March to Parliament on 21 Nove...

29 October 2014
March to Parliament on  21 November 2014 to Save ICDS

A four day Workshop on ‘ICDS Mission’ and Organisational review of AIFAWH were held from 21-24 August 2014 at Gulbarga, Karnataka. Coming from 17 states – Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh(C), Delhi, Guja...

Anganwadi Worker Murdered in S...

30 October 2014
Anganwadi Worker Murdered in Sunia Village

A delegation of the AIFAWH West Bengal unit went to the village where Dipali Giri, an anganwadi worker was stripped, paraded naked, gang raped and hacked to death and her body hung on a tree in Sunia...

Anganwadi workers, ayahs deman...

05 November 2014
Anganwadi workers, ayahs demand better pay

Demanding that the government pay them a monthly salary of Rs.15,000 and Rs.10,000 respectively, Anganwadi workers and ayahs in the district converged here on Monday and took out an impressive rally....

Twenty three thousand anganwad...

27 November 2014
Twenty three thousand anganwadi workers and helpers March to Parliament

Twenty three thousand anganwadi workers and helpers March to Parliament Submits 1.64 crore signatures to Prime Minister In one of the biggest ever mobilisation of women workers in the capital, on 21 N...

25 Years of AIFAWH and the Tas...

04 January 2015
25 Years of AIFAWH and the Tasks Ahead

The ‘All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers’ (AIFAWH) extends warm greetings to all the anganwadi workers and helpers in the country, all its members, activists and cadres and wishes th...

AIFAWH - 25 years of Struggles...

11 January 2015
AIFAWH - 25 years of Struggles and Achievements

The ‘All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers’ (AIFAWH) came into being on 6th January 1991 in its first national conference in Udaipur in Rajasthan. The past twenty five years have been...

Continue the fight to Save Ind...

11 January 2015
Continue the fight to Save India from Hunger and Malnutrition

Call of AIFAWH National Seminar on “Malnutrition in India and the ICDS as ‘Mission’ India , the ‘Republic of Hunger’ as she call it, has gone from bad to worse in hunger, and the fight to Save the Int...

Heroic Struggle of Anganwadi W...

21 February 2015
Heroic Struggle of Anganwadi Workers in Karnataka

‘THE heart of the city comes to a standstill!’, ‘Stranded Vehicles’, ‘Total traffic jam between 12 and 3 pm’, ‘Women Squatting right in the middle of Road in front of Freedom Park’, ‘A Deluge of Peopl...

Women and Children Neglected;...

28 February 2015
Women and Children Neglected; Allocations to ICDS Cut by Half

AIFAWH Calls for Country wide Protest Demonstrations The Union Budget presented by the Finance Minister displays a total lack of concern towards the well being of the women and children of the countr...

AIFAWH Demands Day 2015

11 July 2015
AIFAWH Demands Day 2015

Nearly two lakh anganwadi workers and helpers took to the streets to observe ‘Demands’ Day’ on 10th July 2015 in spite of heavy rains. Protest against the drastic cut in the Central Budget for ICDS an...

Victory of Anganwadi workers a...

29 July 2015
Victory of Anganwadi workers and helpers in Tripura

AIFAWH welcomes the decision of the Left front government of Tripura to extend pension to the anganwadi workers and helpers of the state. AIFAWH congratulates the Tripura anganwadi workers and helpers...

8th Conference of AIFAWH

09 January 2016
8th Conference of AIFAWH

8th conference of Anganwadi workers and helpers began on 7th January 2016 in RTC Kala Bhavan, Hyderabad at sharp 10.00am in the morning. Among the loud slogans of Revolution Long live and Down with Ca...

11 July 2016

Six lakh anganwadi workers and Helpers observe “Black Day” on 11 July 2016
Against Privatisation of ICDS

For recognition as Workers, Minimum Wage and Pension

All India federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) congratulates anganwadi workers and helpers all over the country for the magnificent success of the observance of “Black Day” on 11th July 2016.

As per the reports received so far, more than six lakh anganwadi workers from 24 states – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telengana, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal - observed “black day” on 11 July 2016 at the call of AIFAWH. Hundreds and thousands of anganwadi workers and helpers wearing black dress, holding black banners, flags etc hold demonstrations, dharnas, rallies etc at project, district and state headquarters in different states. In various states the government had tried to prevent the anganwadi workers and helpers from participating in the struggle, by issuing notices, denying police permission etc. Even the pouring rain could not reduce their fighting spirit.

In Chhattisgarh, the anganwadi workers and helpers are sitting in a three days long day and night dharna from 11 to 13 July at the state headquarters. In Madhya Pradesh the anganwadi employees are on two days strike on 11-12 July 2016.

In Delhi the anganwadi workers and helpers assembled in front of the CM’s residence and held a protest march. They were arrested and later released. In Gujarat, the employees held a militant protest rally. Even in the north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, there were district level protests.

AIFAWH had given a call to observe 11 July 2016, the anganwadi demands day as “black day” against the government’s planned move to dismantle the ICDS through consecutive budget cuts and privatization and handing over the centres to big corporate tax defaulters and corporate NGOs in the name of resource crunch. The government which came to power promising “Review the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of Anganwadi worker's” is clearly announced that “we will not increase their remuneration”. The recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference to recognize the anganwadi employees as workers, pay minimum wages and pension are totally ignored. There is an attack on their freedom of association. Since 2011 the remuneration of the anganwadi employees has not been increased whereas the working hours have been increased to make it full time.
AIFAWH once again congratulates the anganwadi workers and helpers for their successful grand show of strength and protest and calls upon then to campaign against the anti worker policies of the government and join the General Strike called by the Central trade unions on 2nd September 2016. It calls upon the common people to support our fight for the childrens’ right for food, health and education and to Save ICDS.

Issued by
A. R. Sindhu
General Secretary

WCD Minister Smt. Maneka Gandhi must apologise for false propaganda
Implement the Recommendations of the 45th ILC

AIFAWH will observe “Black Day” on 11 July 2016
And will join the General Strike on 2nd September 2016


AIFAWH strongly condemns the hoax by the Ministry of WCD and its minister Smt maneka Gandhi on the service conditions of 27 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers in the country. We demand that the Minister apologise to the anganwadi workers and helpers for the continuous misinformation campaign.

The ministry press release on 22nd June 2016 says
“The Ministry of Women and Child Development has provided several facilities and incentives to the Anganwadi Workers to improve their conditions of service. The Anganwadi Workers have been provided an insurance cover under Anganwadi Karyakartri Bima Yojana. The annual premium for this is Rs.280/- out of which Rs.100/- is paid by the Central Government, Rs.100/- is paid by the Ministry of Finance and Rs.80/-, which is supposed to be paid by the Anganwadi Workers, has been waived off. The Anganwadi Worker is also provided 180 days of maternity leave. She is also sanctioned two saris as uniform every year. Scholarship benefit is also provided to the Anganwadi Workers @ Rs. 300/- per quarter for their children studying in classes 9th to 12th. In order to improve their career prospects, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has ordered that 50% of the posts of Supervisors should be reserved for the Anganwadi Workers. Anganwadi Workers with 10 years of experience are eligible for appointment as Supervisor against this 50% quota.”

Many National and vernacular media had given the news very prominently. The reader will think that these are all new initiatives of the NDA government. This is nothing less than a fraud on the poorly paid grass root workers who implement the most crucial scheme ensuring the healthy future of the country.

The Anganwadi Karyakarti Bima Yojana which gives insurance coverage to the anganwadi workers and helpers and a scholarship of Rs.300 a quarter for two children had started in 2004 and the workers’ contribution had been waived off since 2008.The anganwadi workers and helpers are entitled to get two pairs of uniform since 2009. The maternity benefits have been increased from 135 days to 180 days in 2010. Since its inception, there was a provision of 25% reservation to the anganwadi workers to the post of supervisors. In 1995 government made it mandatory. In September 2015 it has been increased to 50%.

As of the claim of the NDA government and Smt Maneka Gandhi, the only thing her ministry had done is increasing the reservations to the post of supervisors from 25% to 50%. But she may not be aware of the fact that in many states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab etc. they are already getting a reservation of 90-100%. And for her kind information, the total number of vacancies to the post of supervisors as on March 2014 is only 14,673.

In spite of the election promise of “Review the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of Anganwadi worker's” in the election Manifesto, the BJP government has done nothing to improve the working conditions of the 27 lakh anganwadi workers. Instead the Modi government had drastically cut down the allocation to this crucial scheme which ensures right to food for 8crore children and 1.8crore lactating mothers and pregnant women. In 2015-16 the budget had been cut from the previous Rs.18,108 crores to Rs.8284crores. This year it had cut down Rs.1500 crores from the last year’s spent amount.Further, in the name of lack of funds the government is privatizing the schemes by bringing in Big MNCs like the Vedanta Company whose tax arrears amounts to thousands of crores. The unanaimous recommendation of the 45th Indian Labour conference to recognise the anganwadi workers and helpers as employees, give them minimum wages and pension and other social security benefits are totally negated.

Furthermore, the media has been reporting since last ten days about the announcement of the WCD Minister Smt. Maneka Gandhi that “the NDA government has issued orders recognising anganwadi workers with ten years of experience as government employees.” Major Hindi dailies and some News channels have aired the news last week. The office of the Secretary WCD told us that there is no such proposal from the ministry to the government to make the anganwadi workers government employees.
AIFAWH considers that the continuous misinformation campaign by Smt maneka Gandhi and her ministry is to misguide the anganwadi workers and helpers and their mounting discontent against the Modi government which was seen in the historic mobilisation of anganwadi workers and helpers on 15 February 2016.

We demand that Smt Maneka Gandhi must apologise to the anganwadi workers and helpers for the false propaganda and take initiative to implement the BJP’s election promises and the recommendations of the 45th ILC.

AIFAWH calls upon all its state unions and the 27 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers to protest against government’s attitude and observe “Black Day” on 11 July 2016 by organising district level mobilisations throughout the country. We call upon the anganwadi employees to join enmasse in the General Strike called by the Central Trade Unions on 2nd September 2016.

Issued by

A. R. Sindhu
General Secretary

Samyukta Morcha of Anganwadi Employees’ Federations

Anganwadi Employees Federations Meet Finance Minister
Demand Increased Allocation for ICDS in the Union Budget, Minimum wages and pension

Warn the Government of Protest Week from 1 March 2016

Tens of thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers from nook and corner of the country poured into Delhi an marched to Parliament demanding with one voice “SAVE ICDS” by making necessary financial provisions in the Budget to strengthen the scheme for the future young India and a fair deal for the Anganwadi workers and helpers.

Twenty seven lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers and about more than ten crore beneficiaries are affected by the drastic cut in the the allocation for ICDS in the Union budget 2016-17 to Rs.8245.77 crores from Rs. 18,108 crores the previous year. This is in spite of several recommendations from the planning commission, various Parliamentary committees, expert groups, organisations etc. The drastic cut in the allocation has already affected the whole functioning of ICDS. The workers and helpers are not getting their honorarium for more than six months in consecution. The quantity and quality of food has come down. The anganwadi workers and helpers are paid a paltry amount of Rs. 3000 and 1500p.m ‘honorarium’ which is not been increased since 2011.

The March to Parliament has been organised by Samyukta Morcha of Anganwadi Employees’ Federations, a joint platform of Anganwadi Federations affiliated to Central Trade Unions: AICCTU, AITUC, AIUTUC, CITU, HMS and INTUC. The women gathered at Jantar Mantar and marched towards Parliament and culminated on Parliament Street in a huge Public Meeting.

Sashi yadav from AICCTU, Dr B V Vijayalakshmi and Amarjeet Kaur from AITUC, Kamalesh Chahal from AIUTUC, A R Sindhu from CITU, Neelam Pandey and M A Patil from HMS and Dharmveer and Lata Yadav from INTUC were the speakers. Usha Saini from AITUC, Usha Rani from CITU, Shalini from HMS were the presidium.

Sri. D. Raja and Sri. Tapan Sen (General Secretary CITU), Members of Parliament addressed the huge gathering extended full support. A delegation of Samyukta Morcha of Anganwadi Employees’ Federations met Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitely and submitted a memorandum on their demands.

The delegation led by Shri Tapan Sen and Shri D Raja Members of Parliament consisted of A R Sindhu(CITU), B V Vijayalakshmi(AITUC), Sashi Yadav, Rajeev Dimri(AICCTU), M A Patil (HMS) and Kamalesh Chahal(AIUTUC).

The Finance Minister said that the government want to spend on schemes like ICDS and agreed that the remunerations paid to them is too little. He told the delegation that he will try to increase the allocation and the honorarium in the budget.

Samyukta Morcha had called upon the anganwadi workers and helpers of the country to observe “protest week “ starting on 1 March 2016 by organising rallies dharnas, demonstrations etc in every village and block in the country, in case the budget do not take care of the demands.

The Demands
1. Budget Allocation for ICDS to be increased to minimum of Rs.36,000 crores to ensure proper infrastructure, good quality nutritional food and decent living condition to the employees.
2. No privatisation of ICDS in any form. No handing over ICDS to Corporates like Vedanta and NGOs like ISKCON
3. Anganwadi Workers and Helpers must be regularised as Class III and Class IV government employees respectively. Pending regularisation they should be paid Minimum wages not less than Rs.18,000 per month along with D.A. and a pension of minimum of Rs. 3000/- linked with VDA to the retirees who served their whole life for the noble cause.
4. Immediate implementation of the 45th ILC recommendations for scheme workers

AICCTU   AITUC   AIUTUC   CITU   HMS   INTUC

8th conference of Anganwadi workers and helpers began on 7th January 2016 in RTC Kala Bhavan, Hyderabad at sharp 10.00am in the morning. Among the loud slogans of Revolution Long live and Down with Capitalism veteran leader and president of the Federation Com. Neelima Maitra hoisted the flag of the Union. On this occasion General Secretary CITU Com. Tapan Sen, one of the founder leader Maharani Konar and state CITU secretary also accompanied her.

After hoisting the flag flora tribute was paid to the martyrs and the departed leaders of the union and trade union movement. After he flag hoisting, inauguration session started, which was presided over by Neelima Maitra. Stressing upon the importance of the ICDS programmee, Chairman of Reception committee, Mr. K R Venugopal said “The essence of the ICDS programme thus directly represents all vital constituents of the Right to Life as guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution of India and as expanded by the Supreme Court of India in many of its path-breaking judgments such as those relating to the right to food, work, health, education, shelter and information. These are the rights of children and women as recognised in certain other articles in the Constitution of India and also various International Human Rights Instruments to which India is signatory. So, when the implementation of the ICDS programme fails, human and social development rights of the women and children are violated in the most crucial areas of their lives and given their numbers taken together the human rights of almost all the people of India are violated.”

While inaugurating the conference Com. Tapan Sen called the union members to strengthen struggles not only for their rights and to save ICDS but also against the neo-liberal policies of the NDA government. He said that the task before us is to raise the consciousness of the union members, as well as to mobilize workers, helpers, beneficiaries, other scheme workers and build strong interlinkages with all sections of society.

After the inauguration, organization session started with the presidential address by Neelima Maitra. Exposing the pernicious effects of imperialist design to end welfare schemes in many countries in the world. Stressing the need of ICDS, she continued, there can not be a human society without women and children. If the scheme is privatized, lives of crores of mothers and children will disrupt. 11 member Presidium was elected, Neelima maitra, president of Federation and other members were Baby Rani( Andhra Pradesh),Maharani Konar ( West Bengal),PP Kallyani(Kerala), Shravani Chakrborty (Tripura) Subhash Rani(Punjab), Niroda Kakoti (Assam),Jayalakshmi (Telangana),Urmila (Haryana), Sunita (HP), Shanta Ghante (Karnataka). Credential sub- committee members were Shubha Shamim (Convener), Krishna, Shanta, Sushila N, Vidya Khangar, Zainab JAhan, S.Leelawati, Monisha Chakraborty and Indira Newar. Minutes sub-committee members were Anju Maini ( Convener) Mahavir Dahiya, Indrani Mukharjee, Jaya Barman, Resolution sub-committee member Veena Gupta (Convener) Ratna Dutta, TV Vidya laxmi, Thilagam, Yamuna, Jaya Barman and Veeralakshmi.
Report was presented by AR Sindu,General Secretary of AIFAWH. After placing the report, delegate went for group discussion on the report.  

Second day of the conference with the revolutionary songs sung by delegates from Telangana. Delegate session started with the delegates speaking from different states. Representative from Fraternal organization, AIDWA Ms. Kiran Moghe, who witnessed the first conference of the AIFAWH in Udaipur highlighted the positive transformation in the oraganisation as well as in the workers and helpers. She stressed that we should work together to resist the criminality of the state. 

Com Hannan Mollah, General Secretary of All India Kisan Sabha greeted the delegates and called for militant joint struggle not only to save ICD but to save crores of children of mother India from hunger and malnutrition.

Greeting the conference, Aboni Mukherjee DYFI General Secretary assured of full support to the struggle of AIFAWH. Three resolutions were presented, one was on Save ICDS moved by Sreelaxmi and it was supported by Molina Ghosh. Resolution demanded the government to allocate adequate funds for ensuring universalisation and institutionalisation of ICDS. We also demand to stop privatization and NGOisation of ICDS immediately.

Second resolution on organizing scheme workers was moved by Jaya Barman and supported by Usha Rani. This 8th conference calls upon the anganwadi workers and helpers to Consolidate our task to expand and strengthen the unions of ASHA and MDM workers and to help other scheme workers to be mobilised on their respective demands and to help them in organising themselves

Third resolution was to pass the women reservation bill. It was moved by Veeralaxmi and supported by Indira Newar. All the resolutions were passed unanimously with the clapping and slogans.

AIFAWH welcomes the decision of the Left front government of Tripura to extend pension to the anganwadi workers and helpers of the state. AIFAWH congratulates the Tripura anganwadi workers and helpers union(CITU) for their victory. The union which has a support of 99.1% of the total employees has been continuously on campaign and struggles for improving their working condition.

According to the cabinet decision, Anganwadi workers and helpers with 10 years of service will get Rs.500 and Rs.350 respectively as pension after their retirement at the age of 60 years. They can opt for pension or for Rs.50000 and Rs.30000 respectively as lump some payment. In case of death of those employees who have completed 5 years of service, the legal heirs of the diseased workers and helpers will get Rs.50000 and Rs.30000 respectively.
Tripura government has also decided to extend pension to domestic workers, transgenders and leprosy and AIDS patients

This decision of the Left Front government in Tripura is all the more important considering the critical financial situation of the state and the drastic cut in the central budget allocation to the ICDS.

Many states like Bihar had stopped the supplementary nutrition in anganwadi centres. Many other states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Pondicherry, etc, had not been paying the remuneration of the employees for months. Tripura government has once again proved their pro worker attitude.

Tripura is one among the first states to introduce the state's contribution in the remuneration of the anganwadi workers and helpers. The government had increased the remuneration of the workers and helpers in July 2015 to make it Rs.6511 and Rs.3815 respectively.

A R Sindhu
General Secretary
AIFAWH

Nearly two lakh anganwadi workers and helpers took to the streets to observe ‘Demands’ Day’ on 10th July 2015 in spite of heavy rains.

Protest against the drastic cut in the Central Budget for ICDS and large scale privatisation under the BJP rule.

All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) congratulates anganwadi workers and helpers all over the country for the successful observance of the “All India Demands’ Day” on 10th July 2015.

In spite of heavy rains in many states, nearly two lakh anganwadi workers from 18 states – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand , Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tripura, Telengana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal - observed “demand’s day” on 10th July 2015 at the call of AIFAWH.

Anganwadi workers and helpers held rallies, demonstrations, dharnas etc at the project/district headquarters and submitted a charter of demands to the Prime Minister and the Minister for WCD, on their long pending demands. In Haryana and West Bengal state level rallies and demonstrations were held. In West Bengal memorandum was submitted to the Governor. In Haryana, the Chief Minister had called the union for a discussion on 11 July. In Punjab, in all districts, the anganwadi employees collected one rupee coins and submitted to the Chief Minister to “fill his empty coffers”.

AIFAWH has given a call to observe 10 July, as demands day against the ongoing privatisation of the ICDS first in the name of ‘ICDS Mission’ now in the name of public private partnership and the drastic cut in central budget 2015-16 for ICDS and for implementation of the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference, recognizing the scheme workers (including the anganwadi workers and helpers) as workers, paying them minimum wages and providing pension, and freedom of association.

In contrary to the promise in the BJP Manifesto to “Review the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of Anganwadi worker's”, the Modi government had cut down the budget for ICDS by nearly 60%. Many state governments have already started cutting down the allocation to ICDS.

Moreover, although Smt. Maneka Gandhi had promised that there will not be any privatisation of ICDS, in the name of PPP and social partnership, the BJP government is handing over the anganwadi centres to big corporates like Vedanta. AIFAWH will oppose all such moves tooth and nail. AIFAWH demands that the government must stop any move to privatise the ICDS and immediately implement the recommendations of the 45th ILC on scheme workers.

AIFAWH calls upon the anganwadi workers and helpers to intensify their struggles for decent working conditions and against the privatisation of the scheme.

Issued by
A R Sindhu
General Secretary

AIFAWH Calls for Country wide Protest Demonstrations

The Union Budget presented by the Finance Minister displays a total lack of concern towards the well being of the women and children of the country by the BJP led government. To the utter dismay of the around 10 crore women and children, the beneficiaries of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the allocation for this flagship programme of government of India has been drastically cut by more than half, from Rs 18108 crore in 2014 – 15 to a paltry Rs 8245.77 crores. This is nothing but an open attack on the poor in the country which is home to more than half of the malnourished in the world.

The BJP, which promised of ‘reviewing the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of anganwadi workers’ before the elections, has completely ignored the more than 27 lakhs anganwadi workers and helpers who have been working for a pittance since the last more than 30 – 35 years in the ICDS. The recommendation of the 45th session of the Indian Labour Conference have been confined to the dustbin, despite the unanimous demands of all the federations of anganwadi employees and the central trade unions for their implementation.

The callous attitude of the BJP government was evident when the Prime Minister and his government bending over backwards to satisfy the demands of the corporates, both national and multinational, was not even ready to hear the representatives of the anganwadi employees despite repeated requests. This budget has once again exposed the fact that ‘acche din’ under the BJP rule, are for the corporates, not for the common people, women and children.

While the prices of all the essential commodities have been continuously increasing there has been no increase in the remuneration of the anganwadi workers and helpers since 2011. The government of India pays only Rs 3000 to the anganwadi workers and Rs 1500 to the helpers per month, despite increasing the working hours. They are denied minimum social security benefits including pension, gratuity etc.

AIFAWH strongly condemns this anti women anti children and anti anganwadi employee budget and calls upon all the anganwadi employees in the country to unitedly oppose this irrespective of their affiliations. It calls upon all its state committees to organise protest demonstrations and burn effigies at the project/district level all over the country on 3rd March 2015. It calls upon the anganwadi employees as well as all other sections of working people to intensify the struggle to ‘Save ICDS’ and for better working conditions.

Issued by
A. R. Sindhu (General Secretary)

‘THE heart of the city comes to a standstill!’, ‘Stranded Vehicles’, ‘Total traffic jam between 12 and 3 pm’, ‘Women Squatting right in the middle of Road in front of Freedom Park’, ‘A Deluge of People’ – these were some of the screaming headlines in the print media in Bangalore on February 13, 2015. Not lagging behind, electronic media joined the chorus by beaming the event right from noon!

WHAT WAS THE EVENT?
It was a massive, unprecedented rally of anganwadi workers and helpers with anger writ large on their faces and who, with a mere two days’ advance notice, had descended on the capital from all the 30 districts across the state to lay siege on this city of big capital and international monopoly. The militant rasta roko by this human sea for more than four hours sent the central part of the city into a spin and even after more than 10 hours normalcy could not be restored.

Such was the collective fury of this massive gathering of women! And the media reports put the number at more than 40,000! Of course, the actual gathering was much more than that.

WHY THIS STRUGGLE?
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is the only scheme that is part of government’s efforts at fighting the problem of malnutrition and as such is complementary to human resources development. A scheme of long standing and working effectively too! However, in 2012, instead of further upgrading it, the government, in line with its dutiful adherence to neo-liberal economic agenda, converted it into a ‘Mission Mode’ model, thus seeking to dilute its effective functional role. This Mode mandates allotment of 10 per cent of the ICDS projects to NGOs and another 10 per cent to panchayat institutions. Further, a mere 15 per cent of the centres would be receiving governmental grants for constructing offices and the rest 85 per cent would have to depend on community financing. It also provides for distribution of grants to private convents from out of the funds allocated for pre-primary education. And all this in the name of ‘restructuring of the scheme’ !

Apart from this Mission Mode, there are already several recommendations aimed at dismantling of the scheme itself.
In Karnataka, the working hours of the anganwadi centres have been increased from four and half to six and half hours. The workers and helpers are asked to perform jobs under various non-governmental schemes like Stree Shakthi (women’s self –help group), ‘Bhagyalakshmi’ and also some non-departmental jobs like economic census, population census, elections etc. But the honorarium being paid to them is far less than even minimum wages. As a result, the ICDS is affected and for this, workers are increasingly being blamed.

There are 61,000 anganwadi centres in the atate. Of these, only 57 per cent have their own premises. The rest function either from rented accommodation or in temples, community centres, and youth association offices and from anganwadi workers’ homes even.

While shifting the centres from rented accommodations, these workers are required to shift the food supplies too. On several such occasions they have been falsely accused of trying to steal these supplies and have had to face public wrath leading to false complaints, resulting in immediate filing of FIRs and subsequent suspensions without a formal enquiry. There are no service conditions providing for their reinstatement in service.

At the time of recruitment, the district collector and the chief executive officers of the zilla panchayat function as president and vice-president and as such they themselves constitute the disciplinary authority also. Due to several practical problems, anganwadi workers and helpers quite often find it difficult to work according to the mindset of such IAS officers. There are instances of inhuman acts of on-the-spot-removal from the job in case the officers during their visit find silliest of lapses on the part of the workers and helpers.

Whenever a deputy director, or a child development project officer or a supervisor is transferred, workers have to present them with gifts in the form of gold. For transfers also such gifts are a must.

While performing departmental jobs, workers face assaults from the public. For instance in KR Pete taluk of Mandya district, a worker had to suffer the ignominy of her saree being pulled by a drunkard in front of children in the centre. In the same taluk, in another instance an anganwadi worker had complained to the CDPO that a child marriage is being planned. That gentleman went to the spot and divulged the name of the worker which resulted in the village panchayat imposing a fine of Rs One lakh on the poor worker!

Naturally the workers and helpers reeling under such inhuman conditions at the workplace found themselves driven to the wall and they decided to move collectively once again.

THE DECISION FOR STRUGGLE
For three months, Karnataka Rajya Anganwadi Noukarara Sangha prepared an extensive ground work with a three days’ state level study camp; a round table meet with progressives and intellectuals in Bangalore; held zone-wise conventions and seminars at Mysore, Bangalore, Gulbarga, Hubli and Mangalore and thus widely campaigned against the dangers of privatisation of ICDS and on the issues of the employees. In the seminars, eminent personalities like Chandrakala, central committee member of Kannada Sahithya Parishat; Chandru Poojary, economist; Aravind Malgathi of Mysore University; Manjula Manasa, chairperson of Women’s Commission; Vinaya Okkunda and Dr Rajendra Udupa, progressive writers besides senior leaders of CITU, JMS, DYFI, SFI, KPRS (AIKS) participated. Vehicle jathas were simultaneously taken out in 88 taluks and public meetings were organised in 2500 gram panchayats. Auto campaign and street corner meetings were organised in 108 towns. It is to be noted that the speakers in all such meetings were anganwadi workers. More than eight lakh pamphlets were brought out for beneficiaries, anganwadi workers and for both commonly, and were widely distributed. More than 45,000 posters were put up throughout the state. And through all this it was ensured that Stree Shakthi women, ICDS beneficiaries and general public extended their support to our cause.

In the midst of our preparations, the AITUC union came forward to join the struggle. The indefinite strike commenced on February 2, 2015 with day and night mass squatting in front of 27 DC offices and also at Freedom Park in Bangalore where the participation was by three districts in Bangalore and concluded on February 12, 2015 with a massive Bangalore Chalo programme.

ATTEMPTS TO SUPPRESSAND BREAK THE STRUGGLE
Usually such long drawn struggles dwindle after the first two days, but in this struggle, the participation only multiplied with each passing day. Of the total 61,000 centres, more than 55,000 were closed. Alarmed over this great show of strength and resoluteness, the government tried to create ill will against the striking workers by blaming them of putting the health of women and children at the risk. It egged on the district collectors to take stringent measures against the workers. The Uttar Kannada DC promulgated Section 144 and served show-cause notices to all the workers. Bidar DC had planned to declare the strike as illegal, have a police lathi-charge on strikers and then to arrest all. Hassan DC did not allow erection of tent and the determined workers squatted under the trees, day and night for 11 days. The Chamrajnagar DC went a step ahead and denied water, electricity and even toilet facilities to the striking workers.

On February 6, 2015, the officials of Women and Child Development department convened a meeting of all deputy directors and directed them to make alternate arrangements to run the 55,000 anganwadi centres.

The minister of the department, Uma Shree through advertisements in the media, instructed all to report for duty immediately. On February 9th and 10th, all DCs and deputy directors convened meetings of midday meal, ASHA and Stree Shakthi workers and urged them to run the centres. It is indeed heartening to note that their agenda failed miserably. In places where coercion was used, the workers, especially Stree Shakthi workers protested vehemently, walked out of meetings and joined the striking workers!

Despite being headed by Siddaramaiah as CM who prides himself as a staunch friend of the down-trodden, the Congress government in the state used all its power and machinery to suppress the struggle.

TALKS WITH THE GOVERNMENT
On the basis of 29 demands placed before the government, joint talks had been held on January 31, with the officials of the department. On the very first day of the strike itself, the minister of the department had visited the venue of struggle. As there was no clarity on the part of the government in their response to the demands, the talks did not yield any results. In the background of the massive show of strength and the collective anger of the striking workers, the chief minister had to intervene and in a meeting that lasted for 45 minutes, assured that the central government would be informed that the state cannot allot 10 per cent of anganwadi centres to NGOs as mandated under Mission Mode and further that the demand for increase in honorarium would be considered in the budget session and efforts would be made to address other issues.

Thereafter the minister of the department arrived at the venue of the struggle and after conveying the decisions of the government, requested the workers to end the strike. It was only after this that it was decided to conclude the struggle.

More than 1,00,000 workers and helpers from across the state took part in this struggle. It was supported by G V Srirama Reddy of CPI (M), V J K Nair and S Prasanna Kumar of CITU, leaders of KPRS (AIKS), DYFI, SFI, JMS and AIAWU. Countless cadres of the Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union and the SFI worked as volunteers all the 11 days. The struggle was led by S Varalakshmi, president, H S Sunanda, general secretary and T Leelavathy, Shantha Ghante, Yamuna Gaonkar, Kamala and other office bearers of the union.

S Varalakshmi / M R Shenoy

Page 4 of 5

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