THIRTY thousand anganwadi workers from all over Karnataka, gathered at Tumkur on December 10 for a padayatra to Bangalore. They were prevented by hundreds of policemen deployed. But anganwadi workers refused to budge and stayed at the Glass House Maidan and other maidans of Tumkur where they had gathered. They stayed over the night on December 10th in the maidans against the police demand to disperse, and cooked for dinner. The meeting arranged by the police with the CM on December 10th afternoon was unsuccessful, as no concrete assurance was forthcoming, except that CM will talk to chief secretary soon. So Anganwadi Workers Union decided to continue the struggle. However, seeing the determination of workers, the government has budged and a written invitation was sent to the Union for talks with the chief secretary on the demands, on December 16. On this assurance, the struggle has been suspended.
The anganwadi workers are opposing the state government’s policy to introduce LKG and UKG classes in existing government schools. They are not against the pre-primary classes but demand that these classes should be started in the existing anganwadi centres rather than duplicating the scheme in government schools. They demanded withdrawal of the circular issued by the education department regarding the issue. They also demanded strengthening of anganwadi centres and the ICDS scheme.
On December 10th morning, a public meeting of anganwadi workers was addressed by Anganwadi and CITU leaders – A R Sindhu, S Varalaxmi, Meenakshi Sundaram, K N Umesh and Syed Mujeeb. Renowned theatre person and activist, Prasanna of Gram Seva Sangh also spoke. The leaders also addressed a press conference. After the press conference, senior police officers categorically stated that the padayatra will not be allowed.
Earlier, police used several tactics to prevent the gathering of anganwadi workers at Tumkur. At Kolar district, Nagaratna and other anganwadi leaders were put under house arrest from December 9th night itself. Vehicles travelling towards Tumkur form various districts were stopped enroute or were prevented to proceed further by pressurising vehicle owners or preventing drivers. Section 144 was imposed both in Tumkur and Bangalore for one week. Prior to state level padayatra, six regional level jathas were held last week.