Staff Reporter

They are presently paid even lesser than unskilled labourers

The other demands of Anganwadi workers include travelling allowance, promotions according to seniority and pension

CHANDIGARH: Over 30,000 Anganwadi workers who help in implementing government schemes at the grass roots level but are paid lesser than the unskilled labourers , have been agitating for over 17 years to regularise their services.

“All the government schemes are entrusted to us but we are denied the entitlements of a regular government employee and told that our work is like a social service. Then why are we blamed for mismanagement of the schemes?” asks Roop, an Anganwadi worker in a village 40 km from here.

Every Anganwadi worker performs several tasks which include looking after the health of children and pregnant women, maintaining birth and death records and administrating pulse-polio drops, in one village or to a population of 1,000. However, they are eligible to a meagre honorarium, under which an Anganwadi worker gets Rs.1,000 a month and a helper gets Rs.500 which is even lesser than the minimum wages stipulated by the State of Punjab for unskilled labourers.

The All-India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers has been demanding travelling allowance, promotions according to seniority, pension and regular employment. “Our immediate demand is minimum salary because each Anganwadi worker is a skilled, trained and educated person who spends over 7-8 hours each day and earns only Rs.1,000,” says Anganwadi Mulazim Union president Usha Rani.

The policy-makers, however, refuse to consider their demands. Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury had stated on July 31, 2006 in the Rajya Sabha that the Integrated Child Development Scheme envisaged Anganwadi workers and helpers as honorary workers, who volunteered to render services on a part-time basis at Anganwadi centres and that it would not be possible to treat them as government employees.

“In addition to my regular responsibilities I sometimes have to also intervene to settle disputes of married women. In spite of that how can the government assume that it is a part-time job?” Roop asks.

Retirement policy

Questioning the practice of compulsory retirement for Anganwadi workers at the age of 60, Sona Devi (55) who has been an Anganwadi helper for 20 years says, “If the government considers us to be social workers, not employees, then why should we retire at 60?” Complaining about the inconsistency in the Government’s stand she adds, “First they should make me their employee then force me to retire.”