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Neither salt nor salary for them

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Promises to keep: Anganwadi workers and helpers are still waiting for the fulfilment of their many demands.
Promises to keep: Anganwadi workers and helpers are still waiting for the fulfilment of their many demands.

Bageshree S.

Inadequate food items, fuel and rent plague anganwadi centres

‘State’s share of honorarium has not been paid to anganwadi workers, helpers for four months’

Rent for smaller centres is insufficient

Bangalore: It has been three years since anganwadis in Kolar got salt in the consignment of food ingredients to their centres. “Can you imagine cooking without salt?” asked G. Ishwaramma, a worker from the district who is responsible for keeping nutrition levels high among women and young children in the area with a population of 1,000. “So we have been buying cooking salt using our own money,” she said.

Inconsistent supply of food ingredients is simply the first of a long list of problems faced by anganwadi workers all over Karnataka. “We have not got oil for six months and there has been no rice for one month,” said Shantha Ghanti from Gulbarga. “It’s always the same story. If there is rice this month, there will be no dal the next.” Sujatha Belgaunkar from Belgaum added that her centre had not received oil for six months.

Difficulties

Though these anomalies reflect a systemic flaw, it is the anganwadi worker who invariably faces flak, said the workers. “People in the village will easily point a finger at us and assume that we have misappropriated the supplies,” said Ms. Ghanti.

Rangamma from Raichur added that even as cost of fuel is hitting the ceiling, money allotted to an anganwadi centre for a month-long supply of firewood is a measly Rs. 100. The cost — which is about three times the given amount, excluding transport charges — is borne by the anganwadi worker or helper. “Even this petty sum comes once in six months or one year,” she said.

Ms. Rangamma said that the rent allocated in smaller centres, where there is no government building, is woefully inadequate. “Again, it is the anganwadi worker who is blamed if she runs the centre in the open air. Is that fair?” she asked.

Salary

Even the honorarium they receive is inconsistent. “Most of us have not got the State’s share of honorarium for four months,” they said.

While the Centre’s share of honorarium (Rs. 1,000 for worker and Rs. 500 for helper) comes on time, the State’s share (Rs. 750 for worker and Rs. 375 for helper) is irregular, they said. “That both the honoraria should come together has been our long-pending demand,” said Ms. Rangamma. “The Government does not hesitate to keep on giving us additional responsibilities — from doing a survey for electoral rolls to identifying beneficiaries for Bhagyalakshmi scheme — but it does not bother to pay us on time.”

Even as the workers have called off the strike following assurances from the Minister, they have their own doubts about the fulfilment of the promises. Ms. Ghanti is a regular at several protest rallies.

“We go back and there are always more problems,” said Ms. Ghanti, who was among the workers who marched to Vidhan Soudha, and later to the Women and Child Welfare Department’s office in heavy rain on Tuesday. “What do people who sit in air-conditioned offices and make decisions know about people like us who burn in the sun in Gulbarga?” she asked.

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