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4.5 The ICDS has suffered from problems of implementation, organisation and funding. A 2005 study found that the ICDS programme was not particularly effective in reducing malnutrition, largely because of implementation problems and because the poorest states had received the least coverage and funding.31
31 Michael Lokshin, Monica Das Gupta, Michele Gragnolati and Oleksiy Ivaschenko (2005). "Improving Child Nutrition: The Integrated Child Development Services in India" (PDF). Development and Change 36 (4): 613-640.
4.6 The National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy, 2013 envisions a holistic and integrated development of the child with focus on care and early learning at each sub-stage of the development continuum, in order to promote all-round development. The Policy acknowledges multiple models of ECCE service delivery and is applicable to all ECCE programmes like crèches, play schools, pre-schools etc.
The Policy envisages an effective institutional mechanism and structure for enabling the disbursement of ECCE. However, as is the case with the other national policies, the ECCE policy is an executive policy that requires legislative sanction to ensure its continued implementation. Furthermore, it envisions several care-providers including the public, private and civil society sectors, which serves to significantly dilute the responsibility on the state, who should emerge as the primary duty-bearer.
The responsibility of providing ECCE services lies with the State and it should be the primary provider of these services. Responsive care, safety and protection, early stimulation, and play-based early education under a trained care-giver in a safe environment should be made legal entitlements for the child.
4.7 The Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche (RGNC) for Working Mothers Scheme, 2013 provides assistance to NGOs for running crèches for babies (0-6 years) and provides for sleeping facilities and pre-school education for children.32 Government assistance in this programme is limited and it envisages participation of voluntary institutions. However, a study on RGNC reports that the infrastructural facilities, cooking facilities and sleeping facilities have been poor, and that the lack of proper flow of funds from government to implementing agencies has contributed to its low popularity.33
32 Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers, Government of India, available at http://wcd.nic.in/rajivgandhicrechescheme.pdf, 27th July, 2015.
33 Performance of Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers, Planning Commission, Government of India, 2013.
4.8 The experience of most of these policies and schemes has shown that the problems arise at two levels. At the first level problems arise due to lack of harmonising service standards and of delivery norms across different sectors and activities. The needs of children are multi-sectoral and indivisible in nature and most of these policies and schemes are fragmented. It has proved very difficult to ensure needed coordination between various ministries involved such as the Ministry for Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Finance Ministry, Health Ministry.
It has also been difficult to achieve convergence between regulatory, financial and operational wings of the Government to ensure the effective implementation of various schemes and programmes. Implementation of the Government's policies can be achieved if the legal framework lays down provisions for institutional mechanisms to ensure governance and convergence. The most direct method to achieve this would be to consolidate the different areas of early childhood development into a single institutional framework with a legislative foundation.
At the second level one problem which is formidable is that these being policies and programmes constitute only promises or actions which may be pursued by the administration and thus lack legal enforceability. In this context, it is important to note that a law is different from a government programme or scheme. It is entirely within the legitimate powers of any democratically elected government to make, amend or withdraw any scheme.
But once it becomes a law, this executive freedom is curtailed. It can, however, choose to make more provisions than the law prescribes, but no less. This indeed is the rationale for creating a legal framework of enforceable social and economic rights. Just as constitution binds all governments, regardless of their ideologies and predilections to respect all political freedoms, socio-economic rights legislations and binding.