Anganwadi workers hit the streets in protest

Allege government failure in implementation of remuneration hike, other demands not met

By Sudeshna Mallick
Published: Tuesday 26 February 2019
At the protest. Photo: Sudeshna Mallick
At the protest. Photo: Sudeshna Mallick At the protest. Photo: Sudeshna Mallick

Anganwadi workers took out a march to Parliament against the delay in implementing the resolution to increase their honorarium and pension, on February 25, 2019.

The Narendra Modi government had promised, in September 2018, the Anganwadi workers and helpers an increase in the budgetary allocation for them to Rs 4,259 crore per year.

However, the budget allocation for ‘Anganwadi Services’ in 2019-20 is only Rs 19,834.37 crore — an increase of only Rs 1,944.18 crore from the previous year's revised estimate of Rs 17,870.19 crore.

The Anganwadi scheme was started as a rural child care programme in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program to combat hunger and malnutrition in children and pregnant women.

The Prime Minister had promised the increase as a ‘diwali gift’, which was to be implemented from October 1, 2018. However, no such increase has been paid to the workers, while some haven’t even received their salaries on time.

“Modi announced an increase of Rs 1,500 for workers, Rs 1,250 for mini workers and Rs 750 for helpers, but this was not included in the 2019 budget. Nothing has changed in the last four years... They promised us pension and permanent jobs but the government has failed to do so. We thought that Achee din will come, but it has come only for Ambani and Birla,” says Sarbjit Kaur, an Anganwadi worker from Jalandhar, Punjab.

Among other demands, the workers want that the recommendations of the 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) on recognition, minimum wages and pension for the workers be implemented.

They have also been demanding ban on non-ICDS extra work, full payment to mini workers, upgrading the mini centres to full centres, removal of age bar in promotion, inclusion of pre-school education in Right To Education, and making Anganwadis the nodal agencies etc.

“After 43 years, the scheme as well as the Anganwadi helpers have not been regularised. This is an important scheme which helps pregnant women, infants and children secure nutrition, and decrease the mortality rates. Hence, the workers and helpers under the scheme should get permanent status,” says Kamlesh Sharma, an Anganwadi worker from Madhya Pradesh.

“There are 27,000 Anganwadi workers, who need a minimum salary of Rs 18,000. We have placed our demands before both the state and central government. If it is not implemented, we will boycott this election. An Anganwadi helper who is working everyday for schemes like Beti Bachaao, Beti Padhao, does not even have enough money to educate his/her own daughter,” she added.

There is no uniformity in the service conditions of the Anganwadi employees throughout the country, says Ruti Shalini, an Anganwadi worker from Chattisgarh, adding that “We are not getting anything... some state governments provide salaries separately but this differs between different states.”

“Our demand for an Employees' Provident Fund is yet to be implemented. We want permanent status as government employees, inclusion of the ICDS in the labour sector and pension for the workers. Apart from working at the centers, different government departments ask for our help to connect with people. But it’s only the election commission that gives any incentives for extra work,” says Shalini.  

“We are being paid Rs 5,000 since 1975 when the scheme was started. There are delays in salaries every month, while some of us are paid only after three-four months. We end up taking loans to survive and when we get the money, most of it is spent on repaying debts,” she added.

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