Fresh rounds of negotiations are taking place between the Jharkhand state government and over 70,000 protesting Anganwadi workers of the state. The workers have been protesting to get a justified wage amount from the state government since August 16.
In a move to silence the building momentum of their agitation, Jharkhand government constituted a committee on October 1 and evicted Bina Sinha, the head of Anganwadi Sevika Sahayika Sangh workers. Sinha had protested by going on a hunger strike for over 15 days in a row. The workers coming under the ambit of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) work in 38,432 Anganwadi centres across Jharkhand. Currently, the workers at the centres make approximately a little over Rs 5000 and the helpers get approximately Rs 2,900 per month.
Sinha was evicted post a committee was set up by the Jharkhand government to decide on increasing the wages of Anganwadi workers and helpers. A few days prior to her eviction from the job, the chief minister of Jharkhand, Raghubar Das had threatened 76,864 Anganwadi workers of dismissing them all if they don’t stop their protests against the government for a wage hike.
Despite this, the workers are not backing down and resolve to continue their protest. Previously, on September 24, many protesting Anganwadi Sevika Sahayika Sangh workers were beaten up in Jharkhand's Ranchi by the police on the 40th consecutive day of their protest. The women were reportedly beaten up during their protest outside Raj Bhavan in Ranchi, Jharkhand by male police officers. A short video of this incident that went viral showed male police officers hitting women at the protest and not a single female police officer could be seen. They were agitating for the implementation of an increase in remuneration and effective implementation of Integrated Child Development Services among other demands. The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) condemned the reported police atrocities on the protesting Anganwadi workers and helpers. Jharkhand State Anganwadi Sevika Sahayika Sangh (affiliated to CITU) will held an Assembly March on September 25.
Speaking to NewsClick, A R Sindhu of the AIFAWH said, “The protests were joined by several unions and the agitation has gained momentum since after the lathi charge. This has increased the pressure on the state. There were discussions that were initiated with the chief secretary and tomorrow, fresh round of discussions will take place. Many unions have withdrawn from the strike and have returned to work; however, the future course of action will depend on the discussions with the state government tomorrow. The strike was temporarily called off.”
The workers are demanding that they should be declared government workers. Until then, the sevikas should be paid Rs 18,000 and sahayakas should be paid Rs 9,000, they say. They are also demanding that mini anganwadi sevikas should be treated the same way anganwadi sisters are treated. In addition to this, they want to be given social security benefits and the retirement age of workers to be increased to 65 from 60 years—after which a pension of Rs 5 lakh for the workers and Rs 3 lakh for the helpers should be given.
Also read: Over 20,000 Anganwadi Centres in MP Staring at Shutdown