Anganwadi Sevikas threatened with action for going on strike
The indefinite strike for increased remuneration and other demands began on Monday.
The Anganwadi Sevikas protesting in Mumbai’s Belapur on Monday alleged that they were threatened of action against them if beneficiaries were “left deprived” due to the strike. The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Commissioner, however, has said that she is conducting an inquiry into the impact of the strike on the Anganwadis in the state in this regard.
Anganwadi workers began their indefinite strike against the government outside the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) office in Mumbai’s Belapur on Monday. The statewide strike has been organised to raise their long-pending demands of increased remuneration, recognition as government employees, gratuity, good mobile phones, among others. The Anganwadi employees in Mumbai agitated outside the ICDS office, while those across the state protested at their respective project-level offices.
“The protests were held amid immense response from the Anganwadi Sevikas across the state. However, the ICDS Commissioner, instead of listening to our demands, threatened us that action will be taken against the Anganwadi Sevikas if the beneficiaries were left deprived because of the protest,” Shubha Shamim of Anganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana, an association of Anganwadi workers, said.
Anganwadi workers have been protesting for years for recognition as government employees and adequate remuneration for the job. At present, Anganwadi Sevikas are paid Rs 8,500 per month while Anganwadi Madatnees (helpers) are paid Rs 4,500 per month. Crucial in implementing several important schemes at the grassroots, the Anganwadi employees often have to face the pressure of immense workload, insufficient funds and neglect.
Shamim questioned if the government was not worried about leaving the beneficiaries deprived while failing to provide funds for fuel and food for months.
"It has been months since the government has not provided the funds required for food and fuel."
“It has been months since the government has not provided the funds required for food and fuel. In urban areas, the Self-Help Groups are managing somehow despite pending payments. In rural areas, foodgrains come from big federations who do not care if the payment is delayed, but the Anganwadis pay for the fuel (LPG cylinders) from their own pockets. They suffer when payments are delayed. The government does not worry about the beneficiaries in such situations. They think about them only when Anganwadi workers protest,” Shamim added.
When questioned about the same, Agarwal told Indie Journal, “We have already sent the proposal for the increase in remuneration ahead. The procedure is already in pipeline. This is a crucial time. We have to take care of children. Today also I met them and I requested them not to do this type of strike and focus on work. There are big financial implications for this decision. So the Finance Department will make decisions for the same.”
As far as action against the protesting Anganwadi workers and helpers is concerned, Agarwal added that she has asked for a report on the impact on Anganwadis from field officers.
“I have instructed my field officers to give me a report on how many Anganwadis are open and how many are closed. And if they have planned for some replacements. I think today Anganwadi helpers were taking care of the Aganwadis today and the workers were here. May be they have divided their duties today. Once I get a report from the field, I will decide,” she added.
However, Shamim questions how can such an action be taken when the ICDS was informed of the strike at least 15 days in advance.
“We had given them written notices in advance. I think they expected each and every protesting Anganwadi worker to give them notices, but that is not how it works. Under the Trade Union Act, a registered union can give notice regarding the strike on behalf of its members,” she explained.
Shamim further said, “The Commissioner was still adamant about taking action against the protesters. There was no discussion, just argument. The Anganwadi Sevikas then said alright, take action. How many workers are they going to take action against?”
Around two lakh Anganwadi workers from across the state have gone on indefinite strike from Monday. “We took out a rally today in which around 600 Anganwadi Sevikas from Indapur participated. We will not withdraw our strike until the government listens to us,” said Bakula Shende, Anganwadi Sevika from Indapur.