Delhi Anganwadi workers, helpers hold protest march to demand increase in monthly wages
There are close to 10,700 Anganwadi centres in Delhi, and about 22,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers. Of these, almost 12,000 attended the protest march on Tuesday
The national Capital’s Anganwadi workers and helpers took out a protest march on Tuesday in Civil Lines to demand an increase in their monthly honorarium to ₹25,000 for workers and ₹20,000 for helpers and timely payment of their wages. The workers are currently paid ₹9,678 and the helpers ₹4,839. They have not been paid for the last four months.
The march was organised by Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU) from Vikas Bhawan 2 in Civil Lines where they have been protesting since January 31, 2022, to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence and then to the Vidhan Sabha, Delhi University and back to Vikas Bhawan 2.
There are close to 10,700 Anganwadi centres, and about 22,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers. Of these, almost 12,000 attended the protest march on Tuesday.
The Delhi government, in an attempt to break the protest, had called DSAWHU and CITU, a trade union affiliated to CPI(M), for a meeting on February 21, but DSAWH did not attend the meeting.
DSAWHU underscored that CITU has not been a part of the strike and all the Anganwadi workers were members of DSAWHU.
“We got an email on the evening of February 11, 2022, after our first protest march, for a meeting with Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam along with CITU. We responded stating that if a union which had nothing to do with the strike and no representation among the Anganwadi workers in Delhi was going to be called for it, DSAWHU would not attend. We want it to be a bilateral conversation,” said Shivani Kaul, president of the DSAWHU. The union is not affiliated to any political party.
The police said they had filed an FIR after hundreds of Anganwadi workers and helpers took out a ‘khabardar’ rally against the Delhi government near Vidhan Sabha on February 11. DCP (North) Sagar Singh Kalsi said legal action had been initiated under IPC Section 188 and Section 3 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act as the protest was held without permission. No one has been arrested.
After the meeting on February 21, 2022 with Delhi government, CITU members stated that they would act as interlocutors. “But they have no locus standi here. No union which is fighting for the rights of workers will accept strike breakers and saboteurs at the negotiating table,” reiterated Kaul.
She added that CITU had supported AAP in the previous MCD elections and all Anganwadi workers knew about their arrangement.
Wazirabad Anganwadi worker Anju Devi highlighted that they have been protesting for the last three weeks since January 31, 2022, in front of Vikas Bhawan 2. She reiterated that their strike would continue indefinitely till their demands were met. All the Anganwadis have been closed ever since the protest began and this has also delayed the distribution of ration.
The Delhi government, through supervisors, sent WhatsApp messages warning the Anganwadi workers and helpers of disciplinary action and that they wouldn’t be paid for the days they have been protesting and not working. A senior official had warned the workers of mass termination too.
However, director of Department of Women and Child Development, Rashmi Singh claimed that they had not issued any letter or notice to workers from the headquarters, but didn’t know what was happening in the districts.
“Our work has multiplied. I handle around 300 houses, whose data I should put up on the POSHAN tracker. I have to visit all these homes and I have to check for pregnant women and lactating mothers. I have to distribute ration to around 100 houses and also survey the animals in these households. During the pandemic, I had to check all those who took the vaccination and ensure everyone went for the vaccination. We had to check for those with Covid-19 symptoms in these houses,” explained Poonam Rani, who works at an Anganwadi in Aya Nagar, near Mehrauli.
She said that she cannot run a household with this payment, so she had had to add to it by tailoring. Poonam Rani is not the only one who has to supplement her meagre earnings with another job.
In 2017, the Delhi Cabinet had increased the honorarium by nearly 100% to Rs 9,678 per month for workers and Rs 4,839 per month for the helpers. In 2017, they were paid ₹5,000 and ₹2,500 respectively.
DSUWHU had to protest for 58 days in 2017 for the Delhi government under Arvind Kejriwal to pass a Gazette order on August 23, 2017, increasing the honorarium.
The Union government’s share remained the same at Rs 1,800 and Rs 900 per month respectively, while the share of Delhi Government increased to Rs 7,878 per month from Rs 3,200 and to Rs 3,939 per month from Rs 1,600.
Delhi government had also decided to pay Rs 500 and Rs 250 per month as mobile/internet charges in addition to the honorarium. However, several Anganwadi workers stated that they had never been reimbursed for mobile and internet charges and had to spend from their pockets.
DSAWHU protest in 2015
In July 2015, DSAWHU had sat on a dharna for 23 days and an indefinite hunger strike for seven days for non-payment of salaries to Anganwadi workers and helpers for nine months. The Anganwadi workers had sent a letter to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and National Human Rights Commission because the Kejriwal government had not responded to their appeals.
A delegation of striking workers had also met the principal secretary of then Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, after which his office had sent a letter to the Kejriwal government’s Child and Women Development Minister Sandeep Kumar and his secretary, seeking an explanation.
By the end of July, Kejriwal had met the DSAWHU delegation and agreed to their seven demands, which had included timely payment of honorarium and payment by 10th of every month, implementation of Anganwadi Bhima Yojana, distribution of identity cards to all the workers and payment for implementing Sabla scheme, a programme for empowerment of girls and women.
“After the 2017 strike, the honorarium was paid timely for a couple of months and then there were arrears for close to six months. Even in 2021 until we protested in September, the Union government’s share of the honorarium was pending for nine months,” said Vrishali Shruti, a member of DSAWHU.
National Herald reached out to the Delhi government for a comment on the issue, but got no response. The article will be updated if and when a response is received.
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