Karnataka anganwadi workers have decided to defer the ongoing protest till December 16 after getting a written assurance for an exclusive meeting on the same day to settle the issues of the workers. The state minister for Women and Child Development Jolle Shashikala Annasaheb also publicly announced that she supports the demands of the Anganwadi workers.
“We have received written assurance from the government agreeing to a meeting with the officials from education ministry, health ministry, women and child development ministry, finance ministry and additional chief secretary,” S Varalakshmi, president of Karnataka State Anganwadi Workers’ Association told NewsClick.
A day before on December 10, tens of thousands of anganwadi workers from all across Karnataka had started marching from Tumkur to Bengaluru in protest against the government’s policy introducing LKG and UKG classes in government schools.
Also read: Karnataka Anganwadi Workers to March Against State Govt’s Policies
However, soon after the anganwadi workers had started marching, they were blocked by the police. Around 30,000 anganwadi workers refused to disperse despite the instructions of the police. As they were stopped from marching, they gathered in the Glass House Maidan and other maidans of Tumkur. The workers demanded that the government either settle their demands or allow them to proceed with the padayatra.
The protesters, under the banner of the Karnataka Anganwadi Workers’ Association affiliated to the Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU), are demanding that the preschools- LKG and UKG classes- should be brought under the anganwadi centres. They are also demanding a minimum wage of Rs 21,000 per month.
On the day of the march, the workers had organised a public meeting which was attended by many leaders and activists. The leaders also addressed a press conference. “After the press conference, senior police officers categorically stated that the padayatra will not be allowed. On the insistence of leaders, a delegation was taken to Bangalore for a meeting with Chief Minister. However, it is learnt per late evening reports that the talks have been unsuccessful. No concrete assurance was forthcoming, except that CM will talk to Chief Secretary soon,” All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) had earlier said in a press statement.
Previously, the police had tried several tactics to prevent the gathering of anganwadi workers at Tumkur, alleged the protesting workers. At Kolar District, anganwadi leaders were put under house arrest from the night of December 9. Vehicles travelling towards Tumkur from various districts were stopped enroute or prevented from starting by pressurising vehicle owners or drivers. In spite of such tactics, over 30,000 anganwadi workers had gathered by evening.
“I have never seen such a negative attitude from any of the elected representatives towards the people’s demand. He was not even ready to hear a full sentence from the state president of the union of Anganwadi workers,” said Varalakshmi. “He just took the memorandum and said that there is meeting on 16th of this month (December 16),” AR Sindhu, All India general secretary of AIFAWH, had said on Tuesday evening. However, the scheduled meeting did not include the unions, she had said.
As the protesters refused to move without any written assurance, the state government was forced to fix a meeting with the protesting workers.
Earlier, on May 17, the state government had issued an order to start pre-primary classes in the government schools. In the initial phase, as many as 176 government schools started the LKG and UKG classes in the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year. As per the order, children of minimum three and half years can be admitted in the kindergartens, and the pre-primary classes are aimed at children in the age group between three and half years and six years.
Also read: Karnataka Anganwadi Workers Protest Govt’s Decision to Introduce Pre-Primary Classes in Schools
The workers have constantly been pointing out that the new policy is just a duplication of existing ICDS programme. “Around 176 centres have been started as a pilot project and these pre-primary schools are known as Karnataka Public School which function under the government school. As the new schools are meant for the children who fall under the age group of three and half years, same as that of anganwadis, there is no children in anganwadis in these areas,” S Varalakshmi had told NewsClick earlier.