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 What is ICDS scheme?

  • Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is a government program in India.

  • It provides:

    • Nutritional meals 

    • Preschool education 

    • Primary healthcare

    • Immunization

    • Health check-up  

    • Referral services 

  • To children under 6 years of age and Pregnant and lactating mothers.

  • The scheme was launched in 1975, discontinued in 1978 by the government of Morarji Desai, and then relaunched by the Tenth Five Year Plan.

  • Tenth five-year plan also linked ICDS to Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers.

  • In addition to improving child nutrition and immunization, the programme is also intended to combat gender inequality by providing girls the same resources as boys.

  • It was launched in accordance to the National Policy for Children in India.

  • Over the years it has grown into one of the largest integrated family and community welfare schemes in the world.

Implementation of ICDS

Nutritional meals:

  • ICDS provides supplementary nutrition to children under the age of six, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. 

  • This includes the provision of hot cooked meals, take-home rations, and nutritional supplements to address malnutrition and promote healthy growth.

Preschool education:

  • Early childhood education to children aged 3-6 years.

  • Age-appropriate learning activities, cognitive stimulation, and socialization opportunities to prepare children for formal schooling.

Health check-up  :

  • Regular health check-ups are conducted for children and women to monitor their growth, detect any health issues, and provide appropriate medical interventions. 

  • Weight monitoring, growth assessment, and screening for common ailments.


  • Timely immunization of children against preventable diseases.

  • Vaccination

Referral Services:

  • ICDS facilitates the referral of children and women to appropriate healthcare facilities for specialized care and treatment when needed. 

  • It acts as a link between the community and the healthcare system, ensuring timely access to essential services.

  • ICDS encourages community participation and engagement in the program. 

  • It seeks to involve families, community leaders, and local organizations for the effective implementation of ICDS services.

  • Anganwadi workers, who serve as the frontline functionaries of ICDS.

  • Anganwadi workers delivering services at the grassroots level. 

  • Anganwadi workers conducting home visits, implementing program activities, counseling families, and maintaining records.

Impacts of ICDS

  • Positive impact on cognitive achievements, especially among girls and those from economically disadvantaged families.

  • Children who were exposed to ICDS during the first three years of life completed 0.1-0.3 more grades of schooling than those who were not.

  • Adolescents aged 13-18, who born in villages with proper ICDS implementation, showed a 7.8% increased likelihood of school enrolment and completed an average of 0.8 additional grades compared to their peers who did not have access to the ICDS.

Challenges of ICDS

  • Notwithstanding contention regarding the assessment methods of various global surveys, it is true that India’s high prevalence of stunting, wasting, and anaemia continues to pose public health risks for children and women.

  • Despite four decades of relentless efforts, the ICDS still faces the herculean task of ameliorating the nutritional and health outcomes for children aged 0-6 years.

  • There is significant variation in the implementation of the ICDS program across different regions of India.

  • Variation in the skill levels of Anganwadi workers.

  • Infrastructural Challenges faced by Anganwadi.

  • Challenges in terms of coordination, resource allocation.

  • Workload of the Anganwadi workers. 

Way forward

Additional Anganwadi workers:

  • An additional Anganwadi worker could be added to each of India’s Anganwadi centers to lessen the load of these workers.

  • It would lead to better health and educational outcomes.

  • Addition of a half-time worker could effectively increase the net preschool instructional time.

  • The presence of additional workers can contribute to enhanced nutritional support and monitoring, leading to improved child health outcomes.

  • Implementing the model of adding an additional Anganwadi worker to each center nationwide is relatively cost-effective compared to the potential benefits it offers.

  • The estimated long-term benefits, based on expected improvements in lifetime earnings, would be around 13 to 21 times the expenses.

  • New Anganwadi worker can be given the responsibility of concentrating only on preschool and early childhood education. 

    • This would allow existing workers to dedicate more time to child health and nutrition. 

    • It would also enable the Anganwadi workers to expand their outreach and serve a larger number of families.

  • Apart from improving the well-being of rural communities, this would create job opportunities for local residents, particularly women. It would lead to the creation of 1.3 million new jobs for women across India.

Investments in the training programme of Anganwadi workers:

Infrastructural improvement in India’s Anganwadi centers:



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: ICDS Scheme UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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