People's Democracy

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


No. 08

February 24, 2013



Anganwadi Unions Meet FM, Demand Increased Funds


ON February 8, 2013, the Samyukta Morcha of Anganwadi Federations, comprising the organisations affiliated to the AITUC, CITU, HMS and INTUC, submitted a memorandum to P Chidambaram, finance minister of the government of India, on the issue of allocation of funds to the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in the union budget 2013-14.


The memorandum drew the minister’s attention to the fact that malnutrition continues to be the biggest problem India is facing in its journey as an economic superpower. The level of child malnutrition is such that nearly half of all the children are suffering from it, and no less than the prime minister of India has referred to it as “a national shame.”


In view of this reality, the government of India has been implementing the scheme of Integrated Child Development Services for the last 37 years or more in order to address this serious problem. Later, in the wake of a Supreme Court judgement about the alarming levels of malnutrition, the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the government put forward a series of changes in the ICDS, putting it in a Mission Mode in the 11th five year plan. However, the Anganwadi workers’ organisations noted that though these changes included measures like an improvement in the infrastructure, some increase in the allocation for supplementary nutrition, provision of medical and education kits etc, it is extremely saddening to note that there is no mention of improving the conditions of the Anganwadi workers and helpers, who are the most important grassroots level functionaries for an effective implementation of the ICDS. They are still deprived of even minimal requirements of life like the minimum wages and social security benefits like gratuity, assured pension etc.


The organisations also noted that financial allocations made to the ICDS over the years have not been adequate to ensure its effective implementation and for realisation of its full potential in improving the conditions of our children. The revised plan outlay for the ICDS in the 11th five year plan was Rs 72,877.52 crore, which too was inadequate. However, the total budgetary expenditure during the entire 11th plan period was only Rs 37,891 crore, which was only half the allocation.


While the government has been claiming that the Supreme Court order of opening of 14 lakh Anganwadi centres has been met, the fact is that many of the sanctioned Anganwadi centres are simply non-functional due to lack of financial resources. According to an estimate made by child right activists and nutritional experts, an amount of nearly three lakh crore rupees is required over the 12th plan period for an effective implementation of the ICDS. The minister of women and child development has reportedly announced that his ministry would demand Rs two lakh crore for the ICDS in the 12th five year plan. But it is highly regrettable that only Rs 1.23 lakh crore have been allocated for the ICDS in the 12th plan. This the organisations have described as grossly inadequate.


While the prime minister termed the Anganwadi workers and helpers as “pillars of social development” as they are the key functionaries of ICDS at the grassroots level, they are still not recognised as government employees even after working for more than 25 or 30 years. They are not being paid minimum wages, nor do they get any social security benefits. While the prices of all the essential commodities have increased many times over in the last two years, with the food inflation crossing the 18 per cent, mark, the remuneration of Rs 3000 for Anganwadi workers and Rs 1500 for helpers per month, paid by the government of India, is just a pittance. Though the government has decided to 'retire' the Anganwadi employees on reaching the age of 65 years, there is no provision for retirement benefits including gratuity and assured pension.


In view of the invaluable contribution of Anganwadi workers to the human development of our country, their Samyukta Morcha has demanded that adequate financial allocations must be made to ensure the payment of minimum wages applicable to skilled workers for the Anganwadi workers and those applicable to semi-skilled workers for the Anganwadi helpers, apart from gratuity and pension equivalent to half their last drawn remuneration.


In view of this minimal requirement, the memorandum submitted by the Samyukta Morcha has asked the finance minister to allocate at least Rs 35000 crore for the ICDS in the ensuing union budget in order to ensure effective implementation of the scheme, improve the infrastructure at the Anganwadi centres, regular supply of good quality supplementary nutrition in required quantities, good quality of pre-school education kits and improve the working conditions of the Anganwadi workers and helpers.