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Delhi Govt. Must Withdraw ESMA Invoked Against Striking Anganwadi Workers, Restart Negotiations: AIFAWH

In what AIFAWH described as an "anti-democratic, anti-trade union attitude," Delhi LG, at the government's behest, invoked ESMA on the striking Anganwadi workers and helpers yesterday.

The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) has strongly condemned the invoking of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on striking Anganwadi workers and helpers by the Delhi Government. They have been on strike since early this year. Delhi Anganwadi Workers' and Helpers' Union (DAWHU), affiliated with AIFAWH, has been on strike since February 5, 2022, with a 17-point charter of demands.

After a protest demonstration at the Delhi secretariat on February 11, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had called the unions for negotiations. On February 21, a delegation of DAWHU (CITU) with the Women and Child Development (WCD) Minister and other concerned officials of the government "on the demands which include the immediate release of the increase in wages declared by the Central government in 2018 and withheld by the state government with arrears, the annual increase in wages, minimum wages and social security including pension pending the regularisation as government employees."

At the time, the WCD Minister in principle agreed to the demands but refused to give any written assurance, and the union decided to continue the strike. As the strike was on, Delhi WCD Minister "unilaterally announced an increase in wages of the Anganwadi workers and helpers and claimed that they are paying the highest wages in the country, which is false."

DAWHU demanded that the government continue the talks with the unions on issues of regularisation of the workers kept on leave vacancies for more than ten years, the annual increase in wages and retirement benefits etc." But, instead of holding a discussion, the Delhi government started issuing notices to the striking workers and terminating them. In what AIFAWH described as an "anti-democratic, anti-trade union attitude," Delhi LG, at the government's behest, invoked ESMA on the striking Anganwadi workers and helpers yesterday.

"It is a highly condemnable and authoritarian action. At the same time, it is also ironic that the governments which are not ready to recognise the Anganwadi workers and helpers as government employees invoke ESMA which is applicable to the government employees," the statement reads. It also highlighted that the Haryana BJP government, in a similar move, had invoked ESMA on striking ASHA workers last month.

AIFAWH has also asked the other unions not to indulge in misinformation campaigns and mudslinging, which only benefits a government seeking to destroy the unity of striking workers and helpers.

"While demanding that the AAP government withdraw ESMA and restart the negotiations with the unions, we call upon all the Anganwadi workers and helpers to unite in the fight against the Delhi government as well as the Modi government, which is dismantling the ICDS. We urge all the democratic people in the country to come out against the draconian ESMA illegally imposed against the Anganwadi workers and helpers who extend valuable service risking their lives fighting the pandemic and malnutrition."

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