The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme was launched as a centrally sponsored scheme on 02 October 1975, in pursuance of the National Policy for Children, 1974. The policy laid down that the State should provide adequate services to children before and after birth and during the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social development. Thus the Scheme aimed at holistic development of children in the age group of zero to six years and pregnant and lactating mothers through a package of six services. India's status on key child development and health indicators did not compare well with its own targets as well as with the neighbouring and other regions.
The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) was 48 per 1000 live birth and the Child Mortality Rate (CMR) 63 per 1000 live birth in 2010 as against the targets of 30 and 31 respectively. These indicators (IMR and CMR) for the neighbouring countries were: China (IMR: 16, CMR: 18) and Sri Lanka (IMR:14, CMR: 17). In industrialised countries, the IMR and the CMR were as low as 5 and 6 respectively. Further, 43 per cent children were underweight in India during the period 2006-10 and 16 per cent children were severely underweight. These indicators (underweight and severely underweight children) when compared to the neighbouring countries viz. Bangladesh (41 and 16) and Sri Lanka (21 and 4) or even with sub-Saharan Africa (20 and 7), were poor. About a decade ago, our audit report on ICDS (No. 3 of 2000 (Civil)) had revealed that the policy of universalisation of ICDS Scheme remained unattained and the scheme could not achieve the desired goals.
We had also reported that the Supplementary Nutrition (SN) component had failed to improve the health status of beneficiaries, implementation of the component of health check-up and referral services was found deficient and due to non-fixation of targets and absence of monitoring mechanism, full coverage under immunization could not be assured besides many other findings. We decided to conduct a follow-up audit to assess the current status of the ICDS Scheme, and also whether the issues highlighted in our earlier report had been appropriately addressed. Further, Hon'ble Supreme Court issued a number of directions to the Central and the State Governments for universalisation of the Scheme and improvement of service delivery thereunder. Our audit attempted to examine the implementation of new interventions in the wake of the Hon'ble Court's orders.