Anganwadi strike cloud on nutrition
Nearly 60,000 anganwadi centres across Odisha have been shut for the last 15 days following the agitation by anganwadi workers.
As a result, various works done by the anganwadi workers like nutrition programmes for children below six years, sending them to pre-schools and other works have come to a grinding halt.
Defying the chilly winter night, hundreds of anganwadi workers were on a dharna demanding a hike in their salaries from Rs 7,500 to Rs 18,000 and the status of a government employee.
Hundreds of them have been at the dharna site since November 21 near the Master Canteen square, which is hardly about 500 metres from the Odisha legislative Assembly. They stay on the streets under the open sky at night braving the chilly winter.
“We are not worried about the shivering cold and not worried about our life. We demand justice for the work that we delivered for the last 47 years.,” said Sabita Panda, an anganwadi worker.
Sabita said: “I have been working as an anganwadi worker since 1986. I joined the job with Rs 125 and now I am getting Rs 7,500. Is it possible to lead a life with this wage? We are working round the clock at the grassroots and it’s the job of the government to look after our welfare.”
She hails from the Subdega block in Sundergarh distinct from where the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) was launched in 1975 with the support of Unicef. Now the programme is going on with the support of both the state and the Centre.
Another anganwadi worker Bimla Lakra from Sundergarh said: “I started my work 25 years ago. Earlier we used to do six types of work. But now we are doing 64 kinds of jobs.”
President of All Odisha Anganwadi Lady Workers, Sumita Mohapatra, told The Telegraph: “While our neighbouring states like Telangana have hiked the remuneration of the anganwadi workers, why our salaries will not be increased? While other agencies failed to carry out jobs like generating ration cards at the village level, we completed our jobs. Since we are doing all kinds of jobs, the government should recognise the service we render and give us the tag of a government employee.”
She said, “Because of our strike, out of 70,000 anganwadi centres, 60,0000 centres have been closed”
Another anganwadi worker Basanti Bag said: “We have been told that Odisha is a surplus revenue state. It should be generous to our cause.”
Besides these demands, they have other demands that include a pension and compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of an anganwadi worker in case of death during the service period.
Joint secretary of women and child development department, N.C. Jyoti Ranjan Nayak told The Telegraph: “Because of the strike, anganwadi centres have been closed. Government is in touch with them to find a solution.”