Field Notes: Voice of a Child Development Project Officer in Bihar
As the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps through India, districts are being tapped by the government for timely detection and reporting of cases, and prevention. Our ‘Inside Districts’ series will feature interviews of district and Block-level officials, panchayat functionaries and frontline workers to understand their challenges and best practices.
The Accountability Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research is currently operational in five Indian states. For part 10 of the series, our field staff spoke with a Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) in Purnea, Bihar.
The interview was originally conducted in Hindi on 10 April 2020, and has been translated.
About the CDPO
The Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) is a functionary in charge of Block-level implementation of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), a flagship scheme of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India. The CDPO plays a key role in overseeing the implementation of the scheme. This includes: preparation of village and urban-centre ICDS plans; working with the district administration, village and cluster level functionaries, and Panchayati Raj institutions to facilitate and coordinate the release of funds and delivery of services. The CDPO also manages the Lady Supervisors in their blocks, and monitors progress through periodic reports and maintenance of registers and records.
Despite their critical role, the post also has a number of vacancies. AI’s budget brief on ICDS found that as many as 29 per cent of CDPO positions were lying vacant as of June 2019.
Q: What are your COVID-19 related tasks?
CDPO: I am responsible for monitoring the quarantine centres, and staff working there. Everyone who is coming from outside is being kept in these centres for 14 days. In our district, ASHA workers are also going door-to-door to spread awareness. We have also been asked by the department to make a list of the beneficiaries and transfer money in their account for Take Home Ration.
Q: Are you encountering any challenges?
CDPO: It is getting difficult to manage the preparation of beneficiary lists by frontline workers and simultaneously monitoring the quarantine centres. We are trying our best to do the jobs that we have been given but it is upsetting that, at a time when everyone has been asked to stay at home, we have to go out and work.
Also, the government is only paying attention to this pandemic, no one is bothered about the crisis that is going on in the agricultural sector right now.
Q: Have you observed shortages?
CDPO: We have not been provided masks or sanitisers yet. [As on 10 April]