New Delhi: Close to 50 Anganwadi workers across Haryana were terminated in the last four days after the last round of talks between the leaders of the striking staff and the state government held on January 10 failed for the fifth time. Operations at almost all the 26,000 Anganwadi centres in 22 districts of the state have been hit due to the ongoing strike since December 8 last year.
“Our union leaders in Karnal, Gurgaon, Dadri and Rewari districts have been terminated by the state government,” Surekha, president, Centre of Indian Trade Unions-led Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, told Newsclick over the phone on Saturday adding that “they are being punished” by the BJP-JJP coalition government for “raising fair demands”.
“The terminations started on Wednesday (January 19). The total number of terminated workers across the state has reached close to 50 now,” Surekha added. The union is among the two unions leading the strike.
The latest move by the Manohar Lal Khattar government comes days after the union leaders stuck to their demand for an increment in honorarium as promised by the Central government in 2018 during the last round of talks. The state government has adopted an aggressive stance against the striking workers.
Newsclick had earlier reported about how nearly 23,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers across Haryana had courted arrest on January 12 and police cases were lodged against the union leaders in many districts. Subsequently, the unions decided to gherao the residences of the members of the Legislative Assembly.
“Instead of continuing the talks, the state government is resorting to such tactics to intimidate us,” Surekha said. “It is like punishing the leaders and the workers for raising just demands.”
As per the 2018 announcement, made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the honorarium of the workers and the helpers was increased by Rs 1,500 and Rs 750 respectively. Currently, Haryana Anganwadi workers and helpers, who are tasked with a significant role under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) to provide nutrition supplements to children under six years and pregnant and lactating mothers, are entitled to a monthly honorarium of Rs 12,000 and Rs 6,000 respectively.
Newsclick reached out to Rajbala Kataria, joint director (ICDS), women and child development department, for a comment on the terminations but she refused to answer. An email questionnaire sent to the department’s director general also elicited no response.
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 had also announced a hike in the monthly honorarium and an additional COVID-19 incentive for the workers and a promotion policy.
But the announcement failed to persuade the two unions to withdraw the strike even as one organisation which was part of the coordination committee leading the strike withdrew its support.
The Sarva Karamchari Sangh (SKS), Haryana, also criticised the state government for sacking the workers. “We condemn such measures by the government,” Satish Sethi, general secretary, SKS, told Newsclick adding, “the movement [launched by the Anganwadi workers and helpers] will only be intensified.”