Thousands of anganwadi workers and helpers came out on streets observing “All India Demands Day’ demanding safety gear, insurance and risk allowance for Covid- 19 duty, stop exclusion of beneficiaries and harassment of the workers in the name of digitization and ‘Poshan Tracker’ mobile App, and most importantly, increased allocation for ICDS especially for nutrition along with the basic demands of recognition as workers, minimum wages and pension and social security, today on 12 of July 2021, at the call of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH). AIFAWH observes Demands Day every year on 10 July, but 10 July being second Saturday this year it was observed on 12 July.
Anganwadi workers and helpers from 21 states – Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh observed “All India Demands’ Day” at the call of AIFAWH today. West Bengal observed the demands day on 9th July and Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu observed it on 10 July. In Himachal Pradesh due to heavy rain workers could not gather in large number at bloc/district headquarters but they protested taking placards on demands locally. In Gujarat, the administration and police unleashed repression on the workers since the announcement of the programme. Several leaders of the union in Gujarat were put under house arrest. In spite of that hundreds of workers came out on streets and registered their protest. The programme could not be observed in Pondicherry due to Lockdown and will observe it later.
In spite of the threat by the authorities, the anganwadi workers and helpers who educate the public on the safety measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, in very disciplined manner, keeping all norms of physical distancing, observed the Demands’ Day at project/ district headquarters. In many states the unions observed it as ‘Protest Day’(Virodh Diwas). In some states the workers were in red uniform and in a few states they were wearing black dress as a symbol of protest. They have submitted memorandum to the Prime Minister and WCD Minister through the local authorities.
In addition to the duty of going door to door taking the supplementary nutrition to each beneficiary at their doorsteps, they are fully engaged in covid 19 related duties – conducting surveys of patients, taking them to hospitals, monitoring the patients at home and in the quarantine centres, taking social security and pension to the old and needy etc. But the government is not providing any safety gear to the workers; no they are covered under any insurance scheme. They are not even recognized as ‘frontline workers’. or given any risk allowance. A large number of anganwadi workers have succumbed to Covid -19 pandemic doing Covid duty in various states, but no compensation is paid to the families yet.
When there is an increase in the malnutrition the government has cut down the ICDS budget by 30% in this year (2021-22). By introducing a mobile app ‘Poshan tracker’ they are threatening to stop the nutrition to the beneficiaries and wages of the workers without even providing mobile phones, data pack or net connectivity. In the name of New Education Policy 2020, the government is opening pre-schools in schools, thereby dismantling the integrated approach of ICDS. These issues have added to the anger of the workers who are already overburdened and poorly paid. This was reflected in the increased mobilization throughout the country, in spite of the restrictions.
AIFAWH Congratulates all the state unions and all the anganwadi workers and helpers for the grand success of the protest by visible mobilisations. AIFAWH calls upon all the anganwadi workers and helpers to prepare for heightened struggles including multiple days strike against this anti people anti national Modi government, which is not only dismantling the ICDS but ruining the entire country.
A R Sindhu
The Demands of the protest
- Ensure the safety of anganwadi workers and helpers engaged in Covid19 related duty. Adequate PPE kits, masks, gloves, soaps and sanitisers to be provided to all. Ensure that all the workers are vaccinated. There should be random check up for Covid for all frontline workers on duty. Free treatment for frontline workers.
- Include all anganwadi workers and helpers on Covid duty in Life Insurance coverage of Rs.50 lakhs. Immediate payment of Rs 50 lakhs to the families of all anganwadi workers and helpers died during Covid duty(irrespective of certificates). Compensation of Rs.10 lakhs for infection. Ensure risk allowance of Rs.10000 per month and extra pay for extra work
- The Supplementary Nutrition must be given as food items (food grains, pulses, oil, jiggery, dry fruits, eggs etc) in adequate quantity, for all the beneficiaries for next six months. Adequate budget for implementation. Nutri-garden should not be the responsibility of anganwadi workers or helpers.
- All Pending wages and all allowances of anganwadi workers and helpers must be released immediately (as in many states wages etc from 2-6 months are pending) and ensure regular payment of wages.
- No linking of the wages of anganwadi workers and helpers and allocation for nutrition of beneficiaries to ‘Poshan Tracker’ app. Release the wages immediately. Ensure adequate infrastructure before digitization of ICDS.
- No merger of anganwadis or merger with schools. Strengthen ICDS and implement ECCE policy.
- Make ICDS permanent. Regularise anganwadi workers as workers, pay them minimum wages Rs.21000 per month and pension as per the recommendation of 45th ILC.