Anganwadi workers intensified their protest on Friday by announcing that they would boycott the state-wide polio drive that will take place on Sunday. The workers held a protest rally at the collectorate on Friday, marking the 12th day of their indefinite strike. The main demands of the association are an increase in honorarium received and pension benefits.
The anganwadi workers have been on strike since January 6. The strike has caused disruption in the ICDS scheme as well as in the pre-primary education of students belonging to rural areas of the state. “Nobody is bothered about either us or even the education of rural students. But now we have decided to boycott the polio drive. Anganwadi workers administer these drops in all areas,” said Shubha Shamin, General Secretary, Anganwadi Karmachari Sangathna.
“The officials are trying to emotionally blackmail us into working for the drive. But they took us for granted when we were working and now they do not have an alternative. This is not done. Unless and until the government gives us a concrete solution, we will not end our strike,” added Shamim.
But officials say that the strike will not affect the polio drive. ND Deshmukh, District Health Officer, said, “We have taken cognizance of the problem. As substitute, National Service Scheme volunteers, college students and teaching staff have been roped in for the drive. We have tried to train them to administer polio drops.”
But Shamin said that the government is taking a risk trusting college students with polio drops. “This is a very risky business. They are putting babies’ lives at stake. I hope the government knows what it is doing.”
There are around 94,000 Anganwadi workers in the state and almost 5,000 in the district. The main demands by the Anganwadi Karmachari Sangathna include increased pay for both workers and helpers and also a need for pension for these people. “Currently they work for 5-6 hours and all they get is Rs 4,050 per worker and Rs 2,000 per helper.
We are demanding Rs 10,000 for a worker and Rs 7, 000 for a helper,” said Shamin. “The state officials had promised they would increase honorarium (monthly pay) and pension for the anaganwadi workers and helpers in May. Till now nothing has happened,” said Shubha Shamin.
The pension scheme was launched twice by the Maharashtra government, once in 2005 and 2008. Both times, it was opposed by the workers, who said that the policies were against the welfare of the workers. In 2012, the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) was approached by the finance ministry for a pension proposal benefiting all. The LIC submitted it to the government in January.
“Funds were supposed to be allocated as per the LIC proposal in this budget. But the budget did not mention this. Hence we again staged protests and finally the government promised a GR by May and yet, no action has come from the government’s side,” said Shamin.