People's Democracy

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


No. 41

October 14, 2012



AIFAWH Conference Calls For

Fight against Privatisation of ICDS

A R Sindhu


MORE than seven hundred delegates representing nearly five lakh anganwadi workers and helpers declared in one voice “Scheme ke naam par dhoka nahin chalega” (We won’t allow the cheat in the name of schemes). The seventh all India conference of AIFAWH held from October 4-7 in Thiruvananthapuram gave a clarion call to join enmasse in the Mahapadav of scheme workers to be held on November 26-27, 2012. The conference resolved to join in large numbers in all the struggles called by the central trade unions, including the two days countrywide general strike on February 20-21, 2012.




The delegate session began with the hoisting of the AIFAWH flag by Neelima Maitra, president, at Lakshmi Sehgal Nagar (AKG Hall). Advocate J Chandrika, chairperson of the reception committee and mayor of Thiruvananthapurm welcomed the delegates to the land of Kerala.


Tapan Sen, MP and general secretary of the CITU, inaugurated the conference in Nirupama Chatterjee Hall, Bharati Deka Manch. He explained how the UPA-2 government is acting as an agent of imperialism and the multinational companies and lying to the people about the financial situation and the subsidies. Criticising the policies resulting in skyrocketing price rise including the recent increase of price of petrol and cooking gas, allowing FDI in retail and pension, allowing futures trading in all food items etc, he called upon the delegates to mobilise the masses against these policies. Appreciating the role of the AIFAWH in strengthening the working class movement, he said that the federation has the possibility to reach to the masses since the anganwadi worker has the reach to each and every home. He explained the all-in unity of the trade union movement in the country and pointed out that the objective situation is forcing all the other trade unions to fight against these policies. He mentioned the magnificent all India general strike on February 28, 2012 and said that in the coming days the unity and the struggles will be further strengthened.


Neelima Maitra in her presidential address pointed out that the austerity measures pursued by the capitalist countries to overcome the economic crisis have created a situation where the people have thrown many governments out of power. But the rulers of India are not learning any lesson from that.


A presidium consisting of Neelima Maitra, Arati Dasgupta (West Bengal), Kumari (Andhra Pradesh), Santaro (Haryana), Indira (Himachal Pradesh), Shanta Ghante (Karnataka), Vidya Ghangar (Madhya Pradesh), P P Kallyani (Kerala), Harjeet Kaur Punjab), M Parimala (Tamilnadu) and Sabitri Debbarman (Tripura) chaired the conference.




K Hemalata, general secretary presented the organisational report. She explained how the neo-liberal policies made India the country with largest number of malnourished children. But the government instead of providing adequate infrastructure and facilities to schemes like the ICDS, is trying to privatise the scheme. There is a move to dismantle the ICDS in the name of restructuring. While the working hours of the anganwadis are increased, the workers and helpers are yet to get the minimum wages and social security. The report emphasised the need to strengthen the struggles against these policies. The report analysed the experiences of the struggles and other activities during the last three years in the path of consolidation and expansion of the organisation as directed by the last conference. AIFAWH had conducted many struggles during the period which includes 48 hour long mahapadav on May 4-5, 2012, all India strike by AIFAWH on July 9, 2010 in which nearly nine lakh employees participated and the joint dharna along with federations of other trade unions on February 24, 2011. Through these struggles we could achieve some benefits including an increase in honorarium. The organisation has shown a growth of 21.9 per cent in membership to make it 21 per cent of the total employees. In some of the Hindi speaking states like Delhi, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh the unions have grown more than hundred per cent in membership. The membership of the ‘Hindi speaking’ states has increased from 13.45 per cent of the total membership in 1998 to 26.52 per cent of the total membership in 2011. The unevenness in the growth of the organisation has been improved slightly during this period.


Saroj Sharma placed the treasurers report and the audited accounts for the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12.

The report and the discussions were conducted in three parts – working conditions and impact of policies; analysis of activities and organisation. 81 delegates took part in the discussions. While supporting the report, the delegates narrated the adverse situations in which they work. Apart from the harassment and repression from the governments, the activists in different states are facing various problems including attacks from terrorists, Maoists etc. Various forms of privatisation are being implemented in different states. Public-Private-Partnership, adoption by corporates like Reliance, Vedanta, J K cements etc, handing over to corporate NGOs like ISKCON and Nandi Foundation etc were reported by delegates. The unions are launching struggles against these policies and could stop these moves in many places. Delegates critically pointed out their organisational weaknesses and their plan for rectification.


A seminar on “ICDS and Malnutrition” was held on  October 5 at Dipankar Mukherjee Nagar (Chandrashekharan Nair Stadium). Venugopal, former joint secretary, women and child development and principal secretary to the prime minister spoke in the seminar. He emphasised the importance of the ICDS scheme and the role of the anganwadi workers and helpers. He, while narrating the findings of a survey he has conducted in Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh, supported the demands of the anganwadi employees. He said that the anganwadi workers and helpers must develop a close relation with the beneficiaries and emphasis on the care and nutrition of a child in the womb as well as till three years should be given, so that the most crucial period of the mental and physical development of a child will be covered. Dr K T Sreelatankumari, state nutrition officer and A R Sindhu, secretary, AIFAWH spoke in the seminar. Later Venugopal also addressed the conference and extended his support in their struggle.


The conference adopted resolutions against price rise, against attack on Left, on malnutrition, in support of the joint trade unions struggles, against violence on women, on agrarian crisis, on food security, on celebrating P Sundarayya centenary, on the CITU mahapadav of scheme workers and against FDI in retail.


The conference amidst applause unanimously accepted the request of the Arunachal Pradesh Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union for affiliation with AIFAWH, thus taking the number of affiliated union to 25 in 24 states.


A Vijayaraghavan, general secretary, AIAWU and T N Seema, MP, vice president, AIDWA greeted the conference and extended full support of their organisations. G Sanjeeva reddy, president, INTUC and B Vijayalakshmi, general secretary, All India Anganwadi workers federation (AITUC) sent messages to the conference wishing all success and solidarity.


After the reply to the discussions the report of the general secretary and the report and accounts placed by the treasurer were adopted unanimously.


Marching Ahead Along the Struggle Path and Badhe Chalo, a book published by the AIFAWH simultaneously in English and Hindi on the major struggles conducted by it and the unions at the state level along with the GOs on achievements was released by handing over a copy to A K Padmanabhan, president CITU. More than seven thousand copies of the books were sold in the conference.


Usharani, convener of the credential committee presented the credential report. The conference was attended by 701 delegates and observers. Nearly 10 per cent of the delegates were helpers. 93 per cent of the delegates were workers and helpers. More than 60 per cent of the delegates belong to socially backward classes and almost 70 per cent of the delegates have a family income less than rupees five thousand per month. 26 per cent of the delegates were graduates and above. 26 grama panchayat members one district parishad member and two ex MLAs attended the conference.


A K Padmanabhan, president CITU who attended the entire conference gave the concluding address. He emphasised the need of widespread struggles against the neo-liberal policies. He said that no other federation could mobilise such huge number of women workers in Delhi as AIFAWH did. He said that it is our immediate task to enroll the entire nine lakh employees who joined the strike at our call. He said that it is very important to develop cadres and have active participation of all the employees in the day to day activities of the union.


The conference adopted a twenty seven point charter of demands. The conference adopted some agitational and organisational tasks. They include massive campaign and mobilisation for mahapadav of scheme workers in November (a quota of more than thirty thousand was taken), participation in jail bharo on December 18-19, 2012 and in the all India general strike on February 20-21, 2013, joint campaign to save ICDS,  and to pay special attention to the problems of anganwadi helpers.


The conference decided to relentlessly uphold the efforts to link sangharsh, siksha and sanghathan (struggles, education and organisation) and develop “conscious, committed, capable, cadres.” The conference decided to increase the efforts to strengthen the organisation in Hindi states and to ensure effective functioning of committees at all levels. The conference resolved to improve ties with the beneficiaries and develop joint movement to save ICDS.


The conference elected a 71 member committee with 21 office bearers with Neelima Maitra, President, A R Sindhu, general secretary and Saroj Sharma Treasurer. A R Sindhu proposed the vote of thanks. She thanked the reception committee for making excellent arrangements for the conference and making it a success.




On October 7, an impressive rally of anganwadi workers and helpers reached M K Pandhe Nagar (Putharikandam Maidanam). Along with the conference delegates who were shouting slogans in different languages, more than twelve thousand anganwadi workers and helpers in traditional Kerala attire in red marched through the streets showing the strength of the union in Kerala. The public meeting was inaugurated by A K Padmanabhan. He said that the second round of economic reforms unleashed by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government have made food, work, and medicine inaccessible to an increasing number of people across the country. The new reforms, he said, would enslave India, leaving the common man at the mercy of international funding agencies, domestic and foreign corporates, and speculative trade.


Anganwadi workers across India would participate in an agitation in front of Parliament on November 26 and 27 demanding an end to contract labour, minimum wages of Rs10,000, and the freedom to organise. This would be followed by a rasta roko in Delhi by trade union activists on December 18 and a Parliament march on December 20, he said.


Neelima Maitra presided over the function. CITU vice-president Mercikutty Amma and secretaries M M Lawrence, Hemalata, A R Sindhu and V C Karthyayani, general secretary, Kerala State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union addressed the gathering.