrition
  • Extending supplementary feeding for lactating mothers from 6 months post birth to 1 year to cover all infants
  • Using AWCs for distribution of IFA tablets and de-worming tablets
  • Initiating an all round campaign against early marriage and early pregnancies

Water & Sanitation (Action: PHED, P&RD and Municipal Affairs Department)

  • Developing a State Referral Laboratory for Water Quality Surveillance and monitoring
  • Preparing a contingency plan to provide safe drinking water to people in arsenic and fluoride affected areas through use of alternative water sources (rain water harvesting, using surface water etc.)
  • Developing a mechanism for testing the public and private drinking water sources alike in affected areas
  •  Providing safe drinking water to all schools in affected areas by using alternative technologies and also ensuring filtration of water
  • Introducing a comprehensive hygiene education plan for all schools, alternative education centres and AWCs
  • Utilizing the support provided by international agencies and NGOs in promoting hand-washing and other essential personal hygiene practices
  • Gains from Total Sanitation Campaign in some of the districts like Purba Medinipur are to be effectively harnessed to provide access to household latrines to all the rural families in the State
  • A more comprehensive focus on solid waste management related issues in urban areas and whenever possible clubbing of ULBs for developing common waste disposal facilities
  • Issuing clear instructions to the residents in urban areas to segregate solid waste at source and to the ULBs to arrange separate disposal of bio degradable and bio non degradable solid waste

 

Education (Action: School Education, P&RD and Municipal Affairs Departments)

  • Bringing Class-V in Primary Section to keep parity with the all India pattern of 5+3+2+2 for school education
  • Matching number of Upper Primary Schools to Primary Schools in order to provide access to all children completing Primary education
  • Developing innovative strategies for migrant children, child labour and tracking of deprived urban children
  • Gradually upgrading SSKs to Panchayat managed Primary Schools
  • Giving greater focus to retention and achievement by skill up-gradation of teachers and improvement in classroom environment
  • Upscaling innovative practices like SLIP+, ILIP etc for improvement in quality of Primary Education

 

Child Protection (Action: Labour. WCD, P&RD, MA Departments)

  • Forming a Child Protection Body at the State level and also similar bodies at the District level to address child protection issues in a concerted manner
  • Studying the diverse pattern of activities by different stakeholders and mapping out best practices to ensure both control and replication
  • Encouraging the ULBs and Panchayats to develop day care centres and short stay homes for children in difficult circumstances
  • Strict monitoring of child trafficking activities at the Panchayat level

 

HIV/AIDS (Action: Health, Education and P&RD Departments)

  • Developing a system for better monitoring and quality assessment of Life Style Education (LSE)
  • Introducing LSE into MSKs
  • Taking up initiatives in reaching out to out of school young people through peer-education approach
  • Expanding PPTCT up to BPHC level

Cross cutting areas

  • Formation of a Core Group for Children at the State level to inform policy on child development issues and achieve coordination amongst various stakeholders including different government departments
  • Declaring the Department of Women & Child Development & Social Welfare as the nodal Department in issues concerning children- even in cross cutting areas
  • Designing a MIS system for integrated monitoring of issues affecting children
  • Developing a data base - gender disaggregated - on the status of children in the State and make arrangements for constant updating of the database
  • Commissioning studies on children and issues affecting them to provide further inputs to the policy makers
  • Re-designating/ Giving additional designation to DPO, ICDS as Parishad Child Development Officer, CDPO as Samity Child Development Officer and ICDS Supervisors as Panchayat Child Development Supervisor and assign nodal role in child related issues to the officials at respective level
  • Introduce a sound system of monitoring of activities and validation of field data like UNICEF propagated Monitoring & Validation Exercise in all districts of the State

 

Child Plan Priorities at different tiers of the Panchayats and the ULBs: Suggested activities

Gram Panchayats

·  Construction/ reconstruction/ repair of AWCs

·  Construction/ reconstruction/ repair of SCs

·  Construction of kitchens with go-downs for implementation of Mid Day Meal Scheme in Primary Schools and AWCs

·  Development of School attached playgrounds

·  Workshops with Village Education Committees/ Managing Committees for SSKs/ MSKs

·  Awareness campaign/ training workshops on personal hygiene including hand washing practices, exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, nutrition surveillance, immunisation, use of ORS, registration of births and deaths, child labour, child trafficking and related issues

·  Support to out reach immunisation camps

·  Support to Pulse Polio Campaign

·  Coordinating between different functionaries of the H&FW, WCD, School Education departments, NGOs and SHGs through Community Health Care Initiative (CHCMI) including data collection, regular monitoring, reporting, monthly meetings

·  Providing campaign support to Sanitary Marts in covering all households with household sanitary latrines

·  Sinking/ re-sinking/ repair of tube wells to ensure safe drinking water for all children

·  Identification of beneficiaries for NPAG, Kishori Shakti Yojana.

Panchayat Samity

·   Construction/ reconstruction/ repair of School buildings

·   Infrastructural up gradation of PHCs/ BPHCs

·  Creating Drinking Water Sources in Primary and Secondary Schools

·  Local purchase of non-medical items required by the PHC/ BPHC on getting authorization from the H&FW Department

·  Block level workshops on personal hygiene including hand washing practices, exclusive breastfeeding, supplementary feeding, nutrition surveillance, immunisation, use of ORS, registration of births and deaths, child labour, child trafficking and related issues

·  IEC activities for health & family welfare related issues

·  Organizing training programmes for school teachers on eye care

·  Organizing training programmes for school teachers on School Sanitation, environmental sanitation and personal hygiene

·  Construction of community toilets at public places, Sub-centres under Total Sanitation Campaign and toilets in schools, AWCs under School Sanitation Programme

·  Training Traditional Birth Attendants on safe delivery and care

·  Execution of drinking water supply schemes (DTW/ Mark-II/ Tara Hand Pump) beyond the capacity of the Gram Panchayats

·  Organizing training for the members and Sanchalaks of the   Gram Panchayat Upa Samities  on Health and Education

·  Distribution of text books to the students of SSKs and MSKs

·  Payment of honorarium to SSK/ MSK Sahayikas/ Sahayaks

·  Training Masons of Sanitary Marts on construction of sanitary latrines for School Sanitation Programme

Zilla Parishad

·  Civil Work for improvement of infrastructure at the District Hospital, Sub-divisional Hospitals and Rural Hospitals

·  Development of infrastructure for institutional deliveries at the District Hospital, Sub-divisional Hospitals and Rural Hospitals

·  Organizing cataract operation camps

·  Organizing sterilization camps

·  Organizing and conducting skill enhancement training for health workers

·  Execution of water supply schemes beyond the competence of Panchayat Samities

·  Construction of Short Stay Homes/ Day Care Homes for children in special circumstances etc.

 

Blog by Dibyendu Sarkar, Government of West Bengal. Image credit: The United Nations Foundation