Smt. Smriti Irani
Honourable Minister for WCD
Governemnt of India
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi- 110 001
Sub:- Measures to ensure safety of Anganwadi Workers and food security to the beneficiaries of ICDS during COVID 19 pandemic and the lock down
The world is going through a difficult time with the COVID 19(novel corona) Pandemic. Our country is facing one of the biggest challenges dealing with the pandemic. We all are aware that our ministry along with the health ministry and all the officials and the grass root level workers in the country are making all efforts to deal with this unprecedented situation.
The anganwadi workers and helpers, the frontline workers providing the basic services to the common people, we are all proud to be part of this big fight against this pandemic doing their best in the life saving efforts by various governments.
In almost all the states the anganwadi workers and helpers are engaged in door to door supply of supplementary nutrition, campaign for safety measures, tracking those who came from affected countries, doing public surveys and now finding out even the migrant workers and hungry during the COVID19 epidemic and lock down.
But, it is alarming that barring a few, in no state, the anganwadi workers and helpers are not provided with any proper training, any equipments for safety, including masks, gloves and sanitisers. They are even asked to purchase hand sanitisers and masks out of their pockets. You may also agree that it is not possible or advisable to move out of their homes without proper safety equipments. In some states like Bihar, there were incidents that the workers were beaten up while going out on duty.
It is unfortunate that even the announcement for insurance coverage for the frontline workers, by the Finance Minister do not cover the anganwadi workers.
Now, in many states the anganwadi workers are asked to provide the bank and Aadhar details of the beneficiaries, that too by door to door survey for cash transfers. You may also agree that cash transfers in place of the food supply will adversely affect the very purpose of the ICDS combating malnutrition and sabotage the food security act. In the areas where high levels of malnutrition exist, like tribal hamlets, people do not have bank accounts, banking facilities and access to purchase of food grains. The already alarming situation of malnutrition and hunger deaths will further worsen by this move.
All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH), the trade union federation representing more than five lakhs anganwadi workers and helpers from 24 states, feels that this callous attitude of various governments will not only risk the lives of nearly 26 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers but will also put the lives of crores of people in danger.
In this situation, we demand
- The Supplementary Nutrition must be given as food items (food grains, pulses, oil, jiggery, dry fruits, eggs etc) in adequate quantity, for all the beneficiaries during the period of lock down. The anganwadi workers and helpers may distribute it to the beneficiaries
- All the workers engaged in community services must be provided with protective measurers comprising of masks, gloves, full cover suits, hand sanitizers and soap etc.
- All the anganwadi workers/helpers must be given proper training before being sent to conduct surveys etc.
- Pending wages and all allowances of anganwadi workers and helpers must be released immediately (as in many states wages etc from 2-6 months are pending) and ensure regular payment of wages.
- Insurance coverage of Rs.50 lakhs as announced by the FM, to all anganwadi workers engaged in outdoor activities during lock down. Extra payment/incentives must be given for this high risk work, pending their regularisation.
While appreciating their work and contribution, you may also agree that it is the responsibility of the government to ensure proper payment, health and safety of these poorly paid health workers and their families.
We hope that you will intervene personally in the matter and issue necessary guidance to the states to ensure that the above measures are taken immediately, in order to deal more effectively with the corona virus epidemic.
A R Sindhu