Over 14 lakh anganwadi workers and helpers have reacted angrily to the Budget presented in Parliament today. A Federation of these workers said in a statement that despite Modi govt.’s promise to increase wages, the Budget allocation for ‘Anganwadi Services’ under the Ministry of Women & Child Development is yet again highly deficient. Anganwadis are part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Programme which is the world’s largest infant and pregnant mother nutrition programme. Allocation for pregnant and lactating mothers has been cut by Rs.300 crore in this Budget.
The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers & Helpers (AIFAWH) called for countrywide burning of effigies of the Modi govt. and other protests to voice the anger of anganwadi workers and helpers.
“The election manifesto of the BJP for the 2014 Parliament elections said that if it came to power it would “Review the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of Anganwadi workers”. The last full budget of the NDA government is proof of not only the breaking of its promise but also of the criminal neglect of India’s eight crore malnourished children and two crore pregnant mothers,” the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers & Helpers (AIFAWH) said in a statement today.
“Since 2011 the remuneration of the anganwadi employees had not been increased whereas the working hours had been increased to make it full time. At present the Government of India pays Rs.1800 for workers and Rs.900 for anganwadi helpers per month,” the statement added.
According to the ministry of WCD, 75 lakh new born children die every year in India before completing six months. In this situation, the only scheme which guarantees holistic development of the children under 6 years in India, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme need to be strengthened, the Federation said. The Supreme Court directive and the Right to Food Act guarantee this.
But the Modi led NDA government had continuously cut the budget allocation to this crucial scheme which ensure right to food, education and health to children and maternity entitlement to mothers. In his first full budget the govt. had cut the budget from Rs.18108 crores (2014-15) to Rs.8400 crores (2015-16). Later, the government was forced to increase it slightly due to struggles by the workers and helpers, the Federation said.
“The allocation for ICDS this year is Rs.16, 334.88 crore whereas it was Rs.15,425.19 crore last year. This allocation is grossly inadequate to even cover the increased cost norms for the supplementary nutrition declared by the Ministry in September 2017. According the ministry, the additional expenditure for nutrition is nearly Rs.10000 crore in ICDS for three years,” the Federation said.
In many states the supplementary nutrition has not been supplied for the last six months, the Federation alleged.
The AIFAWH also strongly criticized the Modi government for making false claims on increasing maternity benefits whereas it has actually cut the already inadequate allocation for Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana by Rs.300 crore in this Budget.
Over 60 lakh scheme workers, including anganwadi workers and helpers, had gone on a one day strike on 17 January 2018 demanding better wages and regularization. Earlier, in November 2017, they had participated in a historic ‘mahapadav’ or mass sit in at Delhi on the same demands. The 45th Indian Labour Conference had also recommended recognition of the scheme workers including anganwadi workers and helpers as employees, give them minimum wages and pension and other social security benefits.
The Federation alleged that the government was going ahead with direct benefit transfer in place of services in anganwadi centres and packaged food by the multinationals. It warned that “the government [would have] to pay a heavy price in the coming elections if they are not ready to “mend their ways”.
AIFAWH has called upon all the state unions and anganwadi workers and helpers to protest against government’s anti worker policies by organising protest demonstrations and actions including burning of effigy, all over the country on 2nd February 2017, along with other workers as per the call of central trade unions.
“AIFAWH will plan further struggles including strike and indefinite Padav in Delhi in consultation with other trade unions. AIFAWH calls upon the anganwadi employees to be prepared for militant struggles till our demands are met and reach out to the people of the country for support to the struggles to Save ICDS” the Federation said.