The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Central and state governments in a PIL seeking the re-opening of around 14 lakh Anganwadi centres that were shut down due to the COVID-19 lockdown..The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah agreed to hear the petition and sought a response from the Centre as well as the states. Notice was also issued to the office of the Solicitor General for India..The PIL primarily prays that the Court direct the Centre and the states to ensure that the Anganwadi centres are reopened and that services in line with the provisions of the National Food Security Act, 2013 are resumed..It is urged that the authorities be directed to ensure hot, cooked meals, take-home ration and other provisions for the growth of children..It is contended that since the closure of the Anganwadi centres, the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS) that was running for decades has been closed down “using COVID as an excuse”. .This has resulted in malnourishment for several vulnerable sections of the Indian population. The PIL says,.“COVID-19 which was declared as a pandemic compelled the Government of India for declaration of the prevalent situation as a disaster situation coupled with enforcement of the 21 day nation-wide lockdown in the country which consequently led to significant systemic lapses in implementation of various schemes in the country, ICDS programme was no exception to the systemic lapses during the enforcement of lockdown. The lockdown has been continuously extended till date though the Government has begun with phase wise Unlock step by step but the ICDS scheme implementation which was restrained in March has not been unlocked yet.”.In the 2001 case of PUCL vs UOI, the Supreme Court had directed for the effective implementation of the ICDS, and had thereby “explicitly established a constitutional human right to Food”, the plea states..Subsequently, the Court has, time and again, passed orders and directions to further the cause of the effective implementation of this scheme. However, studies and reports showed a grim picture of the ground level, the PIL underscores..In 2013, pursuant to the various orders and guidelines laid down in relation to the right to food, the Food Security Act was passed. This Act takes into account the nutritional needs of lactating mothers, pregnant women, children etc. and also touches upon prevention of malnourishment and the implementation of the ICDS..Senior Counsel Colin Gonsalves today told the Court that the closure of the Anganwadi centres paves the way for apprehensions on the health conditions and possible starvation of children or, in some cases, newborns, lactating mothers and pregnant women. The petition states,.“The closure of Anganwadis directed by the aforementioned directives of the centre consequently resulted in disruption of the food entitlements. Despite the directive dated 30.03.2020 directing for supplies of the entitlements to the beneficiaries of the ICDS mechanism, the factual matrix is far different from the paper entitlements and the vulnerable sections who are the beneficiaries of the scheme were impacted adversely due to the dual crisis- Lapses in the provisioning of their due entitlement due to the abrupt lockdown as well as the COVID-19 induced unemployment and economic crisis.”.Considering the gaps in the provision of nutrition requirements, the PIL states the the prevalent pandemic is also likely to be accompanied by a “hunger pandemic” – a term coined by the UN World Food programme..It becomes imperative at a time like this to identify acute malnutrition and undernourishment among children and mothers, and to deliver the requisite food and rations with proper COVID-19 related safeguards, the plea states..“The hunger pangs have led to the adverse impact on the nutritional status of children, pregnant and lactating women as well as adolescent girls which necessitates the opening of Anganwadi services including Supplementary Nutrition provisioning in compliance to the National Food Security Act, 2013 along with additional food items to meet the deficit created by the lockdown aftereffects.”.The petition has been filed by Advocate Dipika Jagatram Sahani through Advocate Satya Mitra.