New Delhi: Nearly, 20,000 striking Anganwadi workers and helpers will take out a rally in Haryana’s Karnal on Wednesday to press for their pending demands even as one of the three unions spearheading the protest has decided to withdraw support to the strike.
Operations at almost all the 26,000 Anganwadi centres in 22 districts across Haryana have been hit since December 8, 2021, with the all-women workforce on strike and demanding increment in their monthly remuneration among other things despite chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar announcing several financial incentives earlier last month.
Preparations for the upcoming rally are in full swing and the workers and helpers have booked vehicles to travel to Karnal, Shakuntala, general secretary, Centre of Indian Trade Unions-affiliated Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, told Newsclick on Tuesday.
“We expect 20,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers to reach Karnal tomorrow. We have planned to take the rally to the district office,” Shakuntala said adding that the women will stay put outside the headquarters unless the state government doesn’t invite them for talks. Government employees, students, and farmer leaders in the state have extended support to the rally, she said. Though the government has told the union that the demands will be “considered” after the strike is withdrawn, she said, “We will continue to strike until the assurance is given in writing.”
Pusha Dalal, general secretary, Anganwadi Karyakarta Sahayika Union, which is affiliated to United Trade Union Congress, told Newsclick that women associated with their union will reach Karnal in “large numbers”. “We also organised a rally in Rohtak today to ensure that more women join the strike and reach Karnal tomorrow. We will ensure that the [state] government accepts our demands at the earliest,” she said.
There are around 52,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers in Haryana, according to government estimates. Anganwadi workers and helpers across the country play a significant role in the Integrated Child Development Scheme by providing nutrition supplements and other development help to children under six years and pregnant and lactating mothers.
Among the key demands of Haryana workers is the increment in their honorarium announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early 2018. Currently, Anganwadi workers and helpers in the state are entitled to a monthly honorarium of Rs 12,000 and Rs 6,000 respectively.
According to a press statement, an increment of Rs 1,500 and Rs 750 for the Anganwadi workers and helpers respectively was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in 2018, according to the protesting unions. The union leaders said that the increment was never provided despite Anganwadi workers and helpers being on the frontline of the battle against COVID-19 since 2020.
Last month, Khattar announced several financial incentives for the striking staff, including a retirement benefit of Rs 1 lakh for the workers and Rs 50,000 for the helpers. He also announced a hike in the monthly honorarium and an additional COVID-19 incentive for the workers and a promotion policy.
Khattar’s announcement failed to persuade the unions to withdraw their strike. The unions reiterated their concerns saying that most of the announcements were “nothing new”. “These measures were announced earlier too but never implemented,” Dalal said. Moreover, the unions are unhappy with the new promotion policy, which makes it mandatory for the workers to take an examination instead of considering their seniority to be promoted as supervisors.
Meanwhile, another union affiliated with the Samyukt Karamchari Sangh in Haryana has decided to withdraw support from the strike. Chota Gehlawat, the general secretary of the union, told Newsclick that its members are “satisfied” with what the strike has “achieved” so far and “don’t wish to continue further with the strike”.