December 01, 2019
Ninth All India Conference of AIFAWH: Anganwadis Declare War against Hunger and Hatred

AR Sindhu


THE ninth national conference of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) has resolved to take up a campaign to free the nation from hatred and discrimination. The four-day conference was held in Rajamahendravaram (Rajahmundry), Andhra Pradesh and had concluded on November 20, 2019. The union has also declared its support to the general strike to be observed on January 8, 2020. 

The union has resolved to continue its struggles, with added vigour, to strengthen the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) to achieve freedom from hunger, malnutrition, ill health and illiteracy. Usha Rani, president of AIFAWH, hoisted the flag to mark the beginning of the conference and Ila Venkateswara Rao, MLC and chairman of the reception committee, welcomed the delegates.

Tapan Sen, general secretary, CITU, inaugurated the conference and spoke about the government policy framework highlighting that the ICDS is under attack. He congratulated the AIFAWH and its state unions for the militant struggles and achievements in the recent times. He said that even though the working class comes together to resist the attack of its rights, it is getting divided on various counts in their social life. He called upon the anganwadi employees to take up the responsibility of removing this dichotomy by exposing the policies and bring about heightened consciousness among the exploited class.

AR Sindhu, general secretary of AIFAWH, in her report said that during the last three and a half years, all the state unions conducted militant struggles, both independently and jointly, and could achieve remarkable wage hikes ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 5,000 per month. The AIFAWH could initiate and develop their struggles against the policies and could also advance the struggles of scheme workers which need to be consolidated, Sindhu said. During the period, although the membership has shown an increase of 15.27 per cent, it is much less than the potential of the unions, the report pointed out.

The conference was attended by 668 delegates (595 delegates and 73 observers) from 24 unions of 23 states.  The conference was attended by 535 workers (including six retired workers), 77 helpers (12.94 per cent) four mini workers and 51 organisers and one ASHA (fraternal delegate) attended the conference. 26 were male delegates.

Two rallies with more than ten thousand anganwadi workers and helpers in red sarees, were held to mark the conclusion of the conference. Cultural performances by various teams drew major public attraction. A procession of delegates rallied behind their state banners, shouting slogans in different languages attracted the attention of the passers-by in the small city of Rajamahendravaram. The public meeting was inaugurated by K Hemalata, president of CITU and was addressed by AR Sindhu, and CITU AP state general secretary and president, MA Gaffoor and Narasinga Rao respectively.

A total of 71 delegates took part in the discussions held during the conference in three sessions. Delegate from Kashmir, Latifa, narrated the problems they are facing in the state and their fight against privatisation of ICDS. She was greeted with slogans of “Kashmir continue your fight for unity and democratic rights, the whole India is with you” by the delegates. Delegates self-critically assessed the weaknesses of the organisation and put forward many suggestions All state delegations pledged to increase the membership and to reach a target of 6.7 lakh by 2020.

In the section ‘Against Hate and Discrimination; Reaching out to Various Sections’, the possibilities of interventions were discussed in detail. The members decided to intervene and inculcate progressive values, rationality, respect for diverse cultures and practices etc among children. It is also decided to challenge the existing retrograde discriminatory practices against women through cultural interventions.

The conference was greeted by the leaders of fraternal organisations. Kesava Rao, senior leader and working committee member of the All India Kisan Sabha greeted the delegates and called for militant joint struggles. He said that the struggles of anganwadi workers and helpers are an inspiration for the peasantry in struggle. He emphasized the role the anganwadi workers and helpers can play in educating and organising the rural poor. 

AIDWA joint secretary Tapsi Praharaj greeted the conference and highlighted the areas of common interest and scope of joint struggles. Avoy Mukherjee, DYFI general secretary, spoke about the importance to fight against the communal danger. Venkateswarulu, joint secretary, AIAWU, while greeting the conference called upon for militant joint struggle of the rural workers.

Jaibhagwan, general secretary, Mid Day Meal Workers' Federation of India (MDMWFI), called for more attention to develop common struggles of scheme workers to resist the attack on the schemes, through better coordination. Surekha of Asha Workers union narrated the successfully led struggles and emphasised on more joint struggles, and called upon the delegates to consolidate the organisation as well.

The cultural team of AP Anganwadi Union inspired the delegates with revolutionary songs and cultural programmes. A campfire was held on the third evening of the conference and various state delegations presented their cultural programmes.

The conference was concluded by K Hemalata, president, CITU and former general secretary, AIFAWH who was present throughout the conference. She emphasized the possibilities of the movement and the importance of politicalisation of cadres at various levels.

The union resolved to hold rigorous campaign for the next forty days, until January 8, for the general strike to reach at least 10 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers to expose the anti-worker policies of the Modi-2 government. They have decided to distribute atleast 10 lakh leaflets and conduct sector/circle/block meetings to reach all members. At least 10 lakh workers would be brought to the streets on the strike day and rail and road roko programmes will be held, the union declared. Circle/block / district level dharnas will be held for 24 hours on the strike day.

The union resolved to observe March 8, 2020, as a struggle day as per CITU call and massive campaign will be organised before the action. It has also decided to run a special campaign and action for quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) in anganwadis in place of the proposed ‘Pre-school education’ before the next academic year. A national convention for ‘Hunger, malnutrition, hatred, fear and discrimination free childhood’ would be held in March-April to highlight the importance of ICDS and the role of anganwadi employees.

On July 10, 2020, a march to parliament seeking regularisation and to save ICDS is planned to be held with 35,000 members. A workshop of Hindi speaking states in December (along with MDMWFI and AICCAW) will be held and another state-level workshop will be held to fine plan the conference tasks within three months. 

The conference resolved to work on various issues concerning their movement. They have decided to campaign against hunger and malnutrition and for strengthening ICDS with adequate nutrition, health facilities and quality early childhood care and education. It was also decided to strengthen the national movement on implementation of 45th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) recommendations and for anganwadi-cum-crèche centres with all facilities and resources.

The union has decided to focus on strengthening the state-level movements for uniform facilities as in other states and develop the scheme workers’ movement. They have also resolved to take up issues of other sections of the working people. A massive campaign would be held for communal harmony, rationality and egalitarian values against hatred, obscurantism and discrimination on the basis of gender, caste and ethnicity.

The treasurer’s report and the credentials report was presented by Anju Maini.

The conference elected a 75 member committee with 25 office bearers, with Usha Rani as president, AR Sindhu, general secretary and Anju Maini, treasurer. The conference ended with shouting of slogans and singing the Internationale by the Praja Natya Mandali.