HC asks state to give smartphones with Poshan tracker app to Anganwadi workers
The Bombay High Court Wednesday asked the state government to procure, make payments and distribute within four months updated and compatible smartphones to over one lakh Anganwadi workers across the state to enable them to enter beneficiary data on the Centre’s POSHAN tracker app.
The court said the state government’s submission – that minimum six months are required for the entire process of purchase and delivery of nearly 1.3 lakh smartphones at Anganwadi level – was “entirely unacceptable.”
A division bench of Justice Gautam S Patel and Justice Neela K Gokhale was, on April 19, hearing a plea filed by the Anganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana and other organisations representing over one lakh Anganwadi workers and over 10,000 mini Anganwadi workers – argued through senior advocate Gayatri Singh and advocate Meenaz Kakalia.
After the petitioners had complained that the POSHAN tracker app was available only in English, the HC had last July directed the Union government to take immediate steps to ensure the app also supports regional languages.
On April 13, the bench pulled up the state government for its ‘Kafkaesque’ approach in regard to over one lakh Anganwadi workers, who were unable to enter beneficiary data on the Centre’s POSHAN tracker app, as the cell phones provided by the state are outdated. This came amid the government taking action against such Anganwadi workers for not feeding the data on the app. The court had said there was no logic in the state’s move and imposed a stay on the showcause notices being issued to Anganwadi workers.
On April 19, the state government, through Navnath Ghorpade, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)- IT consultant, submitted a proposed schedule for purchase and distribution of smart phones.
The petitioners had submitted that the existing handsets are beyond warranty since 2017 or 2019 and are malfunctioning by now, thus not allowing entry or correct data entry in the app, therefore quick replacement was necessary.
“Large parts of this schedule are entirely unacceptable… There is a… line that a minimum of six months is required for the entire process of purchase and delivery of mobile smartphones at the Anganwadi level. This is entirely unacceptable,” the bench noted while stressing on difficulties faced by Anganwadi workers.
“… Presumably, this means that for those six months, Anganwadi workers will get one showcause notice after another. This entire situation is unviable. The government cannot operate like this because the single biggest class of victims of this delay are the beneficiaries of the programme, those who are entitled to receive financial and other benefits,” it added.
Justice Patel expressed displeasure over the delay and stated, “These are among the most marginalised in our society and we cannot understand why a stated welfare programme is sought to be delayed and possibly derailed because of some bureaucratic requirement. There has to be some sense of urgency in matters like this”.