The Ministry of WCD has issued an order on 4th March 2021 to the state governments asking them to complete the downloading of the Poshan Tracker mobile App by the ministry by all anganwadi workers and helpers by 15 March 2021. The order further states “It may be kindly noticed that payment of honorarium of AWWs for the month of March 2021 onwards will be linked to downloading of Poshan Tracker App and expeditious inputting of data by all Anganwadi Workers in States/UTs. Allocation of food grains/funds to states/UTs from first quarter of 2021 onwards will also be based on data of beneficiaries on boarded on Poshan Tracker system.” (Letter no. F.No.PA/41/2021-CPMU (e-91729) dated 4 March 2021 by Ministry of WCD, Poshan Abhiyan). For downloading the App, the worker,(who gets monthly remuneration of Rs.4500/-) must have a mobile phone with android 6 or above.
The government which developed the mobile application a few months back has directed the states and all the anganwadi workers and helpers to download it within ten days and threatens to with hold their wages without even ensuring the disbursement of the mobile phones to the workers. . In most of the states the distribution of mobile phones has not yet completed. In some states it is reported that the mobile phones were distributed to the anganwadi workers a couple of years back and these phones have older versions of android system which are incompatible with the ‘Poshan Tracker App.’ Many of the DPO/CDPO offices are yet to be digitized.
Although the anganwadi workers are asked to upload data online, most of the states are not paying the allowance for the data (rs.200 per month) to the anganwadi workers. Further, in many parts of our country, the mobile connectivity is available or very poor and it is almost impossible to upload data from mobile phones. In states like Himachal Pradesh, the anganwadi workers have to travel kilometers to get internet connectivity to upload data.
The decision by the ministry to link the payment of the anganwadi workers with the downloading of the Poshan Tracker App and to withhold the remuneration of the anganwadi workers from March 2021 is illegal and unethical. Further, the decision to withhold the allotment of funds and food grains from first quarter of 2021 will deprive lakhs of malnourished children of their right to food for none of their fault.
Since the lockdown, the anganwadi centres are not yet fully operational. The anganwadi workers have been fighting the Covid-19 pandemic risking their lives. The non availability of the mobile phones and the non payment for data are not any fault of the anganwadi workers or the beneficiaries. Instead of using the new technologies to reduce the work burden and improve efficiency, using it for penalizing the grass root level workers and beneficiaries is against the interest of the people. Such announcements come from a government which has cut down the budget allocation for ICDS by 30% in spite of thealarming increase in malnutrition and absolute poverty during the Covid pandemic and lockdown.
AIFAWH demands that the Ministry of WCD must withdraw the letter and the decision to link the remuneration (‘honorarium’) of the anganwadi workers and the food grains /fund of ICDS with the functioning of the ‘Poshan Tracker ‘ App immediately.
We also demand that the government must ensure adequate financial allocation for ICDS to improve infrastructure, quality nutrition, proper training etc in addition to the allocation for procurement of mobile phone, mobile data, training, availability of networks etc before fully shifting to the web based reporting system.
AIFAWH warns the government that the anganwadi workers and helpers will take it to the streets in case the government goes ahead with such atrocious moves of penalizing the people for its faults. AIFAWH will organize massive struggles along with the beneficiaries in case the wages of workers and funds for ICDS is withheld.
A R Sindhu