Thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers across 22 districts in Haryana have been on strike for more than 45 days. This movement, which started under the leadership of the Joint Coordination Committee headed by three unions, continues despite the rain and bitter cold and the workers and helpers are determined to make the Manohar Lal Khattar government listen to their demands.
The key issue at stake is unpaid wages. Technically, Anganwadi workers and helpers are paid an honorarium. In 2018, Haryana Chief Minister Khattar announced in the Vidhan Sabha that Haryana would be the first state to include its Anganwadi workers in the category of skilled and unskilled labourers and that the honorarium given to them would be linked with dearness allowance. In the same year, the Prime Minister had also increased the honorariums of Anganwadi workers and helpers by Rs. 1500 and Rs. 750 respectively. Nearly four years later, these promises are yet to be fulfilled, despite the yeoman service provided by the Anganwadi workers and helpers during the COVID pandemic. Other demands from the workers include:
- Implementation of the announcements made in 2018 (including the increases announced by the PM): a) all instalments of dearness allowance should be added to the honorarium & b) all arrears of dearness allowance should also be given immediately.
- Anganwadi workers and helpers should be given the status of government employees. Till such time as they are not made employees, a minimum wage Rs. 24,000 per month for workers and Rs. 16,000 per month for helpers must be implemented. Further benefits, such as social security benefits, that may arise as a result of their status as a full employee must also be provided.
- Anganwadi workers and helpers should have the full cost of treatment funded in case of an accident (these funds must be independent of enrolment in the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Bima Yojana). On death, Rs. 3 lakh must be given as compensation and a dependent must be provided with a suitable job.
- The new education policy should be withdrawn. ICDS should not be privatised in the name of Playway School. No NGO or private organisation should be allowed to be included in ICDS.
- All the posts of helpers, workers, supervisors, CDPO, PO etc. lying vacant in ICDS should be filled so that the work of the department is conducted properly.
- Use of the POSHAN app and any other tracking apps that infringe upon the rights of the Anganwadi workers must not be made compulsory. Furthermore, smartphones and digital literacy training must be provided for all Anganwadi workers and helpers who seek to use these apps.
The All India IT and ITeS Employees’ Union stands resolutely in solidarity with the protesting workers in their fight for their basic rights.