People's Democracy

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


No. 50

December 12, 2010




Anganwadi Workers Fight to Save ICDS


S Varalakhsmi


AIMED at opposing the new pension policy for Anganwadi workers and the scheme for serving ready food at Anganwadis, the Anganwadi workers’ strike starting November 15 has been successful in many centres, with thousands of workers participating in the action. It scored an unprecedented success in Bangalore, the state capital.


The Anganwadi workers feel that the state government's move to introduce ready food to be served in Anganwadi centres would nullify the very concept and purpose of the ICDS.  According to experts, fresh food prepared locally at the Anganwadi is not only more nutritious but also increases the student attendance. Recently, a discussion programme involving intellectuals, analysts and members from the Anganwadi workers’ organisation unanimously concluded that ready food is unhealthy. But the state government ignored all such advices and wants to continue with its mediocre move that would lead to a loss of nutritious food for poor children. Though ready food is already being served at some Anganwadis, it hasn't been able to attract students and there are many who absent themselves from the centres. Pregnant women have stopped taking this food. But the government still insists on continuing with ready food project worth Rs 700 crore that has not benefited anyone and its recklessness is adversely affecting the nutrition situation of the already undernourished poor people.


Another issue agitating the Anganwadi workers and helpers is that of a pension scheme. According to article 43 of the constitution, a person must be provided with pension in recognition of her/his service after (s)he retires from service. But, this has not been applicable to the Anganwadi employees, many of whom have been working for the past 35 years. Retirement pension is no alms given to the poor; but it is a constitutional right. But even after many rounds of talks with the government, there has been no solution to this problem. At one point it was agreed that employees would save an amount of Rs 33 crore, the government would contribute the rest, and thus would be created a fund for providing retirement pension to the ICDS employees. Though the government agreed to this idea, it has so far not implemented it.


Apart from the Anganwadi duties, the government has been imposing upon the workers many other works pertaining to new projects like the Bhagyalakshmi scheme or NRHM, without giving even a minimum honorarium. On the other hand, the government has been refusing to increase the wages. Employees in Pondicherry are paid Rs 13,000 and assistants Rs 11,000. In states like Tamilnadu, Tripura, Haryana and Uttarakhand, wages up to Rs 4,500 is paid. But the ICDS employees in Karnataka are being cheated by the government that pays them a pittance of only Rs 2,500. The demand of a minimum wage of Rs 6,000 remains unfulfilled even after years of struggle.


At the call of the organisation, about 25,000 workers from all regions of the state gathered in Bangalore and their protest continued day and night, for four long days, even under heavy rains. Leader of the opposition in the state, Siddaramayya, expressed complete support to their demands. On behalf of the state government, its minister for fisheries Krishna Palemar addressed the workers and admitted that their demands were reasonable.


Earlier, the workers took out a march from the City Railway Station in Bangalore to the Freedom Park. Anganwadi Workers Union’s state general secretary S Varalakshmi, Shantaghanti, Yamuna Govankar, Leelawati and other leaders led the procession.


The strike by the Anganwadi workers received immense support from various organisations. CITU state general secretary S Prasanna Kumar participated in the protest on all the four days and extended support to the cause. Bank employees union, SFI, DYFI, Auto Drivers Union, Midday meals workers union, peasant organisations, AIDWA and other organisations also extended support.


The main demands of the Anganwadi workers are as below.

1) The ready food scheme must be withdrawn and distribution of locally prepared food at the centres must be resumed.

2) Workers must get at least Rs 6,000 as wage. They must get house rent, allowances, domestic fuel allowance and appropriate honorarium for additional work. They must be made permanent.

3) As agreed, the pension plan must be implemented.

4) Anganwadis must be provided with own buildings.

5) As per the new norm, pregnant women have to personally visit the centres for help. This must be withdrawn. 

6) The move to privatise the ICDS must stop and it must be nationalised. All Anganwadis under Sumangali Sevashram must be taken over by the government.

7) The mini Anganwadis must be converted into full-fledged centres.

8) Anganwadi workers must get regular training.

9) Anganwadis must be declared as hostels for children and 8 hours working norm must be applied.

10) A minimum of 15 days of summer vacation must be introduced.

11) Medical and life insurance must be guaranteed.

12) Health, education and social welfare and election departments must give preference to  Anganwadi workers for the JJD group jobs.

13) Corruption in transfer of women workers must be prevented.