Thousands of anganwadi workers travelled great distances to ensure that their voices get heard in the national capital today.
Carrying the signatures collected from their respective regions on their heads, marching hand in hand from Mandi House in the heart of Delhi to the Parliament Street, the workers united from across the states of Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh among others. The protesting workers chanted slogans against the unfair treatment of the workers and the government’s plan to privatise the Integrated Child Development Scheme services.
An Anganwadi worker from Himachal Pradesh reflected the deep anger of these women in her words: “We are the builders of this country, nourishing the children, teaching them to utter their first words, yet we are paid the lowest. I want to question the government why is this unfair treatment being meted out to us? We are paid the lowest, despite working for over eight hours per day.”
Anganwadi workers are asked to perform multiple duties which include election surveys, block level tasks and more, while being paid only a pittance. The workers have been demanding a reasonable salary for their work and have rejected the “honorarium” that the government has been paying them for decades now. An anganwadi worker who has worked for 34 years is now receiving Rs.4000 having started on Rs.170 a month!
The Modi government had in October promised the workers increased minimum wages on the occasion of Diwali, however, nothing was implemented on the ground. In keeping with his trend of false promises, the central government in March declared that the minimum wages of the Anganwadi workers and helpers have been increased. However, no concrete arrangements were made for the same in the interim union budget presented this month, which compelled the workers to take to the streets yet again.
The workers are demanding regular wages and pensions, and more importantly, social security. Among other demands, the workers have consistently demanded that an ex gratia amount of Rs 3 lakh should be paid in the case of a death of a worker or a helper. The Anganwadi workers are also asserting that the promotion from helpers to workers and from workers to supervisors should be done on the basis of seniority. Additionally, the creches which had been previously closed down by the government should be opened, and workers and helpers should be recruited.