Anganwadi workers’ union (Punjab), comprising of the workers and anganwadi helpers had called for a gherao of the chief minister’s residence in Patiala to press for their long pending demands. Despite Punjab police arresting many of their leaders on the eve of the gherao, and putting up all sorts of barricades, more than 25000 anganwadi workers managed to reach the railway station in Patiala by the morning of 23rd October. They were not allowed to get out of the railway station, so they continued their demonstration at the railway station. At 3 pm they started the march towards Moti Mahal, the residence of the CM. But they were stopped by the police who resorted to laati charge. So the Anganwadi workers decided to sit on dharna on the roadside. Their intention was ti sit there indefinitely. But just before midnight, police attacked them with two water canons and teargas shells. The male police also laati charged them and shouted abuses at them.
Police herded the workers and their helpers into a nearby gurudwara and about a 100 leaders were arrested and taken to Lohari Gate police station and put in the lock up. The next day, the protest demonstrations were held at all district headquarters in Punjab against this brutal attack and actions of the police. The Anganwadi workers have announced that they will continue their struggle until their demands are met. Their main demands are:
- Pre-school classes should continue to be held in the anganwadi centres only
- Helpers’ employment should be guaranteed
- Arrested workers/helpers should be released without any conditions
- ICDS should be regularised
- It should be ensured that freshly cooked food reaches the centres on time
- Pension and gratuity should be ensured for the workers and helpers
Aangwadi workers union leaders of CITU said that they are determined to continue their struggle until all their demands are met and that dharna at district headquarters will continue indefinitely. Leaders of the AWWs from the Jalandhar area said that “a delegation has met the CM, who assured them that their demands will be met, but, we don’t trust the promises of the Punjab Government as each time they have gone back on their assurances”. They said, that “if their demands are not met, they will jam all the roads in Jalandhar on November 2nd .“
MEL hails the fighting spirit shown by the AWWs of Punjab and fully supports their just struggle.