The protests by anganwadi workers

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The protests by anganwadi workers

  • Discontent among thousands of anganwadi workers in Delhi and Gurgaon has spilled to the streets, with women in both states pressing not just for better pay, but also full-time employment and associated benefits.
  • Underneath the sloganeering, chatter, and colors at the protests by anganwadi workers simmers a deep, silent unhappiness.

The immediate demand

  • In Delhi: currently anganwadi workers receive a monthly honorarium of Rs 9,678 and helpers receive Rs 4,839. Through their protest, they want this increased to Rs 25,000 a month for workers and Rs 20,000 for helpers.
  • In Gurgaon: where their protest outside the Vikas Sadan enters its 61st day on Monday, workers receive Rs 11,811 per month and helpers receive Rs 6,045, which they want increased to Rs 24,000 and Rs 18,000 respectively.
  • Financial considerations and a need for security are at the heart of their demands, but deeply tied to this is a sense that their labour is unrecognized and taken for granted.

The Anganwadi services

  • It is provided under the Integrated Child Development Scheme.
  • Each anganwadi center envisaged to cover a population of 1,000 each is staffed by one worker and helper.
  • Their work is classified as “honorary” and “not equivalent to any employment”.
  • They are considered volunteers and are entitled to an honorarium.
  • Their regular responsibilities include:
  1. Running the centers, where they are supposed to impart some basic early education,
  2. Distribute cooked meals and supplementary nutrition to children below the age of six years, and pregnant and lactating women,
  3. To maintain records of all mothers and children in their respective areas,
  4. To track the growth and weight of children below six years to monitor their nutrition,
  5. Raise awareness and mobilize the community at the grassroots level for health and immunization programmes.
  • During the pandemic, in the absence of food distribution at the centers, they distributed dry ration door-to-door every month.
  • They also get women to fill forms for the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana and are roped in for community surveys for which they are supposed to receive some remuneration.

Honorarium status

  • The Government of India is the parent authority of the scheme and regularization can only be done through them.
  • Base honorarium is set by the Union government.
  • States can increase their share of their payments slightly.
  • In September 2018: PM announced to increase the honorarium of workers by Rs 1,500 and helpers by Rs 750. In both states, arrears of this hike are still pending.

Existing Problems

  • The government only gives Rs 1,500 for renting the premises, It is impossible to rent a room for less than Rs 3,000 in a metropolitan city like Gurgaon.
  • The balance rent is paid by workers from paltry salaries.
  • Salaries are sometimes delayed for months.
  • Often have to borrow money to meet the situation.

Recent Developments

  • A resolution has been worked out with atleast two unions that are participating in the strike.
  • One union (CITU) continues to protest.
  • Some of the demands have been met. Recently, the monthly honorarium has been hiked by Rs 750 for workers and helpers.
  • Also solving issues related to renting of anganwadi centers in Gurgaon. It is difficult to rent out a room for the center at Rs 1,500 in an urban area, but this has also been hiked recently.

Way forward

  • Anganwadi workers should be covered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme in the future.
  • An incentive of Rs 1,000 each to anganwadi workers for working as frontline workers during the pandemic.
  • Proper Alimony amount to workers who served for a long time and recently got retired.