September 27, 2015

Withdraw the move to hand over Anganwadis to Corporate Cairn India

THE All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) has strongly condemned the MOU signed between the ministry of women and child development and Cairn India Ltd, a subsidiary of the Multinational ‘Vedanta’ “to develop and modernise 4000 next generation anganwadis in the country” as per the PIB release.

AIFAWH, in a statement issued on September 23, has said that this is nothing but the withdrawal of the government of India from its responsibility of providing for the children’s’ right to food, health and education and an effort to leave it to the charity of the corporate and big business. AIFAWH has demanded that the MWCD, government of India must withdraw the move to privatise the anganwadi centres by handing over it to the corporate and cancel the MOU.

In the union budget 2015-16, the government has changed the funding pattern, putting the entire responsibility of running the scheme on the state government. The government of India had drastically cut down the budget allocation for the ICDS to a mere Rs 8335.77 in 2015-16 from Rs 18,195 crores last year. This cut comes in spite of the proposal that the allocations as per the Planning Commission in the 12th Plan for ICDS should be Rs 23,025 crores.

The lack of funds started affecting the scheme in the states and in the states like Bihar, Punjab, UP etc, nutrition is not being supplied since last 4-5 months. Anganwadi employees are not being paid wages in states like Maharashtra since April 2015. In the name of lack of funds, the government is handing over the anganwadi centres to corporates and corporate NGOs like Vedanta, JP Cements, Nandi Foundation, ISKON etc through public-private-partnership (PPP), ‘adoption’ etc.

The anganwadi centers extend most crucial services of nutrition, healthcare and pre-school education for the under six children and nutrition and healthcare to pregnant women and lactating mothers. With the inclusion of ICDS in Right to Food Act and the public demand to arrest alarming levels of malnutrition in the country, the services in ICDS have been made full time (six hours) since 2012, even though the wages of the employees were not increased. The government of India also, in its declarations, had committed to convert anganwadi centers to full time anganwadi cum crèches. Now, according to the PIB release, these “new generation anganwadi centers”  are “proposed to be run as a shared space in which 50 percent of the time will be devoted to children’s education and the remaining half will support women’s skill development.” This move to handover the anganwadi centers to the whims and fancies of the corporates which have already declared that they will depute anganwadi workers in skill development of women, will sabotage the very functioning of anganwadi centers. This is aimed at providing government infrastructure to prepare rural women as the cheapest labour for the “Corporate Make India” plan.

It is also not made clear by the government of India, which  has refused to implement the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference for regularisation, minimum wages and social security of the anganwadi workers and helpers, that how will they make the already overburdened anagnwadi workers do the additional work, along with another full time work and their present tasks. The company is changing the name of the most popular ‘anganwadi centres’ to ‘Nand Ghar’ in some places, which needs to be opposed.

One another aspect which needs further investigation is the propriety in having an agreement with companies such as Vedanta and Cairn India which are having dubious credentials. There are reports that the Income tax department has issued a notice to Cairn India for withholding tax on Capital gains made by it to the tune of Rs 20,495 crores. Reports say that the Foreign Investment Promotion Board has not yet given their approval to the merger of Cairn India with Vedanta. We apprehend high level corporate corruption involved in giving credibility to such a company by signing an agreement which may help them in tax evasions or concessions.

AIFAWH demands the immediate withdrawal of such an agreement which is aimed at image building and tax evasion of corporate companies at the expense of the future of our children.

AIFAWH calls upon its affiliated unions and the anganwadi workers and helpers to resist tooth and nail the Corporate Company Raj in anganwadis. It appeals to the beneficiaries’ organisations such as trade unions, women, peasant and agricultural workers’ organisations to come out in defence of the ICDS and resist the corporate takeover at the ground level.