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India: Two hundred thousand ’Anganwadi’ workers go on indefinite strike in Maharashtra

3 February 2014

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New Trade Union Initiative
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[Press Release]

2 lakh Anganwadi workers go on indefinite strike in Maharashtra

3 February 2014, New Delhi: The New Trade Union Initiative stands in solidarity with the 2 lakh workers employed in Anganwadis across Maharashtra who went on an indefinite strike on 6 January 2014 under the banner of Maharashtra Rajya Anganwadi Kruti Samiti. The Anganwadi workers are demanding regularisation in government employment, retiral benefits including pension and an immediate increase in their ‘honorarium’ among several other demands. The Kruti Samiti is a joint platform of unions of Anganwadi workers affiliated to NTUI, AITUC, CITU, HMS and other unions.

Anganwadi workers are holding coordinated state wide demonstrations at Zilla Parishad and taluka offices with a sit-in demonstration at Azad Maidan as well as outside the state secretariat in Mumbai from 6 January 2014.

Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) and Anganwadi Helpers (AWHs) are employed under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) of the Central Government to provide health, nutrition and education services to children under 6 years, to pregnant and nursing mothers, and additionally to adolescent girls. They play a critical role in addressing the issues of child nutrition, pre-school education and maternal health that are central to alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life. The Government on many occasions has commended the services of Anganwadi workers but it refuses to recognise them as ‘workers’. Their service is considered voluntary for which the government pays them an honorarium, far below even the agricultural minimum wage. In effect government is paying a poverty wage to the very workers who are engaged in fighting poverty.

The Maharashtra government fixed 65 years as the retirement age for Anganwadi workers, while that for other government employees is 60 years. In addition, in 2002, the then Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh announced a pension scheme for Anganwadi workers in a public meeting on the occasion of International Women’s Day. A committee was constituted to make recommendations, following which, in 2005, the government notified a monthly payment of Rs.1000 and Rs.500 to AWWs and AWHs respectively as retirement benefit. This notification was not implemented. A similar notification was issued again in 2008 – this too is yet to be implemented. The Maharashtra State Department of Women and Child Development had given assurance to the unions for a lump sum payment at retirement, which the State Finance Department did not approve.

In November 2013, the Angawandi Kruti Samiti had announced that they would go on an indefinite strike from 6 January, unless the government met their demands.

In the course of the last 3 weeks since the Anganwadi workers across the state struck work, the Government has apparently approved a proposal for a one time retirement payment of Rs.1 lakh and Rs.75,000 to be paid to AWW and AWH respectively, but no formal announcement has yet been made.

On the issue of increasing the honorarium: at present, Maharashtra pays Rs.4050 and Rs.2000 to AWWs and AWHs as ‘honorarium’ respectively. There are several other states where the honorarium is higher than in Maharashtra. The State WCD has suggested an increase of Rs. 1000 and Rs. 500 – which would still be lower than the minimum wage - to the AWWs and AWHs respectively in the ‘honorarium’ which was to be discussed in the State Cabinet meeting on 29 January 2013. The Government has not even addressed the other critical issues of earned leave and health care benefits of the Anganwadi workers.

The striking members of unions constituting the Kruti Samity have resolved to intensify their action before the next Cabinet meeting on 5 February 2013. The Kruti Samity will organise a massive demonstration at the state secretariat on 5 February, also marking one month of the strike. The Samity has further declared that it shall not withdraw the strike till strike wages are paid.

The NTUI salutes the Maharashtra Rajya Anganwadi Kruti Samiti for their determination and unity in advancing their struggle. Furthermore, the NTUI calls upon the Government of India to ensure:

  1. Recognition of all anganwadi workers as ‘workers’ and not volunteers
  2. Regularisation of AWW and AWH in Grades III and IV of Government employment respectively with commensurate salary, benefits and increments
  3. Pension for all AWWs and AWHs at a minimum of 50% of last drawn wage
  4. Medical leave and earned leave for all AWWs and AWHs

Gautam Mody
General Secretary

NTUI Press Release on Anganwadi Workers Strike
3 Feb 2014 | PDF Version

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