Massive Rally of Anganwadi Employees in Gujarat
A huge rally of anganwadi employees was organised by ‘Gujarat Anganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana’, an affiliate of the AIFAWH, in Ahmedabad on 17th December 2009. More than five thousand anganwadi employees from all the districts in the state participated in a procession that started from Astodia and, marching through the main streets in the city, culminated in a public meeting in Sardarbag. Such a mobilisation of anganwadi employees on their demands was unprecedented in the state and greatly enthused the participants.
The BJP state government headed by Narendra Modi tried all tricks to scuttle the rally and even used force to prevent the participants from reaching Ahmedabad. But the determined anganwadi employees foiled all these attempts and reached the city in large numbers.
Neelima Maitra, president of AIFAWH, Chandu Bhai Lakhani, president and Arun Mehta, advisory board member of the union, participated in the procession and addressed the public meeting. Two former chief ministers of Gujarat, Suresh Mehta and Sankar Sinh Waghela, a former minister Chandrikaben Chudasama, also participated in the rally.
Neelima Maitra pointed out that nutritional development of women and children in the country was the primary necessity of the country; yet the government has not made the ICDS a permanent service. Even after 34 years of being in existence, it has not yet been universalised. She said that it was a shame that even after working for decades the anganwadi workers and helpers were not being recognised as government employees. As per the directives of the World Bank, the government was privatising ICDS and taking measures that would lead to its dismantling. She asserted that the anganwadi employees all over the country were determined to defeat privatisation and dismantling of ICDS and assured that the AIFAWH would raise the issues of the anganwadi employees in Gujarat at the national level.
Chandu Bhai Lakhani demanded that the Gujarat government immediately implement the retirement benefits of Rs 1 lakh to the anganwadi workers and Rs 75,000 to the helpers, as declared earlier, and to raise the proposed retirement age to sixty five years. He also demanded wage grades to those who have been promoted as supervisors, withdrawal of the additional jobs given by the state government to the anganwadi workers etc. He warned the government that if these genuine demands were not met, the union would further intensify the agitation.
Arun Mehta called upon the anganwadi employees to no longer remain ‘Yashomati maatas’ of Lord Krishna, but to become ‘Jhansi ki Ranis’ to fight against the injustices of the government. He advised the government that instead of trying to suppress the movement of the anganwadi employees, it should redress all their grievances.
All the other speakers extended their support to the just struggle of the anganwadi employees in Gujarat.