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Central Trade Unions call for Nation-Wide Strike against Government's Anti-Labour Policies 

More than one crore workers, working under various schemes of the Centre and state governments, are expected to come together on January 17, 2018, for the strike.
Workers Strike

Newsclick Image by Trina Shankar

Voicing against the anti-labour policies of the Centre, the Central Trade Unions have given a call for a one-day nationwide strike on January 17, 2018, of all the scheme workers under various Government schemes. More than one crore people are working under various schemes under Centre and state governments.

The scheme workers include around 27 lakh Anganwadi, Mini Anganwadi workers and helpers under the Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS), nearly 28 lakh workers under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS) and around ten lakh ASHA Workers under the National Health Mission (NHM). Along with this, lakhs are working under, National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM), National Child Labour Project (NCLP), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Small Savings Schemes.

Raising their demands, the workers will observe a strike and hold demonstrations in all district headquarters across the country on January 17. Other than the district centres, the workers will gather in front the offices of the Union Ministers, said A. R. Sindhu, the general secretary of All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) which is affiliated to Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU).

The main demands of the workers are,

1. Implementation of the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference (ILC) on scheme workers: recognition as workers, minimum wages not less than Rs.18,000 per month and social security including monthly pension not less than Rs.3000 to all scheme workers. Give coverage of Employees Provident Fund and Employees' State Insurance to scheme workers.

2. Adequate financial allocation in the Union Budget 2018-19 for the Centrally sponsored schemes including ICDS, MDMS, NHM, SSA, NCLP etc to ensure an increase in wages for the workers to the level of minimum wages and universalisation of the schemes with adequate infrastructure and quality services.

3. No privatisation of the schemes in any form and no subversion by way of cash transfer or exclusion of beneficiaries.

While talking to Newsclick, AIFAWH general secretary A. R. Sindhu said: “The functioning of the schemes is being affected due to the budget cuts. In the 2015-16 Union budget, the Centre had drastically cut down the budget allocation for ICDS to mere Rs.8335.77 in 2015-16 from Rs. 18,195 crores from the previous year. The allocation for MDM schemes was cut short from 13 thousand crores to 9 thousand crores too.”

Other than the budget cuts, the Modi government is trying to curtail the functioning of these schemes by introducing structural changes such as privatisation of the schemes involving corporates and NGOs like Vedanta, JP Cements, Nandi Foundation, ISKON etc.

On September 21, 2015, The Ministry for Women and Child Development (WCD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Vedanta to develop and modernise 4,000 Anganwadis in the country. The government took this step claiming lack of funds.

“The beneficiaries are actually being excluded in the name of linking of Aadhar and bank accounts. The government is introducing conditional cash transfers in place of universal services of crucial schemes including the ones which ensure food security”, the joint statement of trade unions revealed the Centre’s steps to dismantle the schemes.

The workers under these schemes who deliver the basic services of health, nutrition and education to the mass of the population are not recognised as workers and are not paid minimum wages. They are also denied any social security benefits.

Though the 45th ILC recommended that these workers must be recognised as workers, must be paid minimum wages and given social security benefits including pension, “the mid-day meal workers are paid only Rs 1,250 per month for ten months a year in the name of honorarium or incentive,” Sindhu pointed out the pathetic working conditions of workers.

“Along with all the poor working conditions, the ASHA workers and Mid-day meal workers are not entitled to the maternity leave.”

The strike and protest calls, demanding the rights of the workers, was given after, Mahapadav, the massive sit-in protest of workers which took place on November 9 to 11, 2017, in the national capital.

The future course of the joint struggles will be decided according to the response of the government to the strike and the fund allocation for these schemes in the coming budget.

Other than CITU, the trade unions including INTUC, AITUC, HMS, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC will be part of the nationwide strike.

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