Anganwadi workers and helpers will organise protest all over the country on 2nd February 2017
Once again Arun Jaitely and Narendra Modi led NDA government had cheated the women and children of the country and the anganwadi workers and helpers. Budget 2017-18, like the previous budgets by the same ministry had criminally neglected India’s eight crore malnourished children under six and two crore pregnant women and lactating mothers by not increasing the allocation for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme. The Budget estimates for the ICDS (core) 2017-18 is only Rs.15245.19crores. It is even less than the Budget allocation for ICDS in 2015-16 which was Rs.15433.09 crores and Rs.18108 cores in 2014-15. It is only half of the 12th Plan allocation for ICDS for the year 2017-18 which is Rs.30,025 crores.
Deceitful statement on ‘Women and Child Development’: The finance Minister in his budget speech has given a misleading statement on the increased allocation for Women and child development.
The budget boasts about the much promoted Prime Minister’s announcement of the maternity benefit of Rs. 6,000 to the pregnant women. This was nothing new but included in the Right to Food Act. But ironically the amount earmarked for the Maternity Benefit programme is a mere Rs.2700 crore which will cover only 17% of the 2.6core live child births per year in India. Concealing these facts the finance Minister claims to increase the budget estimates for women and children.
Not Women’s empowerment but corporate takeover of the scheme. A dangerous move made in the budget is the announcement by the Finance Minister to set up ‘Mahila Shakti Kendra’ in the anganwadi centres. This is nothing but the government succumbing to the corporate agenda handing over the anganwadi centres to the disposal of the corporates. The Corporate ‘Vedanta’ Company proposed to utilise half of the time of the anganwadi centres for skill development after an agreement with the Ministry of WCD. After the opposition by AIFAWH, the WCD Ministry had assured that the anganwadi centres’ which are meant to be developed as anganwadi cum crèches shall not be utilized for any other purpose. But the budget had extended it to all the centres with a meager allocation of Rs.500crores and no clarity on who will be giving the training and how much time and space is necessary. With the present situation with half of the anganwadi centres do not even having basic facilities such as drinking water or own building, we apprehend the basic services will be affected. Moreover as being practiced, the burden of the extra work will also come to the anganwadi workers.
Dangerous move for Direct Cash transfers: Although in this budget, which came a few days before the assembly elections in five states, there are no direct proposals for direct cash transfers in place of schemes like ICDS, the economic survey sets the direction for direct cash transfer in the name of the Universal Basic Income Scheme. In many states like Telengana, they have started direct cash transfers on an experiment basis, in place of ICDS.
The demands for implementation of recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference to recognise the scheme workers including anganwadi workers and helpers as employees, give them minimum wages and pension and other social security benefits are again negated. Since 2011 the remuneration of the anganwadi employees had not been increased whereas the working hours had been increased to make it full time.
AIFAWH calls upon all the state unions and anganwadi workers and helpers to protest against government’s attitude and remind them of their election promise of “Review the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of Anganwadi worker's” by organising protest demonstrations and actions including burning of effigy, all over the country on 2nd February 2017, along with other scheme workers. It calls upon the anganwadi employees to be prepared for militant struggles till our demands are met and reach out to the people of the country for support to the struggles to Save ICDS.
Anganwadi workers and helpers, ASHA workers and Mid Day Meal workers organised a March to Parliament today at 3pm and burnt the effigy of the Prime minister.
A. R. Sindhu