'Treat Us as Frontline Workers': Haryana, Delhi Anganwadi Workers Stage Protest

On 31 January, on the 53rd day of their ongoing protests, workers from Delhi, too, joined the stir in Delhi.

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Hindi Female

For the last 45-odd days, 35-year-old Darshana would join her fellow anganwadi helpers, protesting for better working conditions, in Haryana's Manesar. She was a regular at the protest site, until she died last week – after she slipped at home and sustained serious injuries.

"She had a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old. We spoke to her family and they said she was depressed for the last few months because of the work stress and the financial situation," Rachana, another protesting anganwadi worker, told The Quint.

Darshana's death was ignored by the government – just like how her years of service as an anganwadi worker was ignored, say fellow helpers, stating that it is "a reflection of apathy that they are subjected to".

At least 40,000 anganwadi workers and helpers like late Darshana, and Rachana, have been protesting for hike in salaries and regularisation of services since 8 December last year.

On 31 January, on the 53rd day of their ongoing protests, workers from Delhi, too, have joined the stir in the national capital's Civil Lines area.


'Played Crucial Role During Lockdown'

Anganwadi workers, along with ASHA workers, played a crucial role in providing supplementary healthcare services across the country during the nationwide lockdown imposed in March 2020.

Risking their lives, these contractual women workers continued to work – delivering ration, screening for suspected COVID patients, keeping a registry of those who were showing symptoms. The pandemic also changed the nature of their work – with their work expected to be updated online.

"We continued to work under a lot of stress, and despite concerns from family members. Many of us did not even know how to use phones. We had to buy smartphones and have still not been reimbursed for it yet. We worked as frontline workers, but not treated like one."
Rachana, anganwadi worker since 2011, to The Quint

What Are Their Demands?

The Haryana government is currently disbursing Rs 11,811 to anganwadi workers and Rs 6,045 to helpers as monthly honorarium – part of which is paid by the Centre.

The unions are seeking to increase the monthly honorarium by Rs 1,500 for workers and Rs 700 for helpers, as was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018.

The protesters are also seeking DA (dearness allowance) for the anganwadi workers and helpers, in line with government employees.

Saraswati, an anganwadi worker union leader from Haryana, said:

"Our demands are very basic. The government in 2018 had promised that anganwadi workers' salary will increase by Rs 1,500 and that the salaries of workers will be increased by Rs 750. We just want them to implement that. Four states – Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh – have implemented this so far."

Delhi Anganwadi Workers  Join Protest

In a statement, Delhi Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union said:

"The Central and state governments are not doing justice at all to the interests of Delhi anganwadi workers. The anganwadi workers are being openly swindled out of their rights. Inflation is increasing but the honorarium due to the anganwadi workers is being reduced."
On 31 January, on the 53rd day of their ongoing protests, workers from Delhi, too, joined the stir in Delhi.

"Whether it is Kejriwal's state government or the Modi government at the Centre, both are tricking the anganwadi workers by making false promises. This is the reason why anganwadi workers have been forced to come out on the streets in such large numbers," the statement further said.

On 31 January, on the 53rd day of their ongoing protests, workers from Delhi, too, joined the stir in Delhi.

Vrishali, a representative of the union, said that the current honorarium of anganwadi workers and helpers in Delhi are Rs 9,678 and Rs 4,839, respectively.

"The last announcement for increment from Central government was made on 11 September 2018. Instead of increasing it, the state government issued a notification in September 2019, deducting Rs 900 and Rs 450 respectively from its share in the honorarium of workers and helpers," she added.


Khattar Government's Response

The Haryana government claims that they provide the highest honorarium 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 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,” Haryana Women and Child Development Minister Kamlesh Dhanda told the daily.

(With inputs from The Indian Express)

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