(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 02, 2011
Anganwadi Workers’ Convention Decides to Fight Injustices
ORGANISED in the Gandhi Peace Foundation in
Around two hundred Anganwadi workers and helpers from all over the country participated in the national convention and unanimously adopted a declaration of their demands. They belonged to four central trade unions, viz. AITUC, CITU, HMS and INTUC, which recently came together to constitute the Samyukta Morcha (united front) of Anganwadi Federations.
A presidium consisting of S Vijayalakshmi (AITUC), Neelima Maitra (CITU), Girish Pandey (HMS) and Shashi Kapoor (INTUC) presided over. Amarjeet Kaur (AITUC) welcomed the delegates while Dr Hemalata (CITU) introduced the draft declaration, which was seconded by Shashi Kapoor. Amarjeet Kaur and Saroj from AITUC, Usha Rani and Saroj Sharma from CITU, Champa Varma and Usha Tyagi from HMS, and Sunita Vinayak and Anasooya Sharma from INTUC spoke in support of the declaration. Girish Pandey proposed the vote of thanks.
This national convention of the Samyukta Morcha of
Anganwadi Federations strongly deplores the apathetic attitude of the
The contribution of Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in bringing down severe malnutrition among children, improving immunisation coverage and school enrolment rates, and reducing the infant mortality rate and school dropout rate, particularly among the rural and poor families, has been well recorded by several studies. Effective implementation of ICDS is the most needed step in the direction of ensuring the right to food, education and health for the children below six years. This requires adequate financial allocations to the ICDS to ensure efficient delivery of all the components of ICDS including supplementary nutrition, immunisation and pre school education, as well as decent working conditions for the Anganwadi workers and helpers.
But though the UPA government has sanctioned Anganwadi centres to more or less meet the numbers specified by the Supreme Court, a large number of them are yet to be made operational. Besides, attempts are being been made to meet the target by sanctioning thousands of ‘mini Anganwadi centres’ where no helpers are appointed and where Anganwadi workers receive only half the remuneration paid to those in the regular centres, despite discharging the same responsibilities.
A large number of the Anganwadi centres do not have proper infrastructure like pucca buildings, adequate place for children to play and rest, toilets and drinking water facilities. In many states, food is not often supplied in the specified quantities. In a large number of centres, education and medical kits are not supplied.
The condition of the Anganwadi workers and helpers continues to be deplorable. Despite having worked for 20-30 years, they are not recognised as employees. The government, which has recently issued a circular that the Anganwadi workers and helpers need to pay full time attention to the ICDS work, refuses to pay them minimum wages. Even as the prices of all essential commodities increase incessantly, there is no increase in the remuneration of Anganwadi employees. After spending entire life serving in the ICDS, thousands of employees are mercilessly thrown out from service on attaining 58-60 years, without any compensation. The assurance given by the prime minister more than four years back, that they would be paid ‘parting gift’ on being retired, remains unfulfilled to date. Even their hard won benefits like maternity benefit, annual leave, TA-DA, reservation in supervisor posts etc are not being given in many states.
Instead of taking measures for effective implementation of the ICDS, the UPA government is out to privatise the ICDS in the name of Public Private Partnership (PPP). Big corporates are being invited to ‘adopt’ Anganwadi centres. The supply, preparation and distribution of supplementary nutrition are being handed over to NGOs, SHGs and other private bodies. ‘Ready to Eat’ food is being supplied to many centres, which only benefits the packed food manufacturing companies, against the recommendations of nutrition experts that hot, locally preferred and freshly cooked food should be provided to children in the Anganwadi centres.
The government is resorting to backdoor privatisation of pre-school education, an important component of ICDS, which was being provided free of cost in Anganwadi centres. This is being handed over to private agencies or ‘parents committees’ etc which are being encouraged to collect ‘user charges.’
These measures are being implemented despite the opposition from large sections of women, agricultural workers, peasants and unorganised sector workers, who constitute the beneficiaries, voiced through their national organisations. This national convention of the Samyukta Morcha of Anganwadi Federations totally rejects this type of restructuring of ICDS, which will ultimately lead to its dismantling, denying poor women and children the little benefits that were available to them till now.
This apathetic attitude of the UPA government towards the ICDS and Anganwadi employees stems from its commitment to the neo-liberal economic policies that impose huge burdens on the toiling people and the workers while favouring the rich and corporates, both national and multinational. This is blatantly demonstrated in the massive tax and other concessions worth lakhs of crores of rupees handed over to the corporates and in allowing unprecedented loot of public money through the scandals, surfacing one after another every day, while refusing to pay minimum wages and provide social security benefits to the Anganwadi employees that would cost only a fraction of the amount. This national convention firmly believes that it will be impossible to achieve the basic demands of the Anganwadi employees unless the neo-liberal policies of the UPA government are reversed.
Hence, this national convention of the Samyukta Morcha of the Anganwadi Federations calls upon all Anganwadi employees in the country, irrespective of the affiliations, to come together and join the struggle of the trade union movement, of which we are all part and parcel, in the fight on the five major demands of the people. It calls upon them to join en masse the joint March to Parliament’ of the central trade unions on February 23, 2011.
This national convention of the Samyukta Morcha of the Anganwadi Federations also decides to organise a massive rally of Anganwadi employees near parliament on February 24, 2011 to focus on the following specific demands of Anganwadi employees:
1) Regularisation of Anganwadi workers and helpers as Grade III and Grade IV employees with all attendant benefits by making the centres as full day centres.
2) Payment to date of the minimum wages applicable to skilled workers and semi-skilled workers to the Anganwadi workers and helpers; payment of dearness allowance by automatically linking the wages of Anganwadi employees to the consumer price index.
3) Provision of social security benefits including pension, gratuity and provident fund to all the Anganwadi employees.
4) Halt to privatisation of ICDS in any manner including its transfer to the NGOs, SHGs, corporates etc. The government must take full responsibility of implementation of ICDS.
5) Conversion of all mini Anganwadi centres into regular Anganwadi centres.
6) Proper infrastructure facilities including pucca buildings, drinking water, toilets etc in all the centres; increase in the rent for Anganwadi centres till such time. Provision of good quality food in adequate quantities, to be freshly cooked and distributed in Anganwadi centres.
7) ESI benefits to Anganwadi workers and helpers.
8) Implementation of government scheme on insurance for Anganwadi workers and helpers
9) Strict implementation of all existing government orders, particularly GO F No. 1-6/2008-CD-I of February 24, 2010 on identity cards to the Anganwadi workers and helpers.