A R Sindhu
AT the call of the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH), thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers participated in the ‘Anganwadi Adhikar Mahapadav’ that began in New Delhi on July 26. The four-day long mahapadav will conclude on July 29 with a pledge to intensify the struggles further. More than seven thousand Anganwadi workers and helpers joined the mahapadav on its first day with a resolve to fight against anti-worker, anti-people, anti-scheme workers policies of the ruling dispensation. More will be participating on the remaining three days.
More than 27 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers of the country who provide basic services of nutrition, health and early childhood education and care (ECCE) to nearly eight crore children under six and nearly two crore pregnant women and lactating mothers under the ICDS, have been underlining that they have the right to be treated as workers with minimum wages, pension and social security benefits. While the country is celebrating its 75th anniversary of independence as ‘Amrit Mahotsav’, thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers are taking to the streets of New Delhi to join the four-day long Anganwadi Adhikar Mahapadav’ to raise their just and legitimate demands.
The mahapadav reiterated the demands for implementation of the recent Supreme Court judgment on payment of gratuity to the anganwadi workers and helpers and improve their working conditions, and also the recommendations of the 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conferences. It also demanded adequate budgetary allocations for ICDS to ensure regular payment of minimum wages and adequate infrastructure and nutrition. Other major demands included bringing scheme workers under the purview of labour laws; withdrawal of New Education Policy, declaring early childhood education and care (ECCE) as part of RTE Act and making Anganwadis the nodal agencies; providing electronic tablets, internet and data pack before enforcing digitisation/poshan tracker; payment of risk allowance for pandemic related duties and compensation to victims of Covid 19 etc. The mahapadav strongly condemned the illegal mass-scale termination of workers and helpers by the Haryana and Delhi governments and the withdrawal of ESMA in Delhi. It demanded the restoration of retrenched workers and helpers in Haryana and Delhi and to acknowledge their trade union rights etc.
A presidium, comprising national president, Usha Rani, vice presidents and presidents of state level unions affiliated to AIFAWH presided over the programme.
CITU general secretary, Tapan Sen inaugurated the mahapadav and expressed full support of the trade union movement to the struggle of Anganwadi workers and helpers. He explained the importance of intensified struggles to challenge the neoliberal policy regime and the communal policies of the government. K Hemalata, CITU president called upon the workers to launch a united struggle to safeguard workers’ rights including pension and gratuity.
Hannan Mollah, AIKS general secretary, expressed solidarity of farmers with Anganwadi workers and helpers. Expressing full support to their demands, members of parliament from CPI(M), E Kareem and V Sivadasan visited the mahapadav and promised to raise the voice of Anganwadi employees in the parliament.
On the first day of mahapadav, Presanna Kumari from Kerala, Harjeet Kaur from Punjab, Sunanda from Karnataka, Arun Mehta from Gujarat, Shanty Soren from Jharkhand, Shakuntala from Haryana, Suraiya and Hanifa from Kashmir and leaders from Andhra Pradesh addressed the dharna.
Senior advocate of Supreme Court, and General Secretary of AILU, P V Surendranath explained the Supreme Court decision regarding the right to gratuity. Anjali Bhardwaj of the right to food campaign said that struggle of Anganwadis is not only for their rights but for the children of India, for a healthy and educated India.
Concluding the first day of mahapadav, AIFAWH general secretary A R Sindu explained the objective of this programme and called upon the workers to intensify the struggle for their rights. On behalf of the presidium, Usha Rani thanked and called upon all the workers and helpers to assemble at Jantar Mantar in the morning on the second day of dharna.
Cultural programmes from each state presented the true spirit of India, of unity in diversity. Anganwadi workers and helpers from different states – from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Assam – unitedly raised the voice for their rights, with full enthusiasm for a long struggle, and a determination to win.