Sunday, 17 December 2017

Fifty thousand anganwadi workers and Helpers in red uniform, under the banner of All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) will march to Parliament on 21 November 2014. They will carry a memorandum to the Prime Minister with four crore signatures on it. 

The anganwadi employees have held many struggles including marches to Parliament in the past under the leadership of AIFAWH. Apart from being the biggest mobilization with the largest support of the general public and the first one after the NDA government took office, what makes this Parliament march important?
After almost fourty years of its effective existence the ICDS is now facing the biggest challenge even for its existence. The Congress led UPA government at the direction of the World Bank had started the privatization of ICDS and launched the ‘ICDS Mission’. The Modi government is not only vigorously implementing all those anti people policies but also had gone one step ahead with the declaration of the winding up of the Planning Commission and all the welfare schemes.

Mission to dismantle
The “ICDS Mission” is in effect a mission to dismantle the ICDS through backdoor privatisation. Whereas we are demanding the institutionalization of ICDS from a ‘Scheme’ to a department, the government is making it further short term, a “Mission” once it has achieved the target, can be wound up. The ICDS in states will be registered as societies which is easy to dissolve.
In the ‘Mission’ it is mandatory to hand over 10% of the anganwadi centres to NGOs and private companies. In many states like Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Anganwadi centres have been handed over to companies like JP and Vedanta. In Assam, Karnataka etc ‘ISKCON Akhayapatra’ is running big centralized kitchens for anganwadis. This is the effort to divert the public money into private hands.
In UP, the entire supply of the supplementary nutrition is privatized and handed over to private agencies and corporate NGOs. This is another proposal for the Mission. In the name of community participation, workers are asked to collect materials from the community for the anganwadi centre. In Himachal Pradesh only nine months SNP is provided and the workers are supposed to ‘mobilise’ from the ‘community’ the rest.
In the ‘Mission’ the funds of ICDS for the pre-school component can be given to the private nursery schools. This proposal is coming at a time when we are demanding that the pre primary education must be given through the anganwadis only.
The timing of the anganwadi centres is increased to six hours and more. Without any increase in the remuneration, now the anganwadi workers and helpers work for same time as of the school staff.
5% centres to be converted into anganwadi – cum crèches. But there is no increase in the remuneration of the workers and helpers. The timing of each of the employee in the crèche will have to be ‘adjusted’ in such a way not to exceed six hours.
All the new appointments of the Mission will be on contract basis. All the workers and helpers above 65 years are to be retired. But there is no mention of any retirement benefits
Training, monitoring etc had already been privatized in many states. NGOs and other agencies have already started threatening the anganwadi workers and helpers in the name of ‘monitoring’, ‘community participation’, ‘capacity building etc. In many states it is reported that they have started putting cameras in the anganwadi centres to monitor the workers and helpers!

Many state governments have already started appointing extra workers/link workers in anganwadi centres giving the reason that since the anganwadi worker is overloaded with many responsibilities, for effective functioning of the centre one more worker is required. First of all, the ‘overload’ is the non ICDS works dumped on the anganwadi workers. Most of the works allocated to the extra worker is duplication. If the anganwadi centres are converted into full time centres with full time anganwadi worker and helper with all statutory benefits and no non ICDS responsibilities we can have an effective anganwadi centre. The government instead of making the existing workforce permanent with all the benefits is adding casual contract workers with no benefits. AIFAWH has given a call to boycott all non ICDS works by the anganwadi workers.

While all the directions for privatization are being implemented with high speed, the orders for increased allocation for the rent of the centre, contingency, pre- school kit, uniform etc are not been implemented at all. We demand the immediate implementation of the increased allocations.

AIFAWH demands no privatization of the ICDS in any form, increased allocation for infrastructure and other facilities in the anganwadi centre, proper allocation for good quality food, and full time anganwadi centre with full time workers and helpers with all statutory benefits as employees.

Recommendations of 45th ILC
The continuous struggles of the anganwadi employees and the effective leadership and support of the central trade unions under the leadership of CITU has resulted in the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference that the employees working in various government schemes, including the anganwadi workers and helpers must be recognized as employees, must be given minimum wages and pension. Both the Congress which led the earlier government and the BJP which is leading the present government is keeping mum on this crucial question.
The BJP government is changing the labour laws in such a way to restrict all the activities of the unions.

With no minimum wages nor pension even after 38 years of service and no other social security benefits the anganwadi works and helpers are treated as bonded labours by the government. The militant struggles of anganwadi workers and helpers under the leadership of AIFAWH could get some benefits, including the present remuneration and other benefits such as maternity leave, some social security benefits etc from the central government as well as the state governments.

AIFAWH along with the CITU had taken the initiative to build a movement of the people to ‘Save ICDS’, since 2005. Along with the beneficiaries organizations – organizations of worker, peasants, agricultural workers and women- the Centre of Indian Trade unions(CITU), All India Kisan Sabha(AIKS), All India Agricultural Workers union(AIAWU) and All India Democratic Women’s Association(AIDWA) had collected four crore signatures from the people of the country on a memorandum to Prime Minister demanding
• No privatisation of ICDS in any form including handing over to NGOs, Corporates, Self Help Groups etc
• Make adequate financial allocations for ICDS
• Improve infrastructure in anganwadi centres
• Regularise all anganwadi workers and helpers, provide them minimum wages and social security benefits

We fight for a vibrant anganwadi centre with own building with water electricity and all infrastructure for children to eat good quality food, play, learn and take rest, in each human habitat in India, working for eight hours with full time anganwadi workers and helpers who are regular government employees answerable to the people.

To submit the memorandum to the prime Minister, AIFAWH is mobilising more than fifty thousand anganwadi workers and helpers in red uniform to March to the parliament on 21 November 2014 at Delhi. On the same day there will be local level demonstrations all over the country.

We call upon all the anganwadi workers and helpers to join our fight to ‘Save ICDS and for our rights’.
Chalo Delhi, Let us paint Delhi Red to change the anti people policies.