New Delhi: Over a month after the city-wide strike by Anganwadi workers and helpers in Delhi was withdrawn due to the imposition of a 1968 law prohibiting such actions for six months, a section of the caregivers demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Women and Child Development (WCD) Department at ISBT Kashmere Gate on Tuesday.
Led by the Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU)-backed Delhi Anganwadi Helpers and Workers Union (DAWHU), women workers sloganeered outside the office. They demanded the government roll back the notification that prohibited strike action and immediate reinstatement of those who were terminated last month in connection with the 39-day long strike.
On March 9, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, Anil Baijal, imposed the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) for six months, prohibiting the Anganwadi caregivers from going on strike while declaring the services rendered by them as “essential.”
There are over 10,000 Anganwadi centres in the national capital that cater to the needs of local women and children in the community with the assistance of one worker and one helper at each centre.
On January 31, majority of them, under the banner of another union, namely, the Delhi State Anganwadi Helpers and Workers Union (DSAWHU), went on an indefinite strike to press for their demands. Their demands included, above all, a substantial increase in the monthly honorarium and payment of full arrears of the increment as promised to the workers and helpers by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018.
Subsequently, another section of caregivers led by DAWHU also went on an indefinite strike with its set of demands.
On Tuesday, a delegation of DAWHU met Rashmi Singh, Director of WCD, and Navlendra Kumar Singh, Joint Director of WCD, said Anurag Saxena, state general secretary, CITU – Delhi unit. “We demanded the government officials roll back ESMA and also to let those terminated (anganwadi workers and helpers) to join their duties,” he told Newsclick.
On March 5, around 3,000 striking Anganwadi workers and helpers received show-cause notices, while some others received termination notices, according to a report by The Indian Express.
The same report quoted an official of the WCD department as explaining that those who have received the show-cause notices will be terminated, as per directions, in case they fail to rejoin their centres by March 9.
More than 991 workers have been terminated from their jobs till now, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government submitted in the Delhi High Court, which was hearing a petition. DSAWHU had filed the petition challenging the termination of Anganwadi caregivers. The matter will be heard next on April 13.
Kamla, general secretary of DAWHU, told Newsclick on Tuesday that many of the Anganwadi workers were “wrongfully terminated,” even if one goes by the government’s directions. “We have a list of women who had joined their centres before March 9, and yet they received termination notices,” she claimed.
Terming Tuesday’s meeting with WCD officials as a “positive,” Kamla added that the WCD officials agreed to take up the matter in their department-level meetings in the days to come. “We also demanded the government to release the honorariums pending for the last three months. We believe that a solution to the issues of Anganwadi workers in Delhi will be reached through talks with the government,” she said.