To

Shri. Rakesh Srivastava

Secretary

Ministry of WCD,

Government of India

Sub: Certain Immediate Demands of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers

 

Dear Sir,

AIFAWH is the trade union federation of anganwadi workers and helpers’ trade unions from 24 states and UTs representing nearly five lakhs members. We have been working for the last twenty six years for better working conditions of the anganwadi workers and helpers throughout the country as well as for strengthening the ICDS, the lone scheme addressing very crucial issues of child malnutrition, maternal and child mortality etc.

On earlier occasions, we used to have constructive dialogues with the Ministry and department on various issues of the employees as well as ICDS at various levels. Apart from raising demands of anganwadi workers and helpers which need policy decisions at political level, the demands and issues comes up in daily functioning, we used to bring to the notice of your office which has helped in improving the functioning of the ICDS. We strongly believe that the bipartite/tripartite dialogues will improve the functioning of any institution.

 In the background of the changes made in the Centrally Sponsored Schemes, its priorities, fund allocation etc., budget proposals, and government statements on ICDS and various media reports, anganwadi workers and helpers throughout the country are much concerned about the future of this crucial scheme. We also bring to your notice certain immediate demands of anganwadi workers and helpers throughout the country.

  1. ICDS as Core to Core Scheme

The nutritional situation in the country is such that there is an urgent need for institutionalisation of ICDS to achieve MDGs. Instead, the recent move by the NDA government will weaken it. We are alarmed that the ICDS which provides nutritional food under the Right to Food Act to the under six children and pregnant women and lactating mothers, has been put under the category of “Core Schemes” instead of “Core to Core Schemes”. Much more flexibility given in spending and the modes of implementation, we apprehend that even this will not only make it non mandatory for implementation, but also make it impossible for the states to spend the allocated money for revenue expenditures.

We demand that the ICDS must be categorised as Core to Core Scheme and must be institutionalised.

  1. Adequate Budget allocation for ICDS

We are surprised that in spite of the recommendations of various Parliamentary committees, public outcry and the demands of the employees’ organisations and state governments, the Budget allocation 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.

We demand that the allocation for ICDS shall be increased to the 12th Plan proposal immediately.

  1. Proposal to make anganwadi centres as ‘Mahila Shakti Kendra’

Even last year we have expressed our concern about the declaration of the ‘Vedanta’ Company to utilise half the time of anganwadi centres for skill development. In that way, the announcement by the Finance Minister to set up ‘Mahila Shakti Kendra’ in the anganwadi centres will be detrimental to the scheme and its purpose itself.  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.

We demand that no move which is against the basic purpose of the scheme shall be introduced in ICDS.

  1. Direct Cash transfers

The proposal for ‘Direct Cash Transfer’ a concept which is proved to be a failure all over the world, will sabotage the very purpose of the scheme – to combat malnutrition. 

The statement by the WCD Ministry says There have also been complaints about the quality of Take Home Rations (THR). Therefore, the Government is considering ways to improve the system and to make it more transparent. It is also exploring the possibility of Conditional Cash Transfer in lieu of THR in select districts as a pilot as one of the options. However, a final decision is yet to be taken in this regard.” 

In case of complaints about the quality of THR, measures can be taken to improve the quality.

We demand that any move to start conditional cash transfers even in pilot basis must be stopped immediately.

  1. Linking ICDS with Aadhaar

As per the notification issued by the Ministry, it is mandatory to have Aadhaar Number or Aadhaar application number for availing the benefits of the ICDS Scheme from 1 April 2018.

We demand that the enrolment of Aadhaar must not be mandatory for availing the services in anganwadi centres

  1. Anganwadi Karyakarti Bima Yojana

We are shocked to know that the Ministry had proposed to stop the only social security available for the anganwadi workers and helpers provided by the Ministry, the Anganwadi Karyakarti Bima Yojana (AKBY) for the majority of workers. Instead, the workers in the age group of 18-50 years are to enroll with PMJJBY and PMSBY which are only life insurance schemes, where as AKBY covers female critical illness and Siksha Sahayog – scholarship of Rs.300 per quarter for the children studying in 9th to 12th standard.

We demand that the AKBY must be continued with coverage for all types of cancers and also kidney diseases.

  1. Provident Fund for Anganwadi Workers and Helpers

The CBT and EPFO had proposed to include the anganwadi workers and helpers in EPF Scheme.

We demand that the Ministry and the Government of India shall accept the proposal immediately. Before finalising the rates of contribution the Ministry shall consult the trade union federations of the employees.

  1. Non payment of wages

Due to the budget cut made in 2015-16, the functioning of the ICDS had been affected. After that the payment of wages had not been regular in most of the states. In spite of the office order making the UC of the penultimate installment in place of the previous one in August 2016, the payment of wages in most of the states are pending from 3-12 months in many states.

We demand that the clause for UC is to be withdrawn for the wages of the anganwadi workers and helpers. We demand that the Ministry must ensure that the wages of the grass root level functionaries reach them on time. We also demand strict action against those officials responsible.

  1. Non payment for SNP

Similarly the payment for the Supplementary Nutrition also is not being paid regularly. Most of the states, the anganwadi workers are forced to pay out of their pockets or borrow the necessary items from the local shopkeepers for 3-8 months.

We demand that the Ministry must ensure regular supply of SNP in anganwadi centres.

  • Filling up of vacancies

As per the ministry, there are 114289 vacancies of anganwadi workers and 122190 vacancies of helper existing in the country.

Please ensure immediate filling up of the vacancies of anganwadi workers and helpers.

  • Implementation of existing benefits for anganwadi workers and helpers throughout the country

Anganwadi workers and helpers are one of the poorly paid sections of the workforce of the government of India without even the recognition as workers. But, the most shocking truth is that even these are not being provided to them. Nowhere in the country, are all the existing benefits provided to them on a regular basis.

Wages, TA/DA, contingency, centre rent etc. are never paid monthly on time in most of the states. Anganwadi Karyakarti Bima Yojana is not being implemented and the scholarship for two children included in the scheme is not paid to them. Even the maternity leave and casual leave are not given to the workers and helpers in many states.

We request you to issue fresh orders on the existing benefits for the anganwadi workers and helpers given by the centre to be properly implemented.

  • Implementation of existing provisions to the anganwadi centres

Similarly, the provisions in the anganwadi centre are not made available on time in full. The supplementary nutrition is not given for months together in many states. The fuel charges are seldom paid. Pre-school kit and medicine kits are not provided at all for years together. Even once in a while provided, it do not contain the required materials or medicines.

Please ensure that the provisions in the anganwadi centres are reached on time in full.

  • Full Payment for Mini Anganwadi Workers

The Mini anganwadi workers perform all duties of a regular anganwadi worker, alone.

Convert all the mini anganwadi centres into full fledged anganwadi centres and appoint helpers. Pay equal wages and benefits to the anganwadi workers working the mini anganwadi centres as those of the regular anganwadi workers.

  • Promotion of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers

At present there is an age limit for the anganwadi workers for the promotion to the post of supervisors and for the helpers to the post of workers.

We request to do away with the age limit for promotion for both anganwadi workers and helpers to the posts of supervisor and of workers respectively. We also request you to reserve 100% posts of supervisors for promotion of anganwadi workers and eligible helpers.

  • Extra Non- ICDS Work

Although there are some direction from the centre as well as from the high court of Maharashtra, not to assign non-ICDS works to the anganwadi workers and helpers, all the state governments are assigning non-ICDS works to anganwadi workers and helpers. AIFAWH had noted as many as twenty five additional works assigned to them.

BLO duty is assigned to the anganwadi workers and helpers which is made mandatory in most of the states. Under the Swatch Bharat Mission, anganwadi workers are asked to go to the fields as early as 4am to stop people defecating in open by throwing away their water and throwing stones at them. There are reported cases of summary termination of those who have refused to do this humiliating act, from Madhya Pradesh. They are asked to do different surveys like, census, economic survey, surveys of cattle, drug addicts, widows, toilets, street lamps etc by various departments at various times. Now the job of making Aadhar cards is also assigned to the anganwadi workers in many states. Even the WCD departments assign them works of different other schemes. The explanation normally given is that these works are to be done after anganwadi time. When the government claims that they are not workers, but part time honorary workers assigning such works and making them mandatory to perform is unjustifiable.

Apart from this they are mobilized as audience for different meetings of Ministers and political leaders of the ruling for which they are asked to come without uniforms.

We request you to kindly issue clear guidelines for not assigning anganwadi workers and helpers in non- ICDS duties. Please also clarify the duties assigned to the anganwadi workers and helpers.

  • Closure/merger of anganwadi centres

In many states anganwadi centres are being closed or merged in various pleas. Anganwadi workers and helpers who have been serving for decades are being retrenched. As directed by the Apex Court, all habitations must have a functional anganwadi centre, irrespective of the number of children.

 We request you to intervene to stop the retrenchment of anganwadi workers and helpers.

  • Inclusion in Right to Education

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, provides for free and compulsory education to all children of the age group of six to fourteen years. However, pre school education has not been incorporated as a Right under the Act. Section 11 of the Act mentions ‘With a view to prepare children above the age of three years for elementary education and to provide early childhood care and education for all children until they complete the age of six years, the appropriate government ‘may’ make necessary arrangement for providing free pre school education for such children’. The word ‘may’ in the section dilutes the concept of Right to preschool education.

We demand that the Act should be suitably amended to make it mandatory to provide preschool education by the government. In view of the important role of ICDS and the anganwadi centres in imparting pre-school education, the anganwadi centres should be designated as nodal centres for the provision of pre-school education to children in the three to six years age group, under the Right to Education Act

  1. Pre-School Centres

In several states, as part of strengthening the pre-school education, the education departments are opening pre-school centres in schools. In some states anganwadi centres are asked to function in schools. Our experience shows that the anganwadi centres functioning in schools functions well. But there are not equal numbers of schools as anganwadi centres. In many states, due to lack of coordination between the departments, additional pre-school centres are opened in schools. Different departments and agencies of the government, like the ITDA, Rural Development, SSA etc are also opening nutrition centres, pre-school education centres etc in the vicinity of the anganwadi centres targeting the same children to provide the same services. This is not only wastage of financial resources but also diverts children from anganwadi centres to these. The anganwadi workers are often harassed and punished for the reduction in the number of children and the anganwadi centres are being closed.

We request you to ensure proper coordination between various departments, particularly the department of Education so that no preschool or nutritional centres should be opened near the anganwadi centres. The different departments/ agencies of the government may spend the funds at their disposal for the improvement in the nutritional and educational status of children and women by strengthening the anganwadi centres.

  • Review of honorarium and other benefits to the anganwadi workers and helpers

The Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women, in its Eighth Report on ‘Working Conditions of Anganwadi Workers’ submitted to the Parliament in 2011 has made some important recommendations to improve the conditions of anganwadi employees. It has recommended

  • That ‘a mechanism should be evolved for periodic review/ revision of their honoraria and benefits like yearly increments and dearness allowance linked with consumer price index’.
  • That anganwadi employees should be extended ESI benefits, if need be, by amending the ESI Act.
  • That retirement age of anganwadi employees should be fixed uniformly all over the country at 60 years and that the central government should set up a special national fund with adequate allocations to provide retirement benefits to the anganwadi employees.

The 45th Indian Labour Conference, the highest tripartite forum on Labour has given recommendations on ‘scheme workers’ including the anganwadi workers and helpers in May 2013 that

  • 1) They should be first recognized as “workers” and not volunteers or honorary workers.
  • 2) They should be paid minimum wages.
  • 3) They should get all social security benefits like pension, gratuity, maternity benefits etc.
  • 4) To begin with, the social security schemes for unorganized workers like Aam Adami Bima Yojana (AABY) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) should be extended to these workers.
  • 5) Anganwadi Centres should be in pucca building in good conditions with all basic amenities. Similarly, for ASHA workers also, suitable working space with basic amenities should be provided.
  • 6) They should have right to organize and collective bargaining
  • 7) Respective Departments should formulate “Employment Standing Order” for these workers to regulate their employment and service conditions (wherever not existing).
  • 8) For Anganwadi Workers & Helpers, who have already retired or retiring in near future, one time gratuity / lump sum payment should be given.
  • 9) Such workers, as are kept on contract basis, should be retained for all such subsequent activities.

We demand that the government of India should take immediate steps to implement the above recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee as well as the 45th ILC.

  • Uniform service rules throughout the country

Although the state governments are asked to give additional ‘honorarium’ to the anganwadi workers and helpers from state share, it is neither uniform nor mandatory. Other benefits and facilities are also varies in different states. Provisions of Promotion for helpers, medical leave, summer/winter holidays, TA in actuals, transfers, etc are to be made uniform. There is no provision for increment for helpers.

We demand that uniform service rules be implemented for the anganwadi workers and helpers throughout the country. Orders for that may be issued immediately.

  • Tripartite Mechanism to address grievances

The government has been making changes in ICDS to ‘strengthening’ it to address the challenges.  ‘Development partners’ like DFID, World Bank etc has been involved in the process. But unfortunately, in spite of repeated demand no representatives of the grass root level implementers of the scheme, the anganwadi workers and helpers were consulted. The many suggestions and apprehensions expressed by us were never considered. Since 2009 no meeting at the national level was held by the department or the minister, with the trade unions of anganwadi employees. The assurance given by Smt. Maneka Gandhi, Honourable Minister for WCD and Shri.V S Oberaoi, the then Secretary, WCD in March 2016 for a meeting with the trade unions is yet to be materialized.

Some announcements of inclusion of anganwadi workers and helpers in ESI and PF had appeared in News recently just before the All India General Strike by the Central Trade Unions. But none of the Trade Union Federations of the anganwadi workers and helpers have been consulted.

Although there is a guideline to have ‘grievance rederessal mechanism’ in ICDS at the district level, including a representative of the anganwadi workers, it is neither constituted not made functional in states.

 We demand that the government should immediately set up a mechanism in the form of a tripartite body comprising representatives of the government of India, state governments and the national federations of anganwadi employees to discuss improvement in the conditions of the anganwadi employees including the above aspects, as well as effective functioning of ICDS. Similarly, the states shall be directed to form state level and district level bipartite mechanisms for better coordination and effective implementation of the scheme.

 We request you to personally intervene to fulfil the above demands of anganwadi employees immediately.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

 Usharani                                                 A R Sindhu

President                                                General Secretary

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