A Phulwari is similar to that of an Aanganwadi but the only difference is that kids below 3 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers go to this place for eating food. It is a centre supported by the government. The government gives funds to the Phulwari for buying groceries and vegetables.
An ideal Phulwari opens at 10:00 am in the morning and runs until 4:00 pm. Kids and mothers are served three meals during this time. Toys are made by mothers who drop their kids in the Phulwari for them to play made out of waste material. A mosquito net and mat are to be present in every Phulwari, in case the kids want to sleep. A Phulwari must be away from the main road in a well ventilated and less hazardous place. The kitchen area should be separate from the play and dining area allotted for the kids. It should have a minimum of 5 kids for it to be started in a village. There is no upper limit to the number of kids present. The kids are to be served rice, dal, leafy vegetable, meat, milk and eggs. These are the guidelines set by government and it every month gives 5000 rupees for the Phulwari to function.
So, last week I’ve been to Surguja district in Chhattisgarh. I had to collect some data visiting various Phulwaris present in different Panchayats. No Phulwari works in the way as mentioned above. Most of the Phulwaris have been closed due to lack of funds or the people running the Phulwari have incurred huge amounts of debts or the mothers are not interested in running the Phulwari for reasons being that they are capable of feeding their kids at home, so why get them to a Phulwari or why should they cook food for free leaving all their household activities? The government should give them some income for running the Phulwari, is what they had to say. Also a Phulwari gets closed due to differences in caste, where a upper caste woman says she will not eat the food cooked by a lower caste woman.
While collecting data I prodded the mothers further to find out if the reasons given by the mothers behind the closure of a Phulwari were legit. Firstly, there are fund issues as the Panchyat in which the Phulwari is running is low on funds. If the Panchayat has funds, the Sarpanch doesn’t give money. He delays unnecessarily asking the mothers to come back to collect the money. The mothers thinking that the Sarpanch will eventually give them the money keep the Phulwari open and run it by taking debts. There are usually 15 to 20 kids in a Phulwari and some 5 to 6 mothers. The 5000 rupees given by the government doesn’t even last for 20 days. The distribution of money is not being done properly and the Phulwaris which have less number of kids and mothers have surplus amounts of money.
For a Phulwari to run I think the mothers should be given some incentives to get them to start running them. It is true that the family can afford to feed their kids and woman but they don’t cook all that is being cooked in the Phulwari everyday. Therefore, a Phulwari is a good place to leave the kids at, as many mothers go to work in the fields. But for them to leave their kids behind they need to be explained the importance of a Phulwari. Also the distribution of the money should be done in a better way and there should be a upper limit for the number of kids and mothers to present in each Phulwari. If the distribution of money seems like a hassle, as the government wants to distribute only a fixed amount of money to every Phulwari, irrespective of the number of people coming to the Phulwari then two or more Phulwaris must be opened as required depending upon the number of kids/mothers present in a village. Then the 5000 rupees allotted by the government would be sufficient in every Phulwari. Also I think it would be better if the government keeps a tab on the money being reached out to the Phulwari on time, only then will there be no debts and the Phulwaris can function in a better way.