Smt Nirmala Sitaraman
Honorable Finance Minister
Government of India
Sub:- On Adequate Allocation for ICDS in the annual Budget 2021-22; Providing safety, minimum wages and Pension to anganwadi workers and helpers
As you are aware, malnutrition, especially among our children is one of the biggest challenges our country is facing. The recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) data shows alarming indications of an increase in malnutrition in the period 2014-19 with nearly half of our children anemic, stunted, wasted and underweight. The pandemic and lockdown had made the situation worsen with job and income losses, unemployment etc. UNICEF has warned that India will lose an additional three lakh children under five years in the next six months, due to poverty, hunger and malnutrition if this issue is urgently addressed. This is in addition to the nearly 8.8 lakh under fives who die every year.
It is an urgent need that our country which aims at becoming $5 trillion economy in the next few years has to urgently intervene to save the future generation. The first and foremost step in this direction is to strengthen the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, the flagship programme of Government of India. The Scheme was deprived of adequate financial allocation in the past. The budget allocation ICDS, especially for the Supplementary Nutrition Programme (SNP) during the 12th Five year plan period was less than half of the Plan proposal.
It is a matter of great concern that the previous budgets of NDA I and NDA II governments had not even taken care of the necessary requirements for the increased allocations for SNP and the increase in remuneration of the anganwadi workers and helpers announced by the government. This has created a situation where the supply of ration in anganwadi centre is very poor in quality and quantity and in many places the supply does not reach for months together. It is a pity that even during the pandemic the SNP in anganwadis was not increased. In many states the meager amount of remuneration is not paid for months together.
As you must have noticed during this challenging time, that the basic services schemes such as ICDS, MDMS and NHM are saving the lives of the people to a great extent and the scheme workers including the anganwadi, ASHA and MDM workers who are around sixty lakhs in number and almost all women are the most reliable force extending basic services and fighting the pandemic and poverty even risking our own lives without any safety measures.
It is a national shame that your government is not ready to recognize us as workers yet. It is high time that these schemes be made permanent and the 45th ILC recommendations of recognizing the scheme workers as workers and pay minimum wages, social security and pension. Even during the pandemic period, the workers are getting retrenched without any pension in states like UP, WB etc.
We, the nearly 26 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers are shocked that at a time when the necessity to make the public services schemes permanent, Corporate business houses, in the name of CSR, are being invited by the government to involve even in policy making on ICDS, thus making it from a right based to charity based scheme.
In this circumstance, we Demand adequate allocation for ICDS in the budget 2021-22 to ensure
- Adequate financial allocation to make the ICDS permanent with proper infrastructure and good quality nutrition in increased quantity to address the present malnutrition crisis.
- Convert all Mini centres to Full Centres; Strengthen the ECCE in anganwadis. No pre- school attached to schools
- Regularise anganwadi workers and helpers as workers, Pay minimum wages Rs.30,000pm to workers and Rs.21000 to Helpers; Equal wages to Mini Workers; Provide Pension, ESI, PF etc as per the recommendations of 45th and 46th ILC
- Payment for Covid duties with retrospective effect – allowance for safety measurers, Rs 50 lakhs insurance cover, compensation of Rs.10 lakhs for all those who got infected, family insurance and coverage of treatment for Covid-19 for the entire family.
- Immediate payment of all dues of remuneration, allowances, rent etc.
- No retrenchment till pension, exgratia and other social security measures are ensured.
- No privatisation in any form; NO corporate involvement in ICDS in the name of CSR. No Cash Transfers in ICDS.
- Ensure food, healthcare, education, income, jobs and shelter to all
- Withdraw the Labour Codes and Farm Acts
We hope that you will personally intervene in the matter and ensure these demands are met.
A R Sindhu
Copy to:- Smt. Smriti Irani, Minister for WCD, Government of India