More than 800 Anganwadi, ASHA and Mid-day meal workers took part in a militant protest demonstration from Mandi House to Parliament in New Delhi on January 17. The action was organized at the call of the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions, including Mazdoor Ekta Committee, CITU, AITUC, AIUTUC, TUCC, AICCTU, UTUC, HMS, LPF, SEWA and INTUC.
The demonstrators were prevented from advancing towards Parliament by the Delhi police. However, due to the militant resistance put up by the protesting workers and their leaders, especially the women workers, the police were forced to relent.
A public rally was held at Parliament, at which leaders of the participating trade unions and workers’ organisations addressed the workers.
The speakers pointed out that although the Anganwadi, ASHA and Mid-day meal workers are employed in various government schemes such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), National Health Mission (NHM) and Midday Meal Scheme (MDM), they are paid an honorarium of merely Rs. 1000-1500 per month, despite many of them having worked for more than 20 years in this capacity. They highlighted the onerous burden of responsibilities on these workers. These include procuring the necessary documentation for children’s admission to schools, providing pre-school education, nursery, crèche and daycare services, providing counselling for family planning, hygiene and nutrition, apart from taking women and children to the nearest primary health centre or hospital for immunization and maternity services. The MDM workers have the additional responsibility of providing nutritious freshly cooked food for the children. These workers often have to face social pressure and harassment when they intervene to stop backward rituals such as child marriage and female foeticide.
Those who addressed the rally criticized the fact that over the years, the state’s financial allocation to these schemes has been drastically reduced, causing great hardship to the workers in these schemes. They demanded that the Anganwadi, ASHA and MDM workers should be granted the status of government workers, including a minimum wage of Rs. 18,000 per month, leave facilities and other allowances. They also demanded that their wages should be progressively increased to take care of rising cost of living. Many Anganwadi, ASHA and MDM workers also highlighted their miserable plight and demanded that the government fulfil its promises made to them.
A joint memorandum was submitted to the Finance Minister, demanding adequate financial allocation to the centrally sponsored schemes and increase in remuneration for the scheme workers.
Comrade Dhirender Sharma from AITUC conducted the proceedings at the rally. Speakers at the rally included comrade Manjit from HMS, comrade A.R. Sindhu from CITU, comrade Shweta from AICCTU, Manager Chaurasia from AIUTUC, comrade Dharmender Verma from TUCC, comrade Poonam Sharma from MEC and comrade Dhirender Sharma from AITUC. Anganwadi worker, Kavita spoke about their terrible conditions. Comrade Narayan Singh of HMS delivered the vote of thanks.
Sangwari Theatre Group and other Anganwadi workers sang revolutionary songs, expressing their determination to carry on the struggle for their rights.
Similar actions were reported from other parts of the country by the nearly one crore Anganwadi, ASHA and Mid-day meal workers.