Tamil Nadu: Anganwadi Workers, Helpers Protest Proposed Merger of Centres, Low Wages and Pension
Leaders of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union and CITU leading the protest in Tirunelveli district (Image courtesy: CITU Tamil Nadu)
The Anganwadi workers and helpers in Tamil Nadu held a statewide protest seeking urgent attention from the state government towards their demands.
The long pending demands include recognition as government employees with time scale pay, filling vacancies, assured pension and a hike in the lump sum provided on retirement.
The workers and helpers draw a lump sum of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000, respectively, while their pension is a paltry sum of Rs 2000. The union also demands a time scale pay wages for the workers and helpers, besides increased pension and other social welfare measures.
The Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (AWHU), affiliated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), led the protest in all district headquarters on April 19.
The union flayed the efforts of the state government to merge the centres with low children enrolment and degrade the main centres with less than 15 children as mini centres. The protests saw massive participation of the workers and helpers across all the districts.
'ASSURE MINIMUM WAGES AND WELFARE MEASURES'
The department of social welfare and women development operates 54,439 Anganwadis across the state, of which 49,999 are main centres, and 4,940 are designated mini centres in 434 child development blocks.
The AWHU workers are involved in crucial work, including ensuring childhood care, nutrition support for child and mother, and immunisation, among other key roles. But the workers are yet to receive social and financial recognition from the governments.
Speaking to NewsClick, T Saraswathi, general secretary of the union, spoke about the challenges faced by the workers and helpers.
"The workers and helpers with around 10 years of experience draw around Rs 12,000 and Rs 7,000, respectively. Given the magnitude and the importance of work we discharge, the wages are too low," she said.
The union has been demanding the government recognise them as government employees and an assured minimum wage of Rs 26,000 under the time scale pay to ensure the livelihood protection of the workers and helpers. The demand for a pension, 50% of the last drawn salary, has also been pending for several years.
Workers and helpers participated in large numbers in the protest held in front of the district collector office, Namakkal (Image courtesy: CITU Tamil Nadu)
Besides, the workers are compelled by the officials to pay the electricity charges for the Anganwadis. The electricity connections were disconnected for the defaulters, leaving the workers and children without electricity in the centres.
"While some workers paid the charges, we did not follow the officials' instructions. The electricity connections were restored during the chief minister's visit to Kanyakumari. Such things should be taken care of by the government itself," Saraswathi said.
'DO NOT MERGE/SHUT CENTRES'
In rural and urban areas, the government sets up a main Anganwadi centre for a population of 400-800, while a mini centre is established in areas with a population of 150-400. For tribal areas, a main centre is established for 300-800 people and mini centres for 150- 300 people.
The government has proposed to downgrade main centres with less than 10 children as mini centres and merge mini centres with less than five children with the nearby main centre.
The union has condemned the proposal and demanded the state government maintain status-quo to ensure the children, adolescent girls, and ante and postnatal mothers are provided with essential care. The department of social welfare has estimated the beneficiaries as 32,51,509 until February 2023 under different schemes implemented by the Anganwadi centres.
"Closing or merger of centres will badly affect the beneficiaries in rural and tribal areas. The government should drop the plan and immediately fill up the existing vacancies, around 5,000, to ensure necessary care and attention are provided to the beneficiaries," Saraswathi said.
The workers have demanded the government announce summer vacation for the centres considering the increasing temperatures across the state.
ENSURE PROPER SUPPLIES TO CENTRES
Another allegation of the workers is the quality and quantity of supplies to the centres and the suppliers' delivery time.
"The quantity of the items supplied to the centres is generally underweight, and the quality must be improved because pregnant women and newborns are the consumers," Saraswathi said.
The goods are delivered at night, making it difficult for the workers to be physically present in the centres.
The workers and helpers are also flagging the restrictions for promotions. The AWHU is demanding the government promote the helpers as workers after completing five years of service without any preconditions.
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