Delhi Anganwadi workers, helpers to approach Supreme Court against invocation of ESMA

Condemning the invocation of ESMA on Anganwadi workers and helpers in Delhi, their union said they would approach the SC against the order as the Act pertains to only govt employees which they are not

Supreme Court
Supreme Court

NH Web Desk

Condemning the invocation of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on Anganwadi workers and helpers in Delhi, their union said they would approach the Supreme Court against the order as the Act pertains to only government employees which they are not.

As the Lieutenant Governor had invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) prohibiting them from striking for six months from the day of the order (March 9, 2022), the Anganwadi workers and helpers have suspended their indefinite strike for the time being after having protested for 39 days.

Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU) president Shivani Kaul said, “The government doesn’t want to give us the status of a government employee, but they want to slap orders on us. We are only voluntary workers. In such a situation, how can they invoke ESMA against the Anganwadi workers and helpers? With this order, the government has accepted that we are essential workers.”

The DSAWHU will challenge the move in court. “If the judiciary of the country is truly independent and impartial, it will revoke this unconstitutional order and ensure the fundamental right to strike. It will either order the government to regularise Anganwadi workers and give them the status of government employees or revoke ESMA. If the Supreme Court decision goes against the Anganwadi workers and helpers, we will resume the protest,” underlined Kaul.

The struggle of the Anganwadi workers and helpers will continue said Kaul. “During the municipal elections in Delhi, the Anganwadi workers will completely boycott both the AAP and the BJP. They will make the masses aware of the truth. The Anganwadi workers will not allow the leaders of BJP and AAP to enter their respective areas for campaigning. They have no right to show their faces to us,” added Kaul.

There are close to 10,700 Anganwadi centres, and about 22,000 Anganwadi workers and helpers. They have been on a strike since January 31, 2022, 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 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.

Earlier, 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, the director of the 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.

In a new development, the Women and Child Development Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam was divested of his portfolio on Wednesday. Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has been given charge of the department.

After taking over as the WCD minister, Gahlot tweeted, “After taking over as the Minister of Women and Child Development, held a meeting with the officers of the department today. I appeal to all the Anganwadi workers that for the future building and social development of the children of Delhi, let us all work shoulder to shoulder.”

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