Anganwadi workers strike to counter AAP’s ‘Delhi model’ rhetoric in polling states

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New Delhi: Anganwadi workers and helpers, who have been on strike for nine days in the nation’s capital, said on Tuesday they would denounce the “hypocrisy and double talk” of the Delhi government led by Arvind Kejriwal by visiting states in mandatory ballot in the coming days.

The announcement came at a time when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is seeking to expand its ‘Delhi model’ of governance in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Uttar Pradesh in a bid to woo voters . Assembly elections in these four states, as well as in Manipur, are expected to start later this month.

“We will expose Kejriwal’s hypocrisy and double talk by sending our teams to states where the AAP invokes its ‘Delhi model’ of governance to solicit votes,” said Shivani Kaul, chairman of the Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU), said Tuesday at a press conference. She added that a team, consisting of four to five women, has already reached Goa and will start their campaign in cities including Margao and Vasco Da Gama.

“Another team of 30 to 35 women will leave tomorrow for Punjab. On our first campaign tour there, we will visit parts of Mansa district. In the coming days we will also campaign in Ludhiana, Bhatinda and Sangrur,” Kaul said, speaking to the media.

Ahead of the Delhi Municipality Polls, which are expected to be held later in April this year, strikers and aides will also launch a campaign against AAP in several localities from Wednesday, DSAWHU said. On Tuesday, the union also announced a rally around its protest site on Friday, February 11.

Thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers are stay near Delhi CM Kejriwal Residence here in the nation’s capital for more than a week as part of their city-wide labor strike to demand, above all else, a pay raise for all-female workers. The protesting women also slammed the central government for failing to ensure payment of a pay rise announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018.

At the press conference held at the protest site outside Vikas Bhawan in Civil Lines, the strikers and their aides said they would visit polling stations and “demystify the high demands” of Kejriwal. In December last year, the latter, in a meeting with anganwadi and ASHA workers in Punjab, had promised to double their salary if his party were elected to power in the state in the upcoming Assembly polls.

Similarly, in Goa, AAP reportedly extended support for anganwadi workers there who went on strike last year to demand better pay and other facilities.

Such gestures, which may successfully attract potential voters, however, have not gone down well with aggrieved Anganwadi carers in Delhi who, citing the “huge” spike in prices of essential items and increased workload , require a salary of Rs. 25,000 and Rs. 20,000 for workers and helpers, respectively.

Currently, in Delhi, Anganwadi workers and assistants, although lacking ’employee’ status, are entitled to Rs 9,698 and Rs 4,839, respectively.

In anganwadi services, as envisioned under the Integrated Child Development Program (ICDS), typical carer responsibilities include providing nutritional supplements and other developmental support to children under six years of age. as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women.

There are over 10,000 government run day care centers under the ICDS administered anganwadi scheme which caters to over 1 million children and women in Delhi. The total number of Anganwadi workers and assistants in these centers currently stands at around 22,000.

However, during the pandemic, these community caregivers have played a crucial role – while carrying out their usual duties – in stopping the spread of COVID-19, which many women now lament is largely unrecognized. .

“We are required to keep up to 24 records daily. During the time of COVID, we also kept data related to vaccination in our communities. We have also been distributing dry rations door-to-door every month during this period,” Rajni Saini, 38, an Anganwadi carer with the North Delhi Alipur project, said on Tuesday.

Sunita Kaushik, another Anganwadi caregiver, lamented that far from being paid for the work done, workers and helpers were not even given masks and sanitizers, face coverings, among other things.

The striking union also alleged that the women participating in the strike were being threatened by officials of the Women and Child Development Department (WCD) in Delhi to return to their jobs or face mass dismissal.

A WCD department official was not immediately available to comment on the allegations. An email sent by Newsclick at the department also did not elicit a response until the publication of this report. This article will be updated when they respond.

“The Delhi government must know that the [anganwadi] striking workers and helpers will not feel threatened by such warnings. The strike will continue until the government agrees to talk to our union,” DSAWHU’s Kaul said, adding that they were ready to “go on like this for the next six months”.

Meanwhile, on Monday, another union of Anganwadi workers and assistants in the city announced the escalation of the struggle with a call to demonstrate outside the Delhi secretariat on Friday, February 11. “We demand that a minimum wage of Rs. 26,000 should be implemented for Anganwadi workers,” the CITU affiliate Delhi Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DAWHU) said.

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