People's Democracy

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


No. 40

October 02, 2011



Anganwadis Rebuff Modi Govt’s

Machinations, Hold Massive Rally




THE mood in the massive rally of anganwadi employees organised by the CITU affiliated Gujarat Anganwadi Karmachari Sangathana was upbeat. The anganwadi employees from different districts and their leaders were congratulating each other not because they had achieved any new benefit from the government, but because they were able to defeat all the machinations of the Modi government to thwart their rally and assembled in such huge numbers. More than 5000 anganwadi employees from 18 districts in Gujarat participated in the rally in Ahmedabad on September 25 to demand immediate payment of arrears, Diwali bonus, pension and other social security benefits, increase in the remuneration by the state government, health care benefits etc. The procession which started from the statue of Mahatma Gandhi marched through the city to culminate in a public meeting in Induchacha garden.


Gujarat Anganwadi Karmachari Sangathana has placed the demands of the anganwadi employees in the state before the BJP led state government many times before. It has organised a massive state level rally in March and district level dharnas on July 11 and submitted memoranda. As there was no positive response from the state government, except holding a joint meeting with the union leadership where no demand was settled, the union decided to organise a state level rally on the eve of the Assembly session that started from September 26, to highlight their demands again. The anganwadi employees responded favourably to the campaign and made all preparations to reach Ahmedabad in thousands.


Disturbed at the prospect of an unprecedented huge gathering of anganwadi employees on September 25, the same day when a public meeting of BJP was also planned, the ‘model’ government of Modi did everything at its disposal to prevent the rally by the union. The state government instructed its officers including the district collectors, child development project officers (CDPO) and the supervisors to stop the anganwadi employees at any cost. The CDPOs and supervisors warned them of disciplinary action including loss of jobs if they attended the rally, but the anganwadi employees replied that September 25 being a Sunday, they were free to go anywhere; ‘not even our families have a right to stop us on that day’, some of them replied.


Anandi Patel, minister for women and child development in the state telephoned the president of the union telling her to call off the rally at the same time refusing to give any assurance on honouring the demands. When this did not succeed, messages were sent to the mobiles of anganwadi employees all over the state that the rally had been called off and that their leader has abandoned the programme, so they need not go to Ahmedabad.


When this too failed, the police was employed. In many districts including in Ahmedabad, Sabarkantha, Navsari, Baroda, Valsad, Bharuch etc, the police went to the houses of the district and project leaders and pressurised them not to go for the rally. Police kept guard at the houses of some of the union leaders on the night of 24th to prevent them from leaving their homes.


When the government found that neither persuasion nor threats worked, it tried to physically stop the anganwadi employees on their way. Since around midnight of September 24, police started detaining the buses carrying anganwadi employees to Ahmedabad. 32 buses from Valsad, Bharuch and Navsari districts were detained on the highway in the midnight. More than 46 buses from Baroda, Anand, Narmada, Tapi, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Kheda, Sabarkantha districts were detained in the early hours of September 25. Some of the buses were diverted and the anganwadi employees travelling in them were left in isolated places in the night. 16 buses carrying around 1000 anganwadi employees had to go back because it was not possible for them to reach the state capital on time. Some were taken to the police stations where no woman police was deployed. The police also resorted to lathicharge in Baroda district. In some places, the police demanded huge amounts of around Rs 25,000 to release the buses.


But the anganwadi employees were not deterred. They held rasta roko and dharna on the highway at the very places where they were stopped, shouting slogans against the state government; they also made it clear that they would not allow the mobilisation for the BJP rally too, if they were not allowed to participate in their rally. Many buses hired for carrying people to the BJP’s rally were stopped by the anganwadi employees resorting to rasta roko. In Padera in Baroda district, the anganwadi employees were arrested but they could not be taken to the police station as they went in a procession and gheraoed the BJP MLA. The anganwadi employees of Jetpur Tavi project in Baroda district were detained at four places and taken to the police stations; at each police station they sat on dharna shouting slogans and forced the police to release their buses and ultimately managed to reach the public meeting before it concluded.


Niruben Ahir, president of Gujarat Anganwadi Karmachari Sangathan presided over the meeting, which was addressed by Hemalata, general secretary of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, Nasimben, general secretary of the union, Nagenbhai Patel and Arun Mehta, general secretary and vice president of Gujarat state committee of CITU, among others.


Hemalata strongly condemned the anti democratic and intolerant attitude of the state government towards peaceful protests by women workers and ridiculed the claims of the Modi government of being a ‘model’ state. She congratulated the anganwadi employees for their grit and resolve to fight for their genuine demands and exhorted them to continue their struggle till their demands are met. She assured the support and solidarity of all the members of the AIFAWH and the CITU to their struggle.


The All India Insurance Employees’ Association and the state committees of the Democratic Youth Federation of India and the All India Democratic Women’s Association helped in the successful holding of the rally.