Hundreds of anganwadi workers and ayahs (helpers) were detained by police as they protested outside the Camp Office of Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, demanding a minimum wage of Rs. 10,000 per month, up from Rs. 4,200 and Rs. 2,200, respectively that they are paid currently.

As rumours of the Chief Minister’s resignation started doing the rounds, the women, assisted by leaders of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), started arriving at the CM’s Camp Office in droves and shouted slogans demanding justice, even as a heavy contingent of police led by Deputy Commissioner-West, V. Satyanarayana, watched.

In batches, the women were picked up by the police and taken away to the nearest police station in police vehicles and light commercial vehicles that were commandeered at the last minute.

Since 8.30 a.m., traffic on the busy stretch of road outside the CM’s Camp Office almost came to a standstill, with the agitating women staging a sit-in protest. At one point they even tried to force their way into the lane leading to the Camp Office but police barricades prevented them.

CITU State vice-president and State Secretariat Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), S. Veeraiah said there were about 1.85 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers. Their demand for a hike in wages, to Rs. 10,000, was in tune with skyrocketing prices of essential commodities, he said, adding that their other demands were better working conditions at the Government-sponsored Anganwadi centres, a majority of which function on rented premises.

While the Central Government contributes Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 700, towards the wages of a worker and helper, respectively, the balance is pitched in by the State Government. “It is not as if the women do not want to work, all they want is wages commensurate with the work that is extracted from them - more by the State Government,” Mr. Veeraiah said.