Karnataka: Government Blinks, Huge win for Anganwadi Workers
Image courtesy: AIFAWHA Facebook
The indefinite protest of Anganwadi workers in Bengaluru was wrapped up on February 1, when the state government provided written assurances on at least three demands. The state government has agreed to offer gratuity payments to all Anganwadi workers, fixed timings (10 AM to 1 PM) for pre-primary education, and promotions for workers and helpers in mini Anganwadi centres, including those who have only passed SSLC (10th standard). The protest commenced on January 23.
The considerable win comes on the back of a relatively large-scale CITU protest at Freedom Park. The New Education Policy (NEP) was also a concern, which included new pre-primary schools for children. There was a fear that this would lead to the closure of Anganwadis.
The CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) union suggested that the government could fix timings for pre-primary education at the Anganwadis and provide adequate training to the workers. The workers are given endless tasks under various schemes and are not provided with enough help.
The tasks relate to nutrition and care for pregnant mothers and children, maintaining records, pre-primary education and play, maintaining children's cleanliness, counselling for parents, cleaning the Anganwadi centres, conducting surveys, collecting information on births and deaths in the village, election duties and much more.
Moreover, many disruptive visits to Anganwadis also challenge the workers. The government has now fixed the time for pre-primary education between 10 AM to 1 PM, during which officials have been instructed not to make disruptive visits to the Anganwadi centre.
Another big concern was for workers at mini Anganwadis. A recent government order said that workers at mini Anganwadis who have completed pre-university courses (12th standard) would get a preference for promotions. This revised order says that workers with an SSLC certificate (10th standard) will be 'prioritised' for promotions. Moreover, the order states that seniority will also be given preference.
Thirdly, a note from the finance department also stated that gratuity payments to Anganwadi workers had been approved.
Since 1975, Anganwadi workers have been denied basic recognition as 'workers' and paid honorariums instead of salaries. The first demand was to be classified as teachers and not to be labelled 'karyakartas' (activists). This demand, however, was not met by the government.
The protesting women admired the Union President, S Varalakshmi, who also happens to be the CITU State President. Several women mentioned that they trusted her leadership because she had sacrificed family life to look after the well-being of Anganwadi workers.
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