Mumbai: Two days after defending the Women and Child Welfare Development department’s decision to bring anganwadi workers under the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA), Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday said the move has been suspended.
Women and Child Welfare Development Minister Pankaja Munde, on Wednesday, stood by the move after the Shiv Sena and the Opposition forced eight adjournments demanding suspension.
The CM’s announcement comes as a setback to Ms. Munde, who was not present in the Assembly. “Services provided by anganwadi centres are essential for the health and development of children, and pregnant and lactating mothers. The State expects that these services should not be discontinued,” Mr. Fadnavis said.
Considering the sentiments of the members of the House, the government has decided to revoke the order of March 15, 2018, applying the MESMA to anganwadi workers, mini-anganwadi workers, and helpers, the CM said.
The state has 97,183 anganwadi centres, involving 95,803 anganwadi workers, 92,179 helpers, and 11,367 mini-anganwadi workers.
Sena MLAs had taken a aggressive stand since Wednesday. MLA Sunil Prabhu had said that the workers are not government employees, and work on honorarium. “If you want to apply the MESMA, then give them that status.”
Mr. Fadnavis said the law and judiciary department has clarified that these services do fall under essential services. “These workers cannot be declared government employees due to the Supreme Court verdict and also by directives from the Centre.”
Mr. Fadnavis also said the workers were brought under the MESMA since the National Food Security Act mandates children get food for 300 days a year.
Opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil claimed that the CM announced the decision as the Opposition was to demand a vote. “It would have revealed the true faces of the Sena and the BJP. The government just avoided the embarrassment,” he said.
Nationalist Congress Party MLA Jayant Patil questioned the logic behind wasting the time on Wednesday, and accepting the demand on Thursday.