Lucknow: Members of Anganwadi Workers Association have decided to stage a protest on October 2, the day Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme was launched, alleging that Uttar Pradesh government has been neglecting their pending demands for about four years.
The decision came after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday distributed 1.23 lakh smartphones to anganwadi workers during a programme to promote nutrition among women and children in the state.
Under the Nutrition Campaign, the Chief Minister also gave away 1.87 lakh new-born growth monitoring devices (infantometers) to anganwadi workers for health testing of children. Now, these workers will be digitally enabled to perform their task, said the government.
However, anganwadi workers are cut up with the government for neglecting their plight and distributing smartphones ahead of the Assembly polls. Veena Gupta, president UP Anganwadi Karamchari Union termed the move as a “election gimmick”.
“Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath showered praise on anganwadi workers for their contribution to COVID control efforts in Uttar Pradesh and said his government has increased their monthly honorarium and indicated a wage hike for anganwadi workers again. This is a blatant lie. The current government has not increased a single rupee in past four-five years.” Gupta told NewsClick.
On smartphone distribution to anganwadi workers, Gupta said: “The smartphones this government has distributed is being given from Poshan Abhiyan (nutrition mission) fund. This fund is supposed to be spent on children’s food or nutritious foods. But they are not providing food, instead cellphones are being given to ‘lure’ workers,” she claimed, adding that even anganwadi workers have seen through this “gesture” as the “government, which failed to provide basic facilities and essential health equipment during the second wave of COVID-19 to anganwadi workers when they were in dire need of it, suddenly distributed smartphones and is praising them for their work.”
Pointing out some flaws in these smartphones, Gupta said: “These cellphones have already an in-built poshan tracker app which will indicate whether a child is malnourished or not after inputting the child’s height and weight. The problem is that this entire process is in English which hardly any worker would understand. Second, the process is very lengthy and no training and awareness classes have been held.”
Meanwhile, anganwadi workers staged a state-wide protest last week over a slew of demands. They have been demanding the government to appoint them as regular employees and increase their monthly remuneration to Rs 21,000.
Read Also: ASHA, Anganwadi Workers in UP Join Nationwide Protest
Their other demands include – Rs 50 lakh financial assistance for the families of workers and helpers who died from COVID-19. The association has also demanded a specific pension policy for 62 year-old anganwadi workers who were removed by the government. They underlined that the workers should get retirement benefits till the pension policy is implemented.
An anganwadi worker on the condition of anonymity said: “The workers and helpers, along with ASHA workers, are not only distributing food material to children but also visiting door-to-door to collect information regarding COVID. However, despite such hectic and risky work, our remuneration has not been increased. We should be recognised as department/government officials,” she said.
Adityanath, while distributing phones, said: “Smartphones will make your work even smarter and this smartness should be your identity. Smartphones will provide health-related information of every child, making the daily work easy and transparent.”
However, the anganwadi workers said the chief minister is concerned with work and “transparency” but he should also pay heed to their grievances which they have been raising for the past four-five years.
“Isn’t is hypocrisy that the government is lauding the tireless effect of anganwadi workers in controlling the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic but those workers and helpers who died due to COVID-19 haven’t received any financial assistance from the government?” she added.
The union also slammed Adityanath for his statement that anganwadi workers were known only for protest before 2017 but were playing an important role in the nutrition and development of children with commitmentnow.
Criticising the chief minister for his “doublespeak”, the anganwadi workers said: “For eradicating encephalitis from Uttar Pradesh successfully, he gives credit to workers but also says that anganwadi were known for protest before 2017. He is actually not giving us credit for our work but is discrediting our work since the past 46 years as ICDS scheme was launched on October 2, 1975,” she said.
The union said it would launch demonstrations across the state against government and its “much-hyped advertisement policy”.