TN: All-India Conference of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Demand Time Scale Pay and Social Welfare Measures
Tapan Sen, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) inaugurated the national conference of the AIFAWH
The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) have resolved to intensify their struggles against the apathetic attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Union government in addressing the increasing child malnutrition across the country. The organisation pointed out the drastic cut in budgetary allocation for women and child development and the increasing death of infants below six months.
The exploitation of the workers attached to the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) was flagged by the workers and helpers. There are around 13 lakh workers, 11 lakh helpers and 34,000 supervisors in the anganwadis across the country.
The Union government pays Rs 4,500 for workers and Rs 2,500 for the helpers, while the state governments step in with their contribution to the salary/honorarium.
The 10th National Conference of the AIFAWH, held in Madurai from December 6-9, resolved to pursue struggles to win rights, including job regularisation, better working conditions, increasing workload and retirement rights. The federation has demanded the implementation of timescale pay for workers and helpers.
The AIFAWH flagged the increasing tendency of the BJP government to destroy the anganwadis by reducing budgetary allocations, and low wages for workers and helpers, besides overloading the workers.
AR Sindhu, the general secretary of the federation, while addressing the conference, accused the Union government of belittling the needs of the children of the country.
"The children are suffering from malnutrition and stunting. But the BJP government and prime minister are more interested in attending to the needs of their corporate friends," she said.
The share of budget allocation for children in the 2022-23 financial year was around 2.35% of the total budget, the lowest in the last 11 years. Similarly, the budget had little for child nutrition, despite the demands for higher allocation considering the higher stunting rates.
"The government is making tall claims on Poshan Abhiyan and Poshan Tracker to improve the children's nutrition. But the children are deprived of nutrition due to lower allocation. Further, the workers are put under more stress", Sindhu said.
The tracker app has only English as the language despite the Bombay High Court ordering the government to include regional languages. The lack of new versions of smartphones and lower sanctions for recharges are forcing the workers to spend from their pockets.
"Such measures will only weaken the anganwadis from effective functioning, leading to increased child malnutrition," said Daisy, president of Tamil Nadu Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Association to NewsClick.
ENSURE TIMESCALE PAY AND SOCIAL SECURITY MEASURES
Notwithstanding the increased workload, duplication of work, and frontline works during the COVID-19 pandemic, the workers and helpers remain highly underpaid and deprived of social welfare measures.
In addition to the allocation from the Union government, the state governments chip in with their share. Workers and helpers in Tamil Nadu get a special time scale pay of Rs 7,700, while Kerala pays Rs 10,000 as an honorarium.
The conference demanded the union and state governments ensure the time scale pay of Rs 26,000 for all the workers and regularise them. Social security benefits, including employees' provident fund (EPF), employees' state insurance (ESI) and gratuity, remain a distant dream for the workers.
Besides, the workers are forced to spend money from their pockets to buy LPG cylinders, the price of which increases frequently and rent for buildings. The federation claimed that the governments pay around Rs 400 for LPG cylinders, while the market price has shot up to more than Rs 1,200.
A resolution passed at the conference was highly critical of the labour codes proposed by the BJP-led Union government.
"The labour code does not recognise anganwadi workers as labourers, implying the denial of minimum wages and regularisation of work," the resolution said.
The conference also demanded the upgradation of mini anganwadis into full-fledged anganwadis.
The anganwadi workers have sought inspiration from the historic farmers' struggle to win their rights. The conference was attended by 650 delegates representing several state associations, while more than 20,000 participated in the rally and public meeting. The conference elected Usharani and Sindhu as the president and general secretary of the federation, respectively.
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