Smt. Smriti Irani
Honourable Minister for WCD
Government of India
Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi- 110 001
Sub:- Measures to ensure safety and protection of Anganwadi Workers and helpers
Ref:- Our Letter dated 27 March 2020, 12 April 2020
This letter is in continuation to our earlier letter dated 27 March 2020 and 12 April 2020 on issues of safety of anganwadi workers and helpers.
As we have apprehended in our previous letters, our worst fears are coming true and cases of Covid infection and on duty deaths of anganwadi workers and helpers are coming in large numbers from all over the country.
As we were sending this letter, Smt. Gayatri Sharma, anganwadi worker from Belaganj, Gaya, Bihar collapsed and died in a Quarantine centre where she was on duty monitoring Covid-19 patients. She is not the only one anganwadi worker who had sacrificed her life to the cause of fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. We got news of such deaths of anganwadi workers while on duty from Bhilwada, Rajasthan, from Debalpur, Indore, Madhya Pradesh, from Saharanpur, UP, from Chhatra, Jharkhand. It is shocking that in none of these cases postmortem and the tests for Covid was not done and no compensation was given to their families.
In most of the states anganwadi workers and helpers are given duty for extensive surveys and monitoring of the Covid patients and people in quarantine in both red containment zones. As we have pointed out in our earlier letters, in most of the states, the anganwadi workers and helpers are not provided with proper training, any equipment for safety, including masks, gloves and sanitisers. They are even asked to purchase hand sanitisers and masks out of their pockets.
Your ministry directive No.F.No.13/5/2020- CD-II dated 30 March 2020 which have some broad directions on engaging the anganwadi workers and helpers in Covid related duties proved to be pathetically inadequate to provide safety to these frontline ‘Corona Warriors’ who have not even been mentioned by the Governments.
Many cases of workers being infected of Covid-19 while on duty are also coming from different parts of the country. Four anganwadi workers tested of Covid-19 in Jind, Haryana. All of them were sent for surveys without proper training or protective gears, in a village where one person was tested positive.
We have also got cases of Covid infection from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan etc.
Apart from getting the deadly disease, they and their families are being stigmatized and attacked by local miscreants as ‘carriers of corona’. Many anganwadi workers had to be hospitalized due to such attacks. (Some cases we have already written to you).In almost all the states the workers and helpers are now deputed in door to door surveys and monitoring as members of the grass root level committees, but there is no provision for protective gears.
In spite of our continuous communications, it is unfortunate that the Ministry of Women and Child Development has not yet taken any measure to ensure that the anganwadi workers and helpers who are deputed in Covid-19 related duties are provided with safety gear, in case they are infected, theirs and their family’s treatment and quarantine expenses are borne by the government and they are adequately compensated for the trauma and loss. It highly insensitive and irresponsible that even the families of those who lost their lives where not paid the assured sum of Rs.50 lakhs.
It is also to be noted that in many states the wages, payment for supplementary nutrition, rent etc are pending since 3-18 months and in spite of this the anganwadi workers and helpers are doing their duty to the humanity without fail. We are sorry to say that the Ministry has failed its grass root workers and is fully responsible to create a situation which force the workers and their unions to raise their voice even during this pandemic.
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, again urge you to intervene urgently, issue orders and disburse resources to ensure that
- All the workers engaged in community services must be provided with protective measurers comprising of N 95 masks, gloves, full cover suits, hand sanitizers and soap etc. To all those who are asked to monitor covid patients and those who have assigned duty in containment and red zones must be given full cover PPEs.
- Frequent, random and free covid test to all frontline workers
- Rs Fifty lakhs insurance cover to all frontline workers covering all deaths on duty; also coverage of treatment for Covid-19 for the entire family.
- Additional incentive of Rs.25,000 per month for all the contract and scheme workers engaged in Covid -19 duty
- Compensation of minimum Rupees Five lakhs for all those who got infected while on duty
- Ensure security/protection of the field workers including anganwadi workers engaged in surveys, awareness etc.
- All the anganwadi workers/helpers must be given proper training before being sent to conduct surveys etc.
- Pending wages, allowances, rent and other payments of anganwadi workers and helpers must be released immediately and ensure regular payment of wages.
- The Supplementary Nutrition must be given as food items (food grains, pulses, oil, jiggery, dry fruits, eggs etc) in adequate quantity (at least double the normal ration) for all the beneficiaries during the period of lock down. The anganwadi workers and helpers must be given facilities for transportation etc for distribution
- Free ration /food for all the needy :Rs.7500 per month for all non taxpaying families
- Strengthen the public health system; allocate 5% of GDP for health sector; withdraw proposals for privatization; Enact right to universal healthcare legislation
We also urge you to immediately organize online meeting with all trade union federations of anganwadi employees to discuss different problems faced by the workers and helpers.
It is unfortunate that your office has failed to even acknowledge the memoranda sent by AIFAWH.
Expecting an early reply,
A R Sindhu