New Delhi: Hundreds of striking Anganwadi workers and helpers in Haryana were detained as the women’s foot march was prevented by the state police from reaching Chandigarh ahead of a proposed protest outside the state Assembly, caregivers’ union alleged on Thursday.
The agitating women also faced mild baton charges from Haryana police at Barwala toll plaza on the Panchkula-Yamunanagar National Highway, leading to hospitalisation of at least one union member on Thursday, union leaders added.
On strike since December 8 last year, the all-women workforce, led by CITU-backed Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (HAWHU) and AIUTUC-backed Anganwadi Karyakarta Sahayika Union (AKSU), were to assemble at a park near Panchkula bus stand on Thursday morning before staging a demonstration outside the state Assembly in Chandigarh.
The budget session of the Haryana Assembly had begun on Wednesday. The protesting caregivers are pressing the Manohar Lal Khattar – led government to immediately accept their demands which include, among others, an increase in their monthly honorarium – the increment was promised to them by the Central Government in 2018.
However, in a press statement issued late on Wednesday night, the leaders of HAWHU alleged that the vehicles carrying the Anganwadi workers and helpers “have been impounded.” Several workers and helpers were also detained in various districts, including at Palwal, Rewari, Mahendergarh, among others, the statement added.
On Thursday morning, hundreds of Anganwadi workers and helpers from the nearby districts, including Yamunanagar, Rohtak, Dadri, among others, reached Barwala toll plaza, where they faced police action, Surekha, state president, CITU-Haryana told NewsClick.
“The police, however, stopped us. They also used lathi-charge against us. Several faced injuries; one of our union members was taken to a hospital,” she claimed while speaking from Barwala toll plaza.
Several leaders of the caregivers’ unions were also detained from Barwala toll plaza, AR Sindhu, general secretary, All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH).
“Along with me, Haryana police also detained Usha Rani. They haven’t told us as yet where we are being taken,” she told NewsClick on Thursday afternoon. Rani is the national president of AIFAWH.
Despite the detentions and alleged use of force, workers and helpers continue to reach the Barwala toll plaza, Surekha of CITU claimed. “We wanted to reach the state Assembly. But now, we will stage a blockade here itself,” she said.
Thursday marks the 86th day of the indefinite strike of the Anganwadi caregivers, resulting in the halting of operations at almost all of the 26,000 state-run daycare centres in 22 districts in Haryana.
The last round of talks between the leaders of the striking caregivers and the state government officials, held on February 21, failed to end the stalemate for the sixth time, Shakuntala, general secretary, HAWHU, told NewsClick on Thursday.
“We were only called for a meeting after staging a mahapadav in Karnal. But even then, the state government refused to talk about our demands. They want us first to withdraw the strike action,” she said. Gathered in thousands, the striking women staged a mahapadav near CM Khattar’s residence in Karnal earlier last month.
Shakuntala added that “such a condition for holding talks” is not acceptable to the Joint Action Committee of both the unions, which are spearheading the ongoing movement.
“Till now, the state government has also terminated over 300 workers and helpers across numerous districts. However, we will not back down,” she said.
CITU condemns Haryana Police action
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) strongly condemned the “severe repression” by the BJP government against striking anganwadi workers and helpers in Haryana.
“Instead of having negotiation with these striking frontline workers and their Unions....the Govt has unleashed repression on them. The state Govt has also shamelessly invoked ESMA against them,” said a statement released by CITU.
The central trade union said “repression” did not “deter the determination of the valiant anganwadi workers and helpers” who continued with their protest. It urged the Khattar government to release all those arrested and called for immediate talks to end the impasse.
Hundreds of workers were arrested at Barwala toll gate and detained at various places, including CITU national secretaries A.R.Sindhu and Usha Rani, and general secretary and president of All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers, it said.