Anganwadi workers protest near Parliament

They demand that Centre and State governments fulfil promise of pay hikes

March 15, 2022 11:25 pm | Updated 11:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of the Parliament House in New Delhi. File

A view of the Parliament House in New Delhi. File

Over 1,000 anganwadi, ASHA and mid-day meal workers held a protest near Parliament and pledged to hold "accountability meetings" in every parliamentary constitutency with MPs to demand budget allocations, minimum wages and pension.

Workers from Haryana, Delhi and Punjab were present at Tuesday's gathering at Jantar Mantar. A delegation also met Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani and CPI (M) MP and Secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Elamaram Kareem.

"Minister Irani said that raising the remuneration for workers must be done by the State governments, but said the Central government had finalised some social security schemes for the workers," said A.R. Sindhu, General Secretary of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH), and National Secretary of the CITU.

"We have been on a strike in Haryana for 96 days. We have two primary demands. First is that the Harayan Chief Minister in March 2018 said in the State Assembly that anganwadi workers and helpers would get the status of skilled and unskilled workers, but that has not happened. The Central government in 2018 announced that it will raise the incentives of anganwadi workers by ₹1,500 and for helpers by ₹700, but it has been four years and we haven't received this hike," said Ms. Surekha, general secretary, Haryana ASHA Workers' Union,.

She also said that the State government's heavy handedness in dealing with community health workers on protest had forced them to gather in Delhi.

"The Haryana government has terminated the services of 600 workers and has selected the most vulnerable such as single women, widows and the poorest of the poor for meting out this punishment. It has lathicharged us, torn clothes, manhandled and sent CID to our homes. Some of us are under surveillance, our movements are being tracked and workers are being stalked. This is the attitude of the government. Our right to protest is being denied," Ms. Surekha said.

Many also expressed fears that recent government announcements indicated there were plans to shut down anganwadis.

"In its National Education Policy, the Centre says that children between the age group of three years and six years will be sent to pre-schools. Where will the anganwadi workers go? We will be rendered jobless. Moreover, often these schools don't have buildings, or teachers, and are located 2km-3km from where children live, resulting in them being deprived of government services," said Harjeet Kaur, President, Punjab Anganwadi Union.

Others said that along with the provisions in the National Education Policy, the government's decision to provide Direct Benefit Transfer for anganwadi beneficiaries in select districts on pilot basis was also further stoking fears that anganwadi workers were being made redundant.

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