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 them a Happy New Year 2015!
AIFAWH feels proud and happy to launch its Silver Jubilee in this New Year, on 6th January 2015. It was on this day in 1991 that it AIFAWH came into being at the conclusion of its first national conference in Udaipur in Rajasthan.
On this occasion AIFAWH firmly reiterates its commitment and determination to continue to fight for the right to nutritious food, health and education to all the children and women in the country; to continue to fight for a strong and effective ‘Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)’ and its institutionalisation as a permanent department in the government. It resolves and rededicates itself to the struggle for decent and dignified life for the ‘unsung heroines’, the anganwadi workers and helpers – for their recognition as employees, for decent wages and working conditions, pension and other social security benefits.
The past twenty five years have been years of struggle and sacrifices for the AIFAWH and all its affiliates in different states, which played a pioneering role in mobilising lakhs of anganwadi employees in both united and independent struggles to improve the conditions of anganwadi employees and prevent ICDS from being handed over to private interests.
On the occasion of its Silver Jubilee, AIFAWH salutes all its activists, cadres and all the anganwadi employees in the country who have contributed to these struggles braving victimisation, police repression and political harassment. It is their iron will, grit and courage in continuing the fight for their rights, despite the innumerable difficulties of a patriarchal society that has contributed to the advances that have been made - Unlike so many of earlier schemes for child development, ICDS has been in operation for almost 40 years and has been expanded. There has been some improvement in the conditions of the anganwadi employees over the years – the increase in the remuneration from Rs 225 and Rs 110 for workers and helpers to over Rs 4000 and Rs 2000 in most of the states; paid maternity leave for six months, avenues for promotion, monthly pension in a few states and regularisation in one. The Recommendations of the 45th ILC is one landmark achievement in the history of our movement.
In that process, we have grown as one of the most militant trade union organisations in the country, having more than five lakh members in twenty six states. Our reach was proved to be nearly double that with nine lakh anganwadi employees participating in the strike call given by AIFAWH. With initiatives of policy interventions for strengthening the ICDS we could earn the reputation as a responsible trade union.
However, the struggle is not yet over. The situation today demands it to be continued with much more vigour; with much more fervour and with much more unity. The government policies threaten to undo whatever the anganwadi employees have achieved; they seek to rob the little welfare benefits that are today available to the poor women and children of our country through the ICDS. The present BJP led government is on the same track as the erstwhile Congress led UPA government in privatising ICDS through the ‘Mission Mode’; in not only denying adequate financial resources but also in further curtailing them; in dismantling it in practice while claiming to strengthen it on paper.
Yet another danger looms large before us – the attempts to disrupt our unity. One after another, Ministers, MPs and leaders of the BJP, have been issuing statements that stoke communal passions and are intended to divide the people on religious lines. They have been declaring their unstinted loyalty to the RSS which is intent on converting our secular democratic country into a rabid ‘Hindu Rashtra’. This means weakening of our united struggles and snatching away whatever little we have achieved through our hard struggles over all these years.
Thus, the task before us is to protect our unity as the apple of our eyes and to further intensify our struggles –
• to safeguard what we have achieved
• to achieve the status of employees
• for minimum wages and other benefits
• for pension and other social security benefits
We shall not allow any force in earth to disrupt our unity and weaken our struggles.
The task before us is to Save ICDS against any attempts to dismantle it - be it in the name of ‘ICDS Mission’ or any other.
We shall not allow the right to nutritious food and pre school education of the children of our country to be given away to the charity of private interests, to the Corporates or NGOs.
The task before us is to create awareness among the beneficiaries, the poor peasants, agricultural workers, women and unorganised workers, about the government’s attempts to dismantle ICDS, and rally their support to the struggle to save it.
We shall strengthen our bonds with the beneficiaries and their organisations and together strengthen the struggle to save ICDS.
On the occasion of its Silver Jubilee, AIFAWH rededicates itself to all these tasks.
It calls upon all its members, activists and cadres to strengthen the organisation, build stronger bonds with the beneficiaries, and intensify the struggle to achieve their most genuine and long overdue demands. It calls upon all the anganwadi employees in the country, the beneficiaries of ICDS, the people and all democratic sections of society to support its endeavours.