HARKATTI, July 8: Nitu Devi Mandal is one of the target women of the Golden Thousand Days (Sunaula Hazar Din) project, which is being implemented in Siraha district. When she was pregnant, the local project management team recorded her name as one of the project beneficiaries.
She gave birth six months ago, but the woman who lives in Harkatti VDC has not been provided any of the project benefits. Earlier, she had placed her thumb print on the list of beneficiaries as requested by the project team. According to her, they had promised to provide her high nutrition food but they have failed to meet their promise to date.
“I am illiterate. I couldn't read what was written on the paper on which I put my thumb print. They told me they would provide me with high-nutrition items such as fish, meat and eggs,” she told Republica.
Because of lack of adequate nutrition during pregnancy, she gave birth to an under-weight baby. And she has not been able to breast-feed her baby because of her inability to lactate. She has had to obtain a loan to purchase infant formula.
“I have to pay off my creditor at an interest rate of five percent,” she said. She is spending Rs 500 per month on formula milk.
Another purported beneficiary of the project, Kabita Devi Ram, was assured that she would be given a duck when she was pregnant. “They haven't even provided a feather,” complained the woman, who also delivered her baby six months ago. Whenever she asks for the duck, the project coach would say he is still waiting for it to materialize.
Ward citizen's charter coordinator Mahadev Mukhiya said that the target Dalit and economically disadvantaged communities have been deprived of any benefit from the project.
“Members of Dalit and marginalized communities are hardly ever invited to meetings and gatherings related to the project,” he added.
He alleged that 10 percent of total target households have not received the complete support package for the construction of toilets under the project .
Some construction materials have been provided but there is no complete package.
The project coach for the VDC, Rampukar Yadav, admitted to last year's drawbacks in the toilet construction activities of the project.
Although the project aims to improve the nutrition status of target pregnant women and new mothers, Shiv Narayan Sah, chief of a local health post situated in the catchment area of the target VDCs, speaks of a bleak nutrition situation.
“Some 75 percent of women in the target area suffer from anemia and a majority of the newborn are malnourished,” he said.
The health post in-charge informed that the project team had once contacted him for data on pregnant women and new mothers. The team has not contacted him again.
Rs 1,000 obtained from target groups not returned
Last year, the local project team received Rs 1,000 from many beneficiaries, who were then promised that the money would be returned. But the target groups have not been reimbursed.
“One year has already elapsed since I gave them Rs 1,000 and I haven't received it back yet,” said Sarodevi Saday, one of the target women. She had paid the amount for the purchase of toilet construction materials.
No release of grants without commission
A coordinator of the target group, who chose to remain anonymous, told Republica that four ward-level target committees at Harkatti VDC paid Rs 4,500 each and the remaining five submitted Rs 9,000 each to the DDC officials as commissions for releasing the budget last fiscal year.