Vol. XL No. 44 October 30, 2016

UP: Scheme Workers Intensify Struggle for Wage Hike, Social Security

RESENTMENT among anganwadi workers and helpers in Uttar Pradesh has been growing in the past year due to excessive work load. Increasing price rise, very low honorarium, lack of basic infrastructure in anganwadi centres, status of the scheme even after 41 years of its inception and cut in funding in the recent budget have added to their woes. Beginning with the all-India general strike on September 2, 2015, the struggle of anganwadi workers and helpers continued over their demands. In this year-long struggle, participation of workers in all protest demonstrations has been overwhelming. Workers were mobilising beneficiaries of the scheme through a signature campaign. Though the all-India strike call was only for a day, anganwadi workers, accredited social health activists (ASHAs) and mid-day meal (MDM) employees continued their protest even after September 2.

District-level demonstrations took place daily after September 2 and workers participated in large numbers. During these struggles, some groups attempted to use the agitation of workers in their political campaign or for vested interests. Under the pressure of joint intensified struggles, the chief minister was compelled to announce the formation of a commission to look into the problems of workers and consider converting them into state employees. It was also announced that the commission will cover other scheme workers like ASHAs, rozgar sevaks and chowkidars. The announcement was meant only to quell the agitation as no details of the proposed commission like its structure, members, etc. were announced. As there was no positive announcement from the state government, workers participated hugely in the district-level demonstrations.

Our state-level rally was scheduled to be held on October 13, 2016 to hand over two lakh signatures of workers, helpers and beneficiaries to the chief minister. But all of a sudden, Mahila Anganwadi Sangh, affiliated to HMS, called workers and helpers to the state capital for a meeting. Workers were in a fighting mood and across union affiliations they came to Lucknow in very large numbers. HMS leaders addressed them and asked them to go back to their respective districts and to continue the struggle at district level. The leaders then left the meeting. But the workers were adamant to continue dharna in the state capital. Thousands of workers moved from the dharna site to stage a protest outside the Assembly. They targeted the vehicle of HMS leaders and shouted slogans against them.

Police resorted to lathicharge. Many workers were injured, but anganwadi workers sat on the road and refused to move from there. HMS leaders gave a statement that they did not support the dharna. Our union leaders supported the dharna and helped the sick and injured workers. With the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election round the corner, the state government did not resort to large-scale violence and traffic was diverted from the roads occupied by the agitating workers. Thousands of workers occupied not only the roads but also many government offices. The dharna continued for a second day. At last, the state government announced that their honorarium would be increased by Rs 800 and Rs 400. The workers did not accept it as the increase was very less and decided to continue their dharna. But police, with the help of some local leaders of HMS, succeeded in dispersing the agitating workers. The workers then decided to continue their struggle in districts.

The Anganwdi Karmchari Union of Uttar Pradesh, affiliated to CITU, immediately called a meeting of state office-bearers in which All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) national president Usha Rani participated and reviewed the situation. It was decided to reschedule the state-level one-day dharna and continue the signature campaign. It was also decided to mobilise other scheme workers, along with anganwadi workers, as the state government has announced the formation of the commission for all such workers. The state-level dharna was held in Lucknow on October 21. It demanded formation of the commission, inclusion of union representatives in it, minimum wage of not less than Rs 18,000, social security and retirement befits.

Firozabad District Conference of ASHA Union

Firozabad district conference of ASHA Karmchari Union was attended by 150 delegates from nine primary health centres (PHCs). The conference demanded fixed honorarium, ASHA restroom in hospitals, strengthening of PHCs and community health centres (CHCs), operationalising panchayat health centres and payment of commission in bank accounts of ASHAs. A 31-member district committee was formed with Madhu Rani as convener and Suman, Aamreen, Kumkum and Sapna as joint conveners. Other members included Payal Gupta from Sant Nagar PHC; Vijay Jain from Humayunpur; Manoj and Savita from Ramnagar; Aamreen from Bari ka Nangla; Kumkum from Hajipura; Neelu Sharma from Ramnagar; Madhurani from Sailai; Suman from Rasoolpur; and Sapna from Humayunpur. State secretary Veena Gupta attended the conference.