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Explained: Why thousands of anganwadi workers are protesting in Haryana

Battling the cold wave, anganwadi workers are carrying on with the protest despite some announcements by the Haryana government to pacify them.

Written by Sukhbir Siwach , Edited by Explained Desk | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 26, 2022 6:06:23 am
Haryana anganwadi workers attending a protest rally during their ongoing strike. (Express Photo)

For the past 49 days, thousands of anganwadi workers and helpers are on strike in Haryana, demanding an increase in their honorarium. Battling the cold wave, the anganwadi workers are carrying on with the protest despite some announcements by the state government to pacify them. SUKHBIR SIWACH explains what has led to the agitation.

What is the role of anganwadi workers?

Angawadi workers and helpers are engaged under the government’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) to look after education and health issues of children in the age group of 0-6 years, especially in rural areas. They monitor their height, weight and gather information regarding other health indicators. They also supply nutritious ration to pregnant women and mothers.

Apart from this, they assist election staff in the election process before voting. For their duties during the Covid-19 pandemic, they were declared frontline workers.

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According to their union leaders, anganwadi workers were engaged in assisting health staffers in Covid centres in villages, and were instrumental in locating the suspected Covid patients. They also partcipated in awareness campaigns to follow Covid norms. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had recently announced an incentive of Rs 1,000 for all anganwadi workers for working on the frontline during Covid-19.

Why are they protesting?

Along with the Centre’s share, the Haryana government is giving Rs 11,811 to anganwadi workers and Rs 6,045 to helpers as monthly honorarium.

The agitators say this honorarium is meagre, lower than the salary of contractual unskilled workers (Rs 14,330-17,520) as announced by the state government recently. The strike has been launched to demand implementation of an announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018, to increase the monthly honorarium by Rs 1,500 for anganwadi workers and Rs 700 for anganwadi helpers. The protesters are also demanding DA (dearness allowance) on a regular basis on the pattern of government employees.

What does the government say?

The state says anganwadi workers are not government employees but workers engaged under the ICDS scheme, and hence entitled only to an honorarium. The government also says their honorarium is highest in north India. “In comparison with Haryana’s honorarium of Rs 6,045 for anganwadi helpers, Chhattisgarh pays Rs 2,350, Madhya Pradesh Rs 4,100, West Bengal Rs 3,900, and Punjab Rs 3,150,” a senior officer of the Haryana government told The Indian Express.

Haryana Women and Child Development Minister Kamlesh Dhanda claimed, “Haryana is among the three states to give the highest honorarium to anganwadi workers. The Chief Minister has also announced Rs 1 lakh on their retirement and Rs 2 lakh in case of accidental death.”

What do the protesters say?

Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union general secretary, Shakuntala, said: “Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Telangana are giving higher honorarium than Haryana to anganwadi workers. Puducherry has even declared anganwadi workers as government employees.”

The trade union leaders also cite higher per capita income in Haryana while demanding increase in honorarium. The national per capita income at current prices was Rs 86,647 in 2014-15, which increased to Rs 1,34,186 in 2019-20, whereas for Haryana, it increased from Rs 1,47,382 in 2014-15 to Rs 2,47,628 in 2019-20. The per capita income at all-India level declined to Rs 1,27,768 and in Haryana to Rs 2,39,535 in the year 2020-21.

What is inspiring anganwadi workers to continue the agitation?

The anganwadi workers’ union has claimed authorities have already terminated several anganwadi workers, apart from lodging an FIR against Shakuntala. But the protests have not abated. The agitation is gaining attention, especially with thousands of the workers offering to court arrest on January 12 and staging a protest in the CM’s home town on January 5.

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Haryana was one of the sites of the historic farmers’ agitation. Before this, Asha workers — the community health workers engaged under the National Health Mission (NHM)– had succeeded in getting their demands accepted after an agitation.

The state already has powerful employees’ unions. The agitators claim as many as 40,000 anganwadi workers and helpers are currently on strike for the past 47 days while the government says only 40 per cent of total 52,000 workers are absent from the duties.

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