Members of the Karnataka State Government Primary School Women Attendants' Association gathered at the Freedom Park here on Thursday to demand better working conditions and benefits.

However, the association's protest was overshadowed by another protest by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee against the BJP-led State Government at the venue.

The association said that more than 1,500 women were working as attendants (ayahs) in the State for 30 years from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. However, they are not entitled to retirement benefits or other entitlements, it said.

“The primary school ‘ayahs' are asked to leave by the government as soon as they turn 60,” said A.C. Reeta, general secretary of the association.

Most of the employees are either widows or they belong to backward classes. They are usually asked to do menial work, regardless of their skill or talent, according to a press release.

The release also said that their salary of Rs. 3,000 per month is not enough. “We want the government to increase the minimum wages of these ayahs on par with Group D employees,” said L. Bairappa, president of the association. Apart from a rise in salary, the other demand is that the attendants should be provided Rs. 2,00,000 on retirement and a pension of Rs. 5,000 per month.

“We have spoken to Secretary of Primary and Secondary Education Kumar G. Nayak and he has agreed to write to the authorities concerned,” Ms. Reeta said.

The association has threatened to organise a hunger strike next month if the demands are not met.

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