Andhra Pradesh Anganwadi Workers and Helpers’ Union
Andhra Pradesh Anganwadi Workers and Helpers’ Union affiliated to AIFAWH has a long history of militant struggles not only to protect the interests of the anganwadi employees in the state but also to save the ICDS from attempts to privatise it.
In a latest move to hand over the anganwadi centres to the Panchayats, the Congress government in the state issued a Government Order meant to entrust the supervision and implementation of all the schemes related to women and child welfare to the Panchayats. The state government also ordered that the anganwadi centres should be open from 9.00 AM to 3.30 PM without any commensurate increase in the remuneration to the anganwadi employees; no provision was made to ensure that children who stay in the anganwadi centre for more than six hours do not go hungry. The concerned GOs also provided scope for harassment and arbitrary actions against the anganwadi employees at the instance of the panchayats. They also increased the job insecurity of the anganwadi employees.
There was huge discontent among the employees against these GOs. The state committee of the union decided to launch struggle demanding withdrawal of these GOs.
Immediately after the GOs were issued, harassment of anganwadi employees by the Panchayat presidents, ward members etc has started. As the funds allotted to ICDS are given to the panchayats, some of the Panchayat presidents and members and the local vested interests hoped to exercise control over the anganwadi employees. An incident in Krishna district makes their attitude clear. Soon after the release of the GO, a relative of the Panchayat president in a village ordered the anganwadi helper to come to his house to clean fish saying that ‘now that the anganwadi centres have been handed over to the Panchayats, the anganwadi workers and helpers have to abide by their orders.’
State committee has circulated the copies of the GOs along with their implication to all the district committees, on the second day of the issue of the GOs. Dharnas were organised in all the project headquarters in the first week of November and memoranda were submitted to the CDPOs demanding scrapping of the GOs. A memorandum was also submitted to the Chief Minister, the Minister for Women and Child Welfare, the Principal Secretary, and the Director, Women and Child Welfare.
As the state government completely ignored these memoranda, the state committee decided to intensify the struggle. On 30th November, the Directorate of Women and Child Welfare and all the district collectorates were picketed.
After this, the state government made a few changes in one of the GOs but the other was retained as it was. The state conference of the Union, which was held in December 2008, reviewed the struggle and gave a call for a 3 day strike from 19th to 21st January 2009. The new state committee has put all the efforts for the success of the three day strike action.
The state centre sent letters to all the sector leaders to make the strike action a great success. A letter was submitted to all the people’s representatives of local bodies highlighting how the state government was shifting the responsibilities without providing adequate funds to the local bodies and how the functioning of the anganwadi centres and the anganwadi employees would be adversely affected by the government decision. Memoranda were submitted to all the political parties, leaders of all the legislature parties and to the MLA’s irrespective of their political parties. The Union also wrote letters to all the trade unions and mass organisations seeking their support to the three day strike. Leaflets, posters, pamphlets etc were distributed in all the project centres. Press meets were organised in many centres. Separate letters were sent to the mothers’ of the beneficiaries. The Union leadership met the Chief Minister three times and submitted memoranda. The Union made serious efforts to create an atmosphere in favour of the strike action.
19th -21st January 2009 State wide Strike
As a result of the serious preparations, the three day strike action was a grand success. The sector committees conducted the campaign in various innovative forms; for example, in some projects, to highlight the insensitivity of the state government, memoranda were submitted to buffaloes. Out of the total 385 projects in the state, the strike was total in 381 projects and partial in 2 projects. The participation increased with each passing day of the 3 day strike. On the first day, 78,208 anganwadi employees in 1,045 mandals (equivalent to sector) participated in the rallies; it went up to 90,000 anganwadi employees in 1,073 mandals on the second day and to 97,000 in 1,094 mandals on the third day.
The three day strike had a major impact on the state government. The state government tried different methods to disrupt the strike action. It has fixed the dates of training programmes on the same days; the officers issued memos to the absentees; they threatened the anganwadi employees of disciplinary action if they do not attend the training. But, all these attempts proved futile and the anganwadi employees stood unitedly and made the strike a grand success.
Unable to disrupt the strike, the state government tried to pacify the anganwadi employees by making a few changes in the other GO as well. But the Union declared that the struggle would continue till the state government withdrew the two GOs. The Union gave the call for ‘Chalo Assembly’ on 9th February 2009.
Vigorous campaign was made by the Union for the success of the 9th February “Chalo Assembly” during assembly session. It again wrote letters to the local body representatives, sector leaders, MLAs, trade unions, mass organisations and political parties. More than a lakh leaflets were distributed among the anganwadi employees. Around 10,000 anganwadi employees from all over the state participated in the “Chalo Assembly” Programme. 3,000 more were stranded in the Warangal railway station due to the late running of the trains. A delegation of the Union submitted a memorandum to the Chief Minister.
This time too the state government vigorously tried to disrupt the “Chalo Assembly” programme. Police arrested large numbers of anganwadi employees in Srikakulam, East Godavari, Anantapur, Adilabad and Nizamabad districts. They tried to forcibly remove the anganwadi employees from the trains in many places. But, wherever they were forcibly removed from the trains, the anganwadi employees conducted dharnas and blocked their movement and got back into the train.
The Government was thus forced to suspend the implementation of all these GOs on the day itself. The “Chalo Assembly” programme was converted into a victory rally.
The Union decided to take up a wide campaign among the workers on the success of the struggle and the importance of unity of the workers. It is planning utilise this victory for further consolidation of the organisation.