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Haryana: As Strike Enters Third Month, Anganwadi Unions Want Govt. to Resume Talks

On Monday, over 30,000 striking Anganwadi workers and helpers, hailing from different districts of Haryana, gathered in Karnal for a “mahapadav” near state CM Khattar’s residence.
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A union leader addressing the anganwadi workers and helpers in Karnal on Monday. Image Courtesy - Special Arrangement

New Delhi: As the state-wide strike of the Anganwadi workers and helpers in Haryana enters its third month, the all-women workforce staged a mahapadav on Monday near state Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s residence in Karnal, demanding the latter to resume talks with the agitating unions.

Gathered in thousands, the striking women, hailing from different districts in Haryana, also took out a rally in the city, raising slogans against the BJP-JJP coalition government in the state.

Over 30,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers have come from 18 districts of Haryana, Surekha, state president, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), told NewsClick in a telephone interview on Monday. Speaking from Karnal, she added that the unions have given a call to “spend the night here itself.”

We will stay here in Karnal till the state government agrees to talk to us. Today, after the mahapadav, the [government] officials gave us verbal assurances that dialogue would resume soon. However, we want a written notice on when the next round of talks is scheduled,” Surekha said in the afternoon.

The rally started in the afternoon. Anganwadi workers and helpers have currently blocked a road near the ground (where the public meeting was organised),” AR Sindhu, general secretary, All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, told NewsClick later in the evening, further claiming that no written information has been received from the government’s end till then.

Monday marks the 68th day of the indefinite strike of the Anganwadi caregivers in Haryana, resulting in the halting of operations at almost all of the 26,000 state-run daycare centres in 22 districts of the state since December last year.

Led jointly by CITU-led Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union and AIUTUC-led Anganwadi Karyakarta Sahayika Union, the striking women are demanding, among others, an increment in their monthly honorarium – the increase was promised to them by the Central Government in 2018.

The last round of talks between the leaders of the striking caregivers and the state government officials, held on January 10, failed to end the stalemate for the fifth time. Since then, the BJP-JJP government, while refusing to budge, has chosen to “punish the striking workers and helpers,” the agitating unions allege.

More than 100 of our union members have been terminated till now, and also many FIRs have been filed across the state against the leaders,” Surekha alleged on Monday. “The state government thinks it can threaten us, but we will only get stronger by it.”

The major demands of the Anganwadi workers and helpers include an increment of Rs 1500 and Rs 750 for workers and helpers, respectively, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in one of his national addresses in 2018. Over 50,000 Anganwadi caregivers under the Central government’s Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 scheme (earlier known as Integrated Child Development Services) in Haryana are currently entitled to Rs 12,000 and Rs 6,000.

Besides, the striking workers and helpers are also demanding grants of skilled and unskilled workers status and introducing Dearness Allowance (DA) and retirement benefit worth Rs 3 lakh, among others.

In December, against the background of the strike action, CM Khattar did announce several financial incentives for the Anganwadi staff, including a retirement benefit worth 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, along with a promotion policy.

However, the failure of his administration to respond positively to the major demand – an increment as per the 2018 announcement – meant that the strike action continued, with the workers and helpers taking part in numerous state-wide programmes during the period.

The government must immediately resolve the matter; otherwise, the strike action will only get intensified across the state,” Surekha claimed.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Sarva Karamchari Sangh (SKS) in Haryana announced to financially support the Anganwadi workers and helpers who have been on strike. “We condemn the aggressive stance that the state government has taken against these women. We are totally in support of the protesting unions and their demands,” Satish Sethi, general secretary, SKS, told NewsClick.

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