(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
Anganwadis Rally in Thousands
DESPITE the state government creating many hurdles and resorting to police repression, thousands of Anganwadis rallied in Hyderabad on March 14 demanding the state government to increase their wages, provide retirement benefits and other facilities.
The huge success of the ‘Chalo Hyderabad’ programme of the Anganwadis was a slap in the face of the state government that thought it could browbeat them into non-participation in the struggle. Many Anganwadi Federation and CITU leaders were arrested in various districts a night before the programme in order to prevent mobilisation. It may be recalled that the same repression was repeated in the case of CPI(M)'s Chalo Assembly programme on March 22.
Yet, thousands of Anganwadis descended on Indira Park for the public meeting on their demands. They raised slogans demanding minimum wage, retirement benefits for them, and against political interference in the appointments and promotions of the Anganwadis.
Addressing the large gathering, Mallu Swarajyam, veteran CPI(M) leader and Telangana armed struggle participant, criticised the Congress government for its apathy towards people's issues, particularly regarding the demands of the working people. She expressed doubt whether there is a government existing in the state or not. She slammed the government for shamelessly exploiting the toil of the Anganwadis and demanded that it should accept their genuine demands.
S Punyavathi, vice president of the CITU, termed this large gathering of Anganwadis as a warning to the state government and asked the chief minister to take lessons from the experiences of the past rulers of the state who suffered when they ignored people's welfare. She demanded a minimum wage for the Anganwadis, instead of the present practice of giving them the honorarium.
P Madhu, former CPI(M) MP, who spoke on the occasion, condemned the state government for extracting a kind of bonded labor from the Anganwadis and demanded that their salaries be raised immediately.
R Sudha Bhaskar, CITU general secretary, condemned the repression unleashed by the state police on the Anganwadis in order to prevent them from reaching Hyderabad. Asserting that such strong arm tactics of the government would not deter the working class, he called upon the chief minister to accept the genuine and reasonable demands of the Anganwadis. He demanded providing them a wage of Rs 8700 for the Anganwadi worker and Rs 7000 for the Anganwadi helper and said this would not be beyond the capacity of the government to implement. He pointed out how some states were providing the Anganwadis with pension after retirement.
P Roja, general secretary of the Anganwadis Federation, demanded payment of a minimum wage for the Anganwadis. She asked the state government to raise the Anganwadis wages in line with the central government decision. She further demanded that there should not be any age limit as to their promotions. She suggested holding of meetings at the district level, once in every three months, in order to resolve the issues.
Julakanti Ranga Reddy, CPI(M) MLA, Swaruparani, AIDWA general secretary, leaders of other mass organisations and political parties also addressed the gathering and expressed their support to the Anganwadis struggle. Lalitamma, state president of the Anganwadis Federations, presided the meeting.
After the public meeting, a delegation comprising the Anganwadis Federation and CITU leaders met the state women and childrens welfare minister, Sunitha Lakshma Reddy, and held discussion on the problems of the Anganwadis. Speaking to the media after the meeting, Roja said that the minister agreed for a lump sum payment of Rs 50,000 for the worker and Rs 25,000 for the helper, at the time of their retirement. However, the minister did not respond on the issue of payment of a minimum wage for the Anganwadis. She only assured that the present wages of the Anganwadis would be continued as it is and there would not be any wage cuts.
The union leaders opposed the proposal of the state government for introducing a program of ‘self-contribution’ for the sake of the pensions to Anganwadis. The Anganwadis demand for payment of a month’s wage to them as festival allowance received the positive attention of the minister. Also, there was a positive response toward their demands like the removal of the MLAs from the selection committees, and overall removal of political interference in the transfers and the promotions of the Anganwadis. The age limit for the promotions was raised from 35 years to 45 years, said Roja.