Thousands of scheme workers registered their protest against the government across the country this morning on the first day of the strike called by the Central Trade Unions on August 7 and 8.
The trade unions had listed a set of 15 demands which included calling for a withdrawal of the privatisation of basic services and no further changes to the labour laws in the name of COVID-19. Their other demands were for safety and insurance, minimum wages and pension, risk allowance and compensation, and health, food, employment and income to all. The strike was called by the joint platform of Scheme Workers Federations and unions affiliated to the Central Trade Unions.
In a statement released on Thursday, scheme workers – Anganwadi, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) , MDM (Midday Meal), workers under National Health Mission (NHM) and Samagra Sikksha etc – had said they will be on strike on Friday and Saturday. The workers are affiliated with the Central Trade Unions (INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC)
On Friday, scheme workers took to the streets in Assam, AP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, HP, J&K, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu,Telengana, UP, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. ASHA workers staged demonstrations in front of Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) while anganwadi workers and helpers held demonstrations in project headquarters.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, many demonstrated at the village and the Centre level jointly and independently. In states which have been affected by floods, the workers boycotted work for two hours and wore black badges. Despite heavy rainfall in Kerala, ASHA workers demonstrated in front of central government offices and sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister. In places, family members and the general public also joined the workers.
In a statement, the unions said that there are scores of ASHA and anganwadi workers who have died on COVID-19 duty. “Except for a couple of cases, no insurance amount was paid to the families. Hundreds of ASHA and anganwadi workers are getting infected daily. The governments are not even providing basic safety gear to these workers,” the statement said, mentioning that their wages for six months of work is pending in many states and that midday meal workers have not been paid since the lockdown began.
The workers are planning on continuing with their struggle in many states if their demands are not met. They will also be on strike on Saturday, August 8, with a Satyagraha/Jail Bharo on August 9.