A DELEGATION of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) under the leadership of Tapan Sen MP, general secretary, CITU met the minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi on June 17, 2014 and submitted a 16-point charter of demands. The delegation consisted of A R Sindhu, general secretary and K Hemalata, vice president of AIFAWH and secretaries of CITU and Usharani, Santosh Rawal and Kishori Varma, secretaries of AIFAWH.
The minister gave a patient hearing to the delegation and assured that the ICDS scheme should be strengthened with components of wages, training, work monitoring and social security. She agreed that the demands of regularisaton, minimum wages and social security are just demands and said that she needs some time to study the issues and find solutions.
She assured the delegation that the scheme will not be privatised at any cost.
The delegation demanded that till the employees are covered under a pension scheme with assured pension, the retrenchment of the anganwadi employees must be stopped. The minister said that she will do the needful within two weeks. She also assured that the anganwadi workers and helpers shall not be engaged in any non-ICDS work.
The delegation also requested the minister to call all the trade union federations of anganwadi workers and helpers for a discussion, to which the minister agreed.
The AIFAWH has called upon all the anganwadi workers and helpers of the country to observe the Anganwadi Demand’s Day on July 4, 2014 all over the country by organising rallies and demonstrations at district/project level and submit memorandum to the WCD minister on the long pending demands.
The memorandum submitted to the minister noted that more than 27 lakhs women are working as anganwadi workers and helpers in nearly 14 lakh anganwadi and mini-anganwadi centres in the country. Delivering the services of supplementary nutrition and pre-school education to the under 6 years children since 1975, the ICDS had been recognised as one of the most effective and unique services. In spite of this, it is unfortunate that the anganwadi workers and helpers who are the grass root level workers are not yet recognised as ‘workers’ or employees. They are not even paid minimum wages, even though they work for the same time as that of the school employees.
The 45th Indian Labour Conference recommended that they shall be recognised as workers and be paid minimum wages and be provided social security and pension. Unfortunately the government is yet to agree to this. Moreover, now in the name of ‘strengthening and restructuring’ through ‘ICDS Mission’, the scheme is being largely privatised. This will sabotage the very purpose of the scheme. Although the work allocated to the anganwadi workers and helpers has increased manifold, the remuneration has not increased since 2011.
1 Stop privatisation of ICDS in any form in the name of Public Private Partnership, handing over to NGOs, restructuring etc. Review the ICDS Mission
2 Regularise all anganwadi workers as Grade III and helpers as Grade IV government employees.
3 Implement the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference on Scheme Workers for regularisation, minimum wages and social security including pension for them.
4 Pending regularisation, minimum wages of skilled workers should be paid to anganwadi workers and that of semi skilled workers to helpers; remuneration of anganwadi employees should be linked up with consumer price index.
5 Social security benefits including gratuity, pension, provident fund, medical facilities etc should be provided to all anganwadi workers and helpers; constitute national level welfare fund for anganwadi employees with contribution from the central and state governments to ensure this.
6 Make provision of proper infrastructural facilities including pucca buildings with drinking water, toilets etc for all anganwadi centres. Till such pucca buildings are constructed, increase centre rents to Rs 7500 in metropolitan cities, Rs 5000 in urban areas and to Rs 2500 in rural areas; anganwadi centres in ICDS projects categorised as rural, but actually located in urban areas should be paid rent on par with the rent for the centres in the urban projects.
7 Include children 3-6 years under Right to Education Act and designate anganwadi centres as nodal centres. Nursery centres or pre-primary centres should not be allowed in the vicinity of anganwadi centres under any other department or programme of the government
8 Strengthen the ECE component of ICDS by imparting the necessary training to the anganwadi workers; provide uniforms, toys etc to the children in the 3-6 age group to attract them to the anganwadi centres. Anganwadi Centre Leaving Certificate from the anganwadi worker should be made compulsory for admission in government primary schools
9 Ensure regular supply of good quality supplementary nutrition in sufficient quantities in all the anganwadi centres. Locally acceptable food freshly prepared in the anganwadi centres should be served to the beneficiaries and not ‘Ready to Eat food’. There should be no Take Home Ration
10 No opening of mini anganwadi centres; convert all the mini anganwadi centres into full fledged anganwadi centres and appoint helpers. Pay equal wages and benefits to the anganwadi workers working the mini anganwadi centres as those of the regular anganwadi workers.
11 Recognise the Right to Organisation and Collective bargaining of the anganwadi employees. Withdraw the order restricting the anganwadi employees’ participating in union activities.
12 Ensure similar working conditions to all anganwadi workers and helpers in the country with provisions for paid medical leave, promotion to the post of supervisors, promotion of helpers to workers without age limit, summer and winter holidays, 10% annual increment, increment for helpers etc
13 In spite of the guidelines from the centre, in most of the states, anganwadi workers and helpers are given work other than that related to ICDS, including BLO duties in elections, which is affecting the work of the anganwadi centre. No work other than that of ICDS shall be assigned to the anganwadi workers and helpers.
14 Grievance Redress Committees should be constituted in all the states at the state and district levels by including representatives of the anganwadi employees’ unions.
15 There should be no restrictions on the political activities of the anganwadi employees, including the freedom to participate in any election, till such date as they are recognised as government employees, when the service conditions as applicable to government employees may be applied to them. Elected representatives should be allowed to take leave and rejoin once the term is finished
16 Corruption should be eradicated in the implementation of ICDS