People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 39

September 27, 2009

Onto The Sixth All India Conference of AIFAWH


K Hemalata


THE sixth conference of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) will be held on October 9 � 12, 2009 in Chandigarh.  The Anganwadi Mulajam Union, Punjab with the help of the Punjab state committee of CITU is making all the necessary arrangements for holding the conference. A reception committee with the former additional solicitor general, Amarjeet Singh as the chairman has been formed and is overseeing the preparations.


It is to be recalled that the Anganwadi Mulajam Union, Punjab suffered a serious set back only three years back due to the disruptive activities of its former president. But with the help and support of the Punjab state committee of CITU and the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, the Union has been able to overcome the set back and regain lost ground. It has now established itself as the largest and most active organisation of the anganwadi employees in the state. It is with this confidence that it has offered to host the sixth conference of AIFAWH.


Hundreds of members of Anganwadi Mulajam Union, Punjab are already actively involved in collecting funds, distributing leaflets, pasting posters, holding group meetings of anganwadi employees in different projects and meeting people to explain about the importance of ICDS, the struggles of AIFAWH to save ICDS and protect and improve the working conditions of the anganwadi employees and seek their support. They are receiving very encouraging response not only from the anganwadi employees, but from the people of Punjab as well.


The venue of the conference located in Bhakna Bhawan in Chandigarh, will be named after Ahilya Rangnekar, veteran leader of the masses, former vice president of CITU and president of the Maharashtra state committee of the Anganwadi Karmachari Sangathana. The dais will be named after Saroj Vasisht, a young trade union leader of Haryana who organised the anganwadi employees in the state and was killed along with her small daughter, by her husband who was jealous of her rising popularity.


The conference will start with a massive procession and rally in Chandigarh on October 9 in which more than 20,000 anganwadi employees from Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh are expected to participate. Mohammed Amin, general secretary of CITU along with the leaders of AIFAWH, Punjab state committee of CITU and Anganwadi Mulajam Union will address the rally, which will be presided over by Neelima Maitra, president of AIFAWH.

The conference will be inaugurated by Mohammed Amin. More than 600 delegates and observers from 23 states in the country, representing more than 3.87 lakh members, are expected to participate in the conference. Kanai Bannerjee, secretary of CITU who has been associated with AIFAWH since the last many years, will participate in the conference.


Though most of the anganwadi employees are educated, they find it difficult to follow the reports and documents in English. Hence it has been decided to print all the drafts of the conference in English and Hindi. Besides, for the benefit of the delegates from non Hindi speaking states, the drafts have been sent to the state committees for translation into local languages and distribution to the delegates for better participation in the deliberations.


The discussions will focus on the state of the Integrated Child Development Services programme, the conditions of the anganwadi employees in the country, the struggles launched by the AIFAWH and its affiliated unions in different states and the experiences.





The fifth conference of AIFAWH has called for intensifying the struggles and strengthening the organisation. It has directed all the state committees to link up Sangharsh, Siksha and Sangathan in their activities and to concentrate on developing conscious, committed and capable cadres to strengthen the organisation.


The AIFAWH tried to implement these directions of the last conference during this period with a special focus on the Hindi speaking states. Several big campaigns and struggles were organised in the intervening period with large mobilisations of anganwadi employees, both at the national level as well as in the states. The Federation tried to highlight the importance of ICDS in ensuring the rights of the children for food, health and education. It has made efforts to develop a broader movement by involving the beneficiaries in the struggle to universalise the ICDS. It has collected more than two crore signatures, mostly from the beneficiaries, on a memorandum to the prime minister demanding universalisation of ICDS, opposing its privatisation and improvement of the conditions of anganwadi employees. A joint national convention followed by state level conventions were held opposing privatisation of ICDS. More than two lakh booklets were printed and distributed in different languages to create awareness among the people on the need to save ICDS.



The ten day mass relay hunger strike in which thousands of anganwadi employees sat through day and night at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, braving first the incessant rains and later scorching heat, organised in 2006 by the Federation inspired the anganwadi employees throughout the country. Thousands of anganwadi employees marched to the parliament and courted arrest in 2007; thousands in red and white uniform marched again in 2008 on a mass deputation to the prime minister.


In addition to these national level struggles, thousands of anganwadi employees in almost all the states participated in big struggles organised by the state committees of AIFAWH. In many states including Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Punjab and others they had to face severe attacks by the police including lathi charge, arrests, implication in false cases, victimisation by the officers and the government, while participating in the struggles on their demands. Because of the sustained struggles, the state governments were forced to agree to some of the demands including increase in the remuneration, provision of some welfare benefits etc. But most important, these struggles created confidence among the anganwadi employees on their united strength and enhanced their self respect. Today, in many states, the unions affiliated to AIFAWH have earned the recognition as fighting organisations of the anganwadi employees.


AIFAWH also tried to strengthen the struggle against the anti people policies of the government by involving the anganwadi employees in the campaigns and struggles of CITU and the joint trade union movement. Anganwadi employees participated in the campaigns and struggles including the all India strike organised by CITU on the demands of unorganised workers. Recently many anganwadi employees in Karnataka were lathi charged and kept in jail for several days when they participated in the demonstrations on the demands of unorganised workers. Their participation in all the all India general strikes organised by the Sponsoring Committee of Trade Unions has been massive. 





Because of these efforts, the membership and influence of AIFAWH has been increasing. The membership of the Federation has increased by more than 68 per cent since the last conference with almost all the states, particularly the Hindi speaking states registering an impressive increase in the membership. Even in states like Punjab and Haryana where the state committees had to face disruption of the Unions were able to recover from the set backs and advance. In Chattisgarh and Gujarat two independent unions of anganwadi employees with state wide membership have joined AIFAWH. Because of the sustained growth in the organisation in the Hindi speaking states, the imbalance in the movement in the country is slowly coming down. The total membership in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, which was more than 73 per cent of the total membership around a decade ago has come down to 49.26 per cent in 2008. The proportion of the membership in the Hindi speaking states out of the total membership has increased to more than 26 per cent.


At the same time, many of anganwadi employees who participate in the activities are not enrolled as members due to the organisational weakness. The consciousness of the activists in most of the states is very low, even as their commitment to the organisation is high. Unless their consciousness is raised, this commitment cannot be sustained.


Even though AIFAWH is undoubtedly the most active organisation of the anganwadi employees in the country, the membership constitutes only around 19.5 per cent of the total anganwadi employees in the country. There is severe lack of cadres in many states. The decision to reorient the work of the Federation and its state committees to be able to utilise the existing opportunities and expand the organisation, could not be fully carried out.


The experiences of the Federation and its state committees in implementing the direction of the fifth conference will be discussed in depth in the Chandigarh conference, in an effort to draw proper lessons and formulate the future tasks of the Federation.


The conference will also discuss four important issues � �ICDS � Making Results Meet Expectations�, �Social Security Benefits for Anganwadi Employees�, �ICDS IV�, and �Democratic Functioning� � in four commissions, in each of which around 150 delegates are expected to participate.


A Seminar on �ICDS and Human Development� will be organised on  October 10 in which Brinda Karat, Politburo member of CPI (M) and member of the parliamentary standing committee on human development, Tapan Sen, secretary of CITU and Prabhat Patnaik, deputy chairman of the state planning board of Kerala will participate. The seminar will be presided over by Neelima Maitra. On October 11, a book on the major struggles launched by AIFAWH and its affiliated unions in different states and the achievements along with the relevant government orders will be released by Andre Bogui, deputy director of ILO sub regional office for South Asia in New Delhi.


A photo exhibition of the struggles conducted by the different state committees of AIFAWH will also be organised at the venue. M K Pandhe, president of CITU will conclude the conference on October 12.