Anganwadi workers to continue protest despite offer of hike in wages

Pensions & provident fund our rights, says Anganwadi

Society

February 25, 2022

/ By and / New Delhi

Anganwadi workers, who have been protesting against the Delhi government over their demand for revision of wages, have spurned the latest revised offer by the government, and decided to continue their protest until all their demands, including pensions and provident fund, are met.

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On Thursday, the 25th day of protest by over 20,000 anganwadi (day care) workers, the Delhi government reached out to the protestors and offered them a carrot and a stick. While it marginally hiked their wages, it also issued a stern notice, warning the workers that if they failed to immediately report to work, they would face strict action by the government.

On their demands, the government notice said that a ‘‘special committee is looking into it and considering the demands.” Delhi government’s women and child welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam also announced a revision in the honorarium paid to anganwadi workers and their helpers. While the government offered to increase the honorarium of the workers to INR 12,720, from the current INR 9400, and of the helpers to INR 6,810 from the current level of INR 4800.

However, the anganwadi workers and helpers union have rejected the offer, calling the hike in the salaries is too little and adding that the workers would not consider any decision by the government unless it discussed the issues with them. Hence, the protest, being staged just outside the residence of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, would continue indefinitely, they said.

The anganwadi workers basically provide a variety of services like data collection, primary health care and assistance in education. They say that their working conditions are too tough and the compensation far from adequate. They also accuse the government of robbing them of the benefits that other government employees get, notably pension and provident fund.

On Thursday, the protestors had planned to visit the office of the Child and Women Development department of Delhi government, but were prevented by police from getting there. Police officials on site said that there were over 500 police personnel from five different companies, of Delhi Police as well as the CRPF, in order to control the crowd. Water cannons were also called in when the workers were about to begin their march towards Kashmere Gate. When they were prevented from moving, the workers burnt an effigy of officials of Delhi government.

The workers say they are determined to continue the protest until their demands are met. “We have been protesting for the past 25 days. To date, no official has visited us who can listen to our grievances. Our union is fighting for our rights with support from each and every one of us. In 2017 we had staged a protest where the government had agreed to our demands in writing that we will increase your salaries. However, till date, we have witnessed no such increase in our salaries. Apart from that, we don’t receive our salaries on time,” says Sunita Kauli, one of the helpers from Shahdara and a volunteer managing the fellow protestors on the site.

“We come from poor families and work hard to earn our living. We helpers receive only INR 4,800, but with the rise in inflation, we are unable to meet our expenses. We have to pay rents, raise our kids and meet other necessary expenses. How will we all do this with so little money? We also work a lot harder than any other departments on the ground level. During the pandemic, it was our duty to provide mothers with food and ration and basic medical assistance. But we didn’t receive any kind of incentives or help from the government. We didn’t even receive any mask, sanitiser, face-shield or PPE kits to safeguard us from the coronavirus,” Kauli tells Media India Group.

“What we are demanding are our rights and basic needs. We are demanding that the government provide us with at least INR 20,000 as our salaries for helpers and INR 25,000 as salaries for workers. We also want the benefits which any other government employee enjoys. We want pensions, PF (Provident Fund) and various other benefits,” says Kauli.

Chanting slogans with the crowd says, another protestor Rajni Saini, an Anganwadi worker from Alipur, says, “We have been continuously protesting from January 31, but still none of our demands has been met. On September 7, 2021, and on January 6, 2021, we staged warning rallies but the government refused to pay heed. Initially, we used to do social work providing food, maintaining registers and measuring weights of the children. But over time as more and more politics was infused, our workload also increased.”

“During Covid-19, we were laden with a tremendous amount of work. Whatever duties ought to have been done by medical staff, we carried them out. We conducted several surveys such as surveys on vaccination status, pregnant ladies, medical status of children till the age of 6. Each Anganwadi worker looks after almost 500 people, but the government didn’t help us in any manner,” says Saini.

“Both the central as well as state government talk about women empowerment, but for the past 25 days we have been protesting just outside Kejriwal’s residence but they are refusing to listen to our demands. When the farmers were protesting they got support from various organisations but we didn’t receive any aid from anyone. We haven’t been provided with any kind of conveniences such as washrooms, drinking water or food, but still, we are holding out grounds and will continue to do so,” says Saini.

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