Thousands of anganwadi workers, who have been on an indefinite protest sleeping on the streets even during night time at Freedom Park from January 23, are outraged at the lack of favourable response from the government and elected representatives. The protesting workers set a 48 hour deadline on Monday for the government to fulfill their demands, failing which they have announced they will shift the dharna to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai’s residence.
“Nearly 30,000 anganwadi workers from across the State are sitting on a dharna through the day, even as nearly 5,000 of them are sleeping on the streets in the cold for a week now. Minister for Women and Child Development Halappa Achar who came to the protest site and took our memorandum is non-committal on fulfilling our demands and only said the government is with us. We will not end the protest till our demands are met,” said S. Varalakshmi, president, Karnataka State Anganwadi Employees’ Association.
She demanded that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai immediately intervene and address their issues, failing which they will be forced to seek justice at his house. “Peaceful protest should not be construed as our weakness,” a statement from the association said.
One of the main demands of the protesting anganwadi workers has been that they should be provided gratuity. “From 2011, there are an estimated 30,000 anganwadi workers who have retired with a pay in the range of ₹4,500-₹11,000 for a worker and in the range of ₹2,500-₹5,500 for a helper. The government, if it pays gratuity to them, will have to bear an expense of only ₹250 crore. We have earned the right to gratuity after a 16-year-long legal battle in the Supreme Court,” Ms. Varalakshmi explained. “These demands are not big if the government changes its mindset and prioritises the financial security of the working classes, rather than costly schemes that are aimed at wooing voters,” the association said.