Anganwadi Workers Temporarily Suspend 38-Day Long Strike in Delhi
Delhi's Lieutenant Governor has invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the women workers.
The Quint DAILY
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"The imposition of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) on the historic strike of anganwadi workers is the new tool of oppression and exploitation of anganwadi workers," asserted a press release by the Delhi state anganwadi workers and helpers union, after the workers, who have been on strike for the past 39 days, were forced to call off their strike after the Lieutenant Governor invoked the law against them.
The union has now announced its decision to challenge the imposition of the act in the courts.
Anganwadi workers, who are tasked with distributing ration and giving primary education to children among others have been demonstrating in mammoth numbers, fighting for a hike in their honorarium, as well as regularisation of services.
At present, these workers are only recognised as 'voluntary workers'.
Addressing a press conference in the national capital on Thursday, 10 March, president of the Union Shivani Kaul censured the use of ESMA against the workers' protest and said, "If the judiciary does not reverse this decision then we will be forced to go on strike by breaking the ESMA. That's why we are only suspending the strike for the time being."
What Else the Union Said
The press release further stated the union will continue its protest in other forms, such as:
Getting ESMA revoked, and if there is no relief from the courts, then by organising a civil disobedience movement and resuming the strike
Boycotting both the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the municipal elections in Delhi. The union has said that "not only will the families of the 22,000 anganwadi workers not vote for these two parties, but they will also make the masses aware of their truth by running an unmasking campaign against the AAP and the BJP
Barring entry of BJP and AAP leaders from their respective areas for campaigning
The union has underlined the unconstitutionality of the imposition of ESMA by indicating that the law can only be imposed only on government employees, and as per the government, anganwadi workers and helpers are not given the status of an 'employee'.
"It considers them voluntary workers who work on honorarium! Then how can the honourable Lieutenant Governor of Delhi impose an ESMA here? Clearly, this action is completely unconstitutional and illegal," the press release states.
Further, the workers have expressed grief over the fact that ESMA gives full freedom to the officers, supervisors and CDPOs of the department to take action on the anganwadi workers "in order to harass and target them".
Presently, anganwadi workers are paid Rs 9,678 and helpers are paid Rs 4,839 per month in Delhi. In 2018, the government had promised that their salary would be increased by Rs 1,500 for workers and Rs 750 for helpers but this was not done.
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