More than two lakh anganwadi workers across Maharashtra are on an indefinite strike from Monday to draw attention to their demand for a hike in their honorarium. Hundreds of them are expected to participate in a morcha at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Tuesday.
According to the Maharashtra State Anganwadi Workers’ Action Committee, they will continue with the strike indefinitely to protest the government’s inaction on their demand for the past five months. Following earlier protests by anganwadi workers, the state government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of the secretary of women and child development department in August 2016 to suggest the rise in honorarium.
There are 2,06,000 workers in the state’s anganwadis, operating schemes such as supplementary nutrition and health services for children, and daycare for pre-primary school children.
“A committee, including senior officials from the planning department and a few of our members unanimously suggested a rise in anganwadi workers’ honorarium based on seniority and education, in March 2017. Three meetings were held with minister Pankaja Munde over the past five months. But nothing has happened so far,” said MA Patil of the workers’ action committee.
Patil said Munde had promised to resolve the issue within a week in July. “She still hasn’t fulfilled the promise. So, there has been anger and resentment among the anganwadi workers,” he said, adding that an indefinite strike announced from April 1 was called off after Munde promised to resolve the issue at the earliest.
Subha Shamim of the committee said the anganwadi workers have not been paid honorariums since June. “It has become a routine thing now. Besides, it is shameful that the government has not been giving them the stationary required for maintaining records. They are paying from their pockets for it,” said Shamim, adding that the state government seems to be not serious about issues pertaining to anganwadi workers.
Shamim further said the state government must scrap the Take Home Ration scheme as its consumption is only five percent. “The government is awarding contracts worth crores of rupees to benefit companies. It should instead increase fund allocation for supplementary nutritious foods,” she said.
However, officials from the women and child development department said the state government’s historic decision of a farm loan waiver has stalled the process of implementing the rise in the honorarium. “In the past five months, many things have happened including the farm loan waiver. Though we do acknowledge that their demand is justified, it is not the right time to put additional burden on the state government’s finances,” an official said.
The official further said the anganwadi workers’ demand would likely add a Rs 500 crore burden on state finances. “Also, the finance department is in a spot. If they agree to the anganwadi workers demands, then others who are also working on honorarium may come forward with similar demands. So, it is working out a formula,” the official added.
Munde, the Women and Child Development Minister, was unavailable for comment.