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Bihar: Anganwadi Workers end 71-day Strike After CM’s Assurance on 5-Point Demands

The protestors’ main demands include an increase in monthly honorarium and government employee status for them.
Anganwadi workers

Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Thousands of anganwadi sevikas and sahayikas (helpers) in Bihar ended their 71-day indefinite strike following assurances by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on fulfilling their demands. They will return to work on Saturday (December 9).

Anganwadi sevikas and sahayikas were on strike since last September 2023 demanding that the state government fulfil their five-point demand charter. The protestors’ main demands include an increase in their monthly honorarium and government employee status for them. They are also demanding an increase in the retirement age of the workers and a lump sum of Rs 5 lakh for sevikas and Rs 3 lakh for sahayikas.

Bihar Rajya Anganwadi Sanyukt Sangharsh Samiti convenor Kumar Vindeshwar Singh told NewsClick that the decision to end the strike was taken on Friday after an assurance from Kumar that the Mahagathbandan government would fulfil their demands.

Singh said the Samiti has requested all anganwadi sevikas and sahayikas to join their work immediately.

According to Singh, the decision to end the strike was taken after the CPI (Communist Party of India) legislature party leader Suryakant Paswan held talks with the Chief Minister. "Kumar assured Paswan that the government would fulfil the demands and appealed to them to end their strike".

In early November, during the winter session of the Bihar Assembly, hundreds of anganwadi sevikas and sahayikas took to the streets and staged a protest in Patna. The protesters then tried to gherao the Bihar Assembly as part of their protest. Police used water cannons and lathicharged to disperse them. The protestors, however, threatened to intensify their stir in the coming days if the government led by Nitish Kumar failed to fulfil their demands.

On November 9, protesters gathered outside the state headquarters of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) here and staged a demonstration in support of their demands. But the police again used water cannons to disperse them. The police action was condemned by the Left parties.

Later the Left parties, including CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML) MLAs as well as Opposition BJP MLAs raised the issue of police action against anganwadi protesters in the House.

Anganwadi sevikas have repeatedly expressed their dismay over low monthly honorarium and demanded to double the amount. They reminded the state government that during the Bihar Assembly polls, none other than RJD leader and now Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav had promised to double their monthly honorarium if voted to power.

At present, the government is paying a monthly honorarium of Rs 6,500 to sevikas and Rs 5,900 to sahayikas.

In the past two years, thousands of anganwadi sevikas and sahayikas, who are low-paid contractual workers, have repeatedly protested.

In Bihar, there are 2.15 lakh sevikas and sahayikas in nearly 1.14 lakh anganwadi centres.

In October 2023 the state government increased the monthly honorarium of thousands of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers, after repeated protests by the scheme workers. The honorarium was hiked from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500/month, and the state government had also demanded that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government should increase their honorarium under the National Rural Health Mission.

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