July 18, 2021

Anganwadi Workers Observe Demands Day

THOUSANDS of anganwadi workers and helpers from 21 states came out on streets observing “All India Demands Day’ on July 12, at the call of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH). The AIFAWH observes Demands Day every year on July 10, but it being the second Saturday this year, therefore was observed on July 12.

The workers demanded safety gear, insurance and risk allowance for Covid- 19 duty. They also demanded the government to stop exclusion of beneficiaries and harassment of the workers in the name of digitisation and through ‘Poshan Tracker’ mobile App. They demanded increased allocation for ICDS especially for nutrition. They also put forth their long pending demands like recognition as workers, minimum wages and pension, and social security.

Anganwadi workers and helpers from Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh observed the day. While West Bengal observed the Demands Day on July 9, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu observed it on July 10. In Himachal Pradesh, due to heavy rain, the workers could not gather in large numbers at block/district headquarters but they protested with placards on demands, locally.

In Gujarat, however, the administration and police unleashed repression on the workers since the announcement of the programme. Several leaders of the union in Gujarat were put under house arrest. In spite of that, hundreds of workers came out on streets and registered their protest. The programme could not be observed in Pondicherry due to lockdown and the workers resolved to observe it later.

In spite of the threat by the authorities, the anganwadi workers and helpers who educate the public on the safety measures to be taken to prevent the spread of the pandemic, in a very disciplined manner, keeping all norms of physical distancing, observed the Demands’ Day at project/ district headquarters.
In many states the unions observed it as ‘protest day’ (virodh diwas). In some states the workers were in red uniform and in a few states they were wearing black dress as a symbol of protest. They have submitted a memorandum to the prime minister and women and child development minister through the local authorities.

In addition to the duty of going door-to-door taking the supplementary nutrition to each beneficiary to their doorsteps, they are fully engaged in Covid-19 related duties including conducting surveys of patients, taking them to hospitals, monitoring the patients at home and in the quarantine centres, taking social security and pension to the old and needy etc. But the government is not providing any safety gear to the workers; nor are they covered under any insurance scheme. They are not even recognised as ‘frontline workers’ or given any risk allowance. A large number of anganwadi workers have succumbed to Covid -19 pandemic doing Covid duty in various states, but no compensation is paid to the families yet.

When there is an increase in malnutrition, the government has cut down the ICDS budget by 30 per cent this year (2021-22). The AIFAWH said that by introducing a mobile app ‘Poshan tracker’ the government is threatening to stop the nutrition to the beneficiaries and wages of the workers, without even providing mobile phones, data packs or net connectivity. In the name of New Education Policy 2020, the government is opening preschools in schools, thereby dismantling the integrated approach of the ICDS. These issues have added to the anger of the workers who are already overburdened and poorly paid. This was reflected in the increased mobilisation throughout the country, in spite of the restrictions.

AIFAWH congratulated all the state unions and all the anganwadi workers and helpers for the grand success of the protest by visible mobilisations. It called upon all the anganwadi workers and helpers to prepare for heightened struggles including multiple days strike against this anti-people anti-national Modi government, which is not only dismantling the ICDS but ruining the entire country.