Anganwadi Federation Urges Centre and States to Implement SC Ruling on Gratuity
Delegates from across the country attend AIFAWH's convention at BTR Bhawan on Saturday. Photo by Ronak Chhabra
New Delhi: Demanding that the central and the state governments provide gratuity, a basic social security measure, to all the anganwadi caregivers in the country, the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) on Saturday called for a four-day ‘Mahapadav’ from July 26 at New Delhi.
In a convention held at BTR Bhawan in the national capital, the Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU) -backed federation added that the Centre must take urgent measures to implement a Supreme Court judgement that had earlier this year underscored the need to better the service conditions of the anganwadi workers and helpers in the country.
In April this year, a Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and A.K. Oka held that anganwadi caregivers under the central government’s erstwhile Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) – now known as Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0 scheme – were entitled to gratuity under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.
The 72-page judgement, which also asked the Centre and the states to “take serious note of their plight” as the all-women workforce is paid meagre remuneration despite performing a series of vital services at the grassroots level, was delivered in an appeal filed by the anganwadi workers and organisations including CITU-affiliated Gujarat State Anganwadi Karamchari Sangh.
On Saturday, in a resolution passed after the convention, the anganwadi caregivers’ federation welcomed the SC judgement, hailing it for directing the governments to “find modalities for providing better service conditions to the anganwadi workers and helpers”.
“The convention reiterates the understanding of AIFAWH, now endorsed by the Supreme Court, that the ICDS is not just a welfare scheme but the means to protect the rights of the children under six to nutrition, health and joyful learning and the rights of pregnant and lactating mothers,” the resolution read.
It added that anganwadi caregivers in the country, who have been struggling for many years now for their labour to be recognised, must be given proper training and absorbed as government employees.
SC Judgement Will Have ‘Positive Implications’
Launched in 1975, ICDS – now, Poshan 2.0 scheme – was envisaged to deliver basic services of nutrition, health and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) to its beneficiaries. Currently, there are lakhs of government-run daycare centres across the country where nearly 27 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers perform their duties in exchange for an honorarium.
In recent years, protests have escalated across the country by various sections of scheme workers including anganwadi caregivers to press for a hike in their honorariums and social security.
As per governments’ estimates, available until March this year, there have been in total 157 protests across the country since 2020. These protests, however, were also deeply tied to a larger demand of the women for their work to be classified not as “honorary” but “equivalent to some employment.”
The SC judgment will have “positive implications” on these struggles that are being waged by different unions and associations across the country, A R Sindhu, general secretary, AIFAWH told NewsClick.
“The SC judgment contains significant remarks with respect to the nature of the job of anganwadi caregivers,” Sindhu said, pointing at the remark of Justice Oka who said in his judgment that it is, “impossible to accept the contention that the job assigned to AWWs and AWHs is a parttime job”.
Senior advocate P. V. Surendranath, who represented the plaintiff in the said case, remarked while addressing the gathering that this has been for the first time that the apex court has “reckoned and respectfully recognised,” the services of the anganwadi workers and helpers to the nation.
Senior advocate PV Surendranath addressing the gathering at BTR Bhawan on Saturday. Photo by Ronak Chhabra.
According to him, the judgement paves the way for the long-pending demands of the anganwadi workers and helpers to be fulfilled. “We will, however, have to fight for that along with the unions on the ground,” the national general secretary of the All India Lawyers Union said.
As for the gratuity, “the unions and associations in Gujarat have already started assisting retired anganwadi workers and helpers in the state to file legal claims to the concerned authorities,” Arun Mehta, state president, Gujarat State Anganwadi Karamchari Sangh, said, urging delegates from different regions, who were attending the convention on Saturday, to help retirees in filing similar claims in their respective States.
Asked about it, Sindhu confirmed that the federation has taken up the matter and such claims for gratuity have been filed till now in parts of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, and Assam, among others. “We are also planning to press the Centre to issue a pan-India order on the same based on the SC judgment. This will be one among our major demands in the upcoming Mahapadav,” she said.
On Saturday, the anganwadi federation also said it is high time that the Centre must also take measures to implement the recommendations of the 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conference on scheme workers, which included above all, provisions of minimum wages, pension, and provident fund, among others, for the latter.
It also condemned the “repression” of the protesting anganwadi caregivers in various States with their administration “resorting to illegal measures.” Recently, 975 and 991 anganwadi workers and helpers were terminated in Haryana and Delhi respectively after the women participated in state-wide strike actions.
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