Burn the copies of the order on 9 April 2021
Throughout the country, from second week of March, the anganwadi workers were asked by supervisors/CDPOs to download a mobile application ‘Poshan Tracker’ in their mobile phones and upload all the information in it within few days. They are threatened that they will not get their wages from April, in case they fail. Those who are not given android phones by the government were asked to get one by their own immediately. Those who were given mobile phones of older versions of android in 2017/2018 also were asked to get it new ones by their own for it. Anganwadi workers throughout the country are agitated against this.
Why this sudden hue and cry
The workers are wondering that during the resurgence of Corona pandemic, why this sudden hue and cry about the new mobile application?
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).
Is there any justification for such an ultimatum?
No! The government started the process of digitization of reporting system through ‘Poshan Abhiyan’ or national nutrition mission during 2017-18 in selected districts. The reporting system was through another mobile application called CAS- and it was not implemented in all the districts. The government has developed a new mobile application ‘Poshan Tracker’ in January 2021. It will work only in a mobile phone with android 6 or above. Even the direction for procurement of mobile, sim card, arrangement of data pack etc were given to states only in the last two months. The process of procurement and distribution of mobile phones have not yet started in many states yet.
In such a situation, the ministry of WCD has issued this order on 4th March making it compulsory to download the application within 10 days! The order says that it will withhold the wages of the angnawadi workers and the food grain/fund to the beneficiaries of ICDS, the malnourished children and women. This is illegal and unethical and must be opposed tooth and nail.
What is the situation where mobile phones are made available to the workers?
In some states in some districts, the mobile phones were distributed as early as 2017/18. CAS mobile app was being used for online reporting. The mobile phones procured without transparent tender system in many districts/states had complaints from the beginning. Now many are not functioning. There is no direction for replacing those phones. Even in many districts where mobile was distributed the amount for data was never paid to the anganwadi workers.
In many districts in our country, where there is severe malnutrition exists, like tribal areas in many states there is no network available. In states like Himachal Pradesh workers have to travel kilometers to upload reports online.
The app is not compatible with many old versions (less than android 6) of mobile phones. It is having many features and is taking much space in the mobile and cannot be downloaded and made operational in mobiles in common usage.
The App is totally in English and all the records are maintained in the anganwadi centres are in local languages. It is not only necessary for the anganwadi workers but also for the local community to monitor the progress as envisaged in the ICDS to have the records in local languages.
No network/poor connectivity, inadequate data plan, no time for training
As of now, in almost all the districts, despite the mobile distribution is not done, workers are asked to upload reports/photos of programmes like ‘Poshan Mah’ The workers have been paying from their pockets for the mobile phones, its maintenance as well as for the data.
Rs.200 per month amount allotted for data plan is inadequate where workers are asked to upload scores of photos each day. It is also not paid in most of the states.
In many states already the entire data is in the CAS application. The data already available cannot be transferred to the new programme/ application. No one knows what has been wrong with the existing reporting system. The CDPO office or the supervisory mechanisms are not made in place before and new application is imposed on the workers.
Aadhar, data security and targeting
There are a lot of other problems related to the reporting system the workers face. There was no time given for proper training to the workers, supervisors and CDPOs for this app. Workers are asked to take the help of children, neighbours or anyone to get the data uploaded in time. In many states there were cases of online fraud of beneficiaries. In Punjab, Uttarakhand etc the money paid to the account of mothers under PMMVY was taken from their accounts in the pretext of account verification.
The information of all teenagers is also being collected. Many beneficiaries refuse to give their aadhaar number and account details without any benefit.
During the pandemic, all the children including the children of migrant labourers were provided with supplementary nutrition. Now, the online data sinking depends on their documents including Aadhaar number, without which the services will not be available to them. This will deprive many beneficiaries of the service from anganwadi centres.
This reporting system needs at least a tablet, if not a computer for an effective reporting and monitoring of the progress of each child and mother.
The entire programme is designed in such a way to centrally monitor the activities through the DMs bypassing the state governments/departments and departmental monitoring system. The punitive measures are taken directly like withholding the salary, without even seeking an explanation. This is against federal structure of our country.
Why to punish anganwadi workers and beneficiaries
Since the lockdown, the anganwadi centres are not yet fully operational. But 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.
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.
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 atrocious. Such moves will lead to issues like targeting and ultimate dismantling of ICDS.
Such announcements come from a government which has cut down the budget allocation for ICDS by 30% in spite of the alarming increase in malnutrition and absolute poverty during the Covid pandemic and lockdown. This is nothing but another move to dismantle ICDS.
AIFAWH demanded 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 not tolerate such tughlaquian experiments with the future of our children and livelihood of lakhs of anganwadi workers. We will observe national protest week from 2-9 April 2021. AIFAWH will burn the copies of the order on 9 April 2021.
Come, let us make this anti people Modi government realize we are not slaves and we will defeat such anti worker moves.
In case the government does not withdraw the order and if the wages of workers and funds for ICDS is withheld, we will be forced to intensify our struggles along with beneficiaries, in higher form including strike.