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Delhi: Eyes on MCD Polls, Anganwadi Workers go on Indefinite Strike for Pay-Raise

The first day of the work strike saw no activity performed by Anganwadi caregivers in 'close to 70%' of the government-run daycare centres in Delhi.
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On Monday, workers and helpers had gathered to demonstrate near Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal's residence. Image Courtesy - DSAWHU

New Delhi: Thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers staged a demonstration near Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence on Monday, after an indefinite work strike to protest against the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)–led government in the national capital. They also plan to put pressure on the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party in view of the upcoming local body elections.

The striking workers and helpers say that the last few years saw a "tremendous" increase in inflation, leading to a surge in prices of essential items and their workload at the Anganwadi centres. The inflation and increased work were not accompanied by an increment in the honorarium of the all-women workforce in the city. The Delhi government raised their honorarium last in 2017 in the backdrop of a work strike, which persisted for 58 days back then.

The protesters also flayed the Narendra Modi-led central government for not ensuring the payment of an increment announced in 2018 for the Anganwadi workers and helpers across the country. According to a press statement, an increment of Rs 1500 and Rs 750 for workers and helpers, respectively, was announced by PM Modi.

On Monday, five thousand Anganwadi workers and helpers gathered to demonstrate near CM Kejriwal's residence at Delhi's Civil Lines, Priyambada Sharma of the Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU) informed Newsclick in an interview over the telephone. 

According to Sharma, the first day of the work strike saw no activity performed by workers and helpers in "close to 70%" of the Anganwadi centres in the city. There are above 10,000 government-run daycare centres under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)-administered Anganwadi scheme, which caters to over one lakh children and women in Delhi.

The total strength of the Anganwadi workers and helpers in these centres is around 22,000.

"For many months now, the [anganwadi] workers and helpers in the city have been protesting for their legitimate demands, but those remained unaddressed to date by the Delhi Government," Sharma told Newsclick

Last September, the women workforce, led by DSAWHU, has staged a "warning protest" at the Delhi Secretariat, followed by a one-day strike in January this year.

"We are now left with no other option but to have gone on an indefinite strike. It is now up to the Delhi government to pay heed to our demands immediately. Otherwise, the strike will continue," Sharma said, adding that picketing teams of striking workers and helpers will be formed to see that more centres are "shut down" in protest from tomorrow.

Among their major demands is an increment in their honorarium to Rs 25,000 and Rs 20,000 for Anganwadi workers and helpers, respectively, along with payment of arrears for 39 months – from October 2018 to January this year – of the honorarium hike that PM Modi had announced.

Currently, in Delhi, Anganwadi workers and helpers, while bereft of an "employee" status, are entitled to Rs 9,698 and Rs 4,839, respectively. 

DSAWHU, the union spearheading the ongoing movement, also demands retirement benefits for the Anganwadi caregivers and a provision of Employees' State Insurance (ESI) and Provident Fund (PF). 

On Monday, the protesters also decried the 'Saheli Samanvay Kendra' scheme and the New Education Policy, 2020. Under the former, a scheme brought by AAP government last year, 500 Anganwadi hubs were to be set up for incubating individual start-ups. This has, however, led to an increase in the working hours of the workers and helpers, according to DSAWHU.

Notably, the latest work strike by the Anganwadi workforce has come at a time when the national capital is getting ready for elections to 272 wards of its three municipal corporations – North, South and East. The polls are scheduled to be held in April this year.

"We will completely and actively boycott the parties that do not promise in writing to fulfil all our demands within a stipulated time frame in the upcoming MCD polls," Shivani Kaul, president of DSAWHU, said while addressing the protesting women on Monday. The Anganwadi workers and helpers of Delhi will also "expose the true colours of these parties" in states where assembly elections are due to take place next month, she added.

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