Although anganwadi centres have been expanded to empower women, the budget does not meet anganwadi workers’ demands
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced during the budget that the allocation for women and children welfare under various schemes across all ministries for 2017-18 has been increased to Rs 184,632 crore from Rs 156,528 crore in 2016-17. However, this may not be enough to meet the demands of the caretakers and the objectives of anganwadi centres.
Anganwadi centres provide care to children between the age of one and six as well as expectant and lactating mothers. At present, there are 1.4 million Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) anganwadi centres spread across remote corners in the country.
The budget for 2017-2018 has expanded the scope of the anganwadi centres. It will now be a Mahila Shakti Kendra, a one-stop centre to empower rural women through opportunities in skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.
For this, the government has provided an allocation of Rs 500 crore. However, this amounts to just Rs 50,000 for each anganwadi, which means an additional Rs 4,166 per month per centre.
Anganwadis were set up in 1975 as part of the Integrated Child Development Services of the Department of Women and Child Development. Its workers are hired on contract and are already overloaded with work: they take care of supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, nutrition and health education, immunisation, health check-ups and referral services for children who visit the centres.
For years, they have been demanding better facilities and higher salaries. The workers get Rs 3,000 per month from the Centre and states are supposed to add to this amount. Over the last month, anganwadi workers held rallies across the country demanding an increase in their salary in the 2017-18 budget. But the additional Rs 4,166 allocated in this budget is unlikely to address their concerns.
Anganwadi workers would do better if they gain skills at the Mahila Shakti Kendra and find better jobs.
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