Anganwadis started in the year 1985 under the Integrated Child Development Services programme for the better nutrition and health care of the children and educating women about the family programme. These centre’s even carry out pre-school activities mainly in the rural areas. They are run by the government which includes facilities such as supplementary nutrition, non-formal pre-school education, nutrition and health education, immunization, health check-up.
The responsibilities of handling the Anganwadi is on the appointed Anganwadi workers and they are assisted by the Anganwadi helpers, who are typically women from poor families. The Ministry of Women and Child Development has laid a proper set of guidelines for the Anganwadi workers. The responsibilities of the Anganwadi workers are as follows:
- Conducting regular quick surveys of all families.
- Organising pre-school activities.
- Providing health and nutrition education to families especially pregnant women.
- Motivating families to adopt family planning.
- Educating parents about child growth and development.
Unfortunately, India has a shortage of skilled professionals, these Anganwadi workers work as medical and healthcare experts as they are most familiar with the people surrounded by them and the problems of the rural. Through the Anganwadi system, the country is trying to meet the goal of proper nutrition and health care for the people living in the rural areas. Wages of the Anganwadi workers and helpers have been the most talked matter since years.
These Anganwadi centres are working in each state of the country, now let us have a look at some state issuesof the Anganwadi workers and helpers:
The state has around 67,337 active Anganwadi centres. The Karnataka Anganwadi workers and helpers are in a distress as they have not received their monthly payments for last five months. The former Siddaramaiah-led state government had increased the monthly salary of Anganwadi workers and helpers by Rs. 2,000 and 1,000 respectively. With this hike, the Anganwadi workers in the state now are now entitled to receive Rs. 8,000 and helpers Rs. 4,000, but till now the benefits of the increased grants haven’t reached the Anganwadi workers and helpers.
Apart from the salary issues, workers even complained about insufficient funds in the Karnataka’s Mathru Poorna scheme. The scheme was launched to provide proper nutrition for pregnant women and lactating mother for 25 days in a month. These workers don’t have any benefits after their retirements.
Anganwadi workers to have the similar issues like Karnataka of low wages, regularisation of Integrated Child Development Scheme, closure of pre-primary schools which endanger the jobs of the Anganwadi workers and helpers. In Punjab, the Anganwadi workers and helpers get a monthly salary of Rs 5400 and Rs 2700 respectively. There are around 27,000 Anganwadi workers and the similar number of helpers in the state. The government have recently hiked the wages of the Anganwadi workers and helpers by Rs 1000 and Rs 500 each. The union of the Punjab Anganwadi workers and helpers is demanding to wages similar to that of Haryana which is more than 10,000.
Jammu & Kashmir
Jammu & Kashmir have around 28,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers. Earlier this year the All Jammu and Kashmir Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Association were on protest demanding the government to provide the pending six months salary, fixation of the final seniority list, holding departmental promotion committee meeting, implementing new pension scheme, allocation of medical leave. The protesting Anganwadi workers and helpers demanded monthly wages of around 18, 000 for the workers and 10,00 for the helpers.
In the month of May, Anganwadi workers protested against the pending seven months salary. The Anganwadi workers even demanded a hike in monthly wages, travelling allowance. The Anganwadi helpers and workers have demanded a minimum salary of around 10,000 per month.
The situation was worst when the UP government violently ordered for a Lathi charge on the protestors and filed serious criminal cases against the protestors.
In a move which has sent shock waves across the country, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has criminalised dissent and the idea of peaceful protests by booking Anganwadi workers under charges of sedition when they demanded a better deal from the government.
In Sitapur district, over 90 km from the state capital Lucknow, four Anganwadi workers had been active in organising protest demonstrations on their demands including an increase in their honorarium and regularisation of their jobs.
There are around 2.07 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers in the state. The workers and helpers in the state protested and demanded the pending salary and demanded hike in wages as per the seniority level. The Anganwadi workers even demanded to reduce the retirement age from 65 to 60. The Anganwadi workers in the state are currently paid up with 6,500 per month. After the protest, state-imposed Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) law on the Anganwadi workers and helpers, the workers and helpers demanded the government to pay seventh pay commission as well.
Anganwadi Workers Angry With Budget
Over 14 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers have reacted angrily to the Budget presented in Parliament this year. A Federation of these workers said in a statement that despite Modi govt.’s promise to increase wages, the Budget allocation for ‘Anganwadi Services’ under the Ministry of Women & Child Development is yet again highly deficient. Anganwadis are part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Programme which is the world’s largest infant and pregnant mother nutrition programme. Allocation for pregnant and lactating mothers has been cut by Rs.300 crore in this Budget.
The election manifesto of the BJP for the 2014 Parliament elections said that if it came to power it would “Review the working conditions and enhance the remuneration of Anganwadi workers”. The last full budget of the NDA government is proof of not only the breaking of its promise but also of the criminal neglect of India’s eight crore malnourished children and two crore pregnant mothers,” the All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers & Helpers (AIFAWH) said in a statement.
“Since 2011 the remuneration of the Anganwadi employees had not been increased whereas the working hours had been increased to make it full time. At present the Government of India pays Rs.1800 for workers and Rs.900 for Anganwadi helpers per month,” the statement added.
According to the ministry of WCD, 75 lakh newborn children die every year in India before completing six months. In this situation, the only scheme which guarantees the holistic development of the children under 6 years in India, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme need to be strengthened, the Federation said. The Supreme Court directive and the Right to Food Act guarantee this.
But the Modi led NDA government had continuously cut the budget allocation to this crucial scheme which ensures right to food, education and health to children and maternity entitlement to mothers. In his first full budget the govt. had cut the budget from Rs.18108 crores (2014-15) to Rs.8400 crores (2015-16). Later, the government was forced to increase it slightly due to struggles by the workers and helpers, the Federation said.
Anganwadis are part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Programme which is the world’s largest infant and pregnant mother nutrition programme. Anganwadi workers/helpers are not just an issue of good wages. These workers are providing a key service to the people especially in remote tribal areas, better nutrition for babies and mothers. This is a key consideration and hence the person who delivers these services need to be paid sufficiently to devote their full time to the effort. The Anganwadi workers/helpers who must be treated as regular workers are treated as “volunteers”. The work they carry out in the rural areas is impossible to carry out without them. Educating in the rural areas, Proper nutrition of children, the Proper diet of a pregnant and lactating mother- major responsibilities they carry out on a daily basis.
This starving of Anganwadi workers/helpers is not just an issue of good wages. These workers are providing a key service to the people, especially in remote and tribal areas. Better nutrition for babies and mothers helps maintain better health for them. This is a key consideration and hence the personnel who deliver these services need to be paid sufficiently to devote their full time to the effort. It is this vision – of service to the people – that should motivate the govt.’s policy of paying them well.