Anganwadi workers in Andhra continue protest, dismiss govt announcement of ₹80 crore as ‘PR stunt’

Minister for Women and Child Welfare KV Ushasri Charan said the government had taken note of all the issues, and appealed to the workers to resume their duties.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published Dec 22, 2023 | 9:13 PMUpdatedDec 22, 2023 | 9:14 PM

Anganwadi teachers and helpers protesting in Vijayawada. (Supplied)

Anganwadi workers and helpers in Andhra Pradesh continued their protest on Friday, 22 December, despite the YSRCP government announcing that it would release ₹80 crore to meet their immediate demands.

The protesters dismissed the announcement as a “mere PR exercise” and continued their agitation at Dharna Chowk in Vijayawada, and elsewhere across the state.

The Anganwadi Workers and Helpers’ Union has been on a statewide strike for the past 11 days, demanding an increase in wages, enhanced budget allocation, ₹5 lakh retirement benefits, and 50 percent of wages as pension, among others.

On Thursday, Minister for Women and Child Welfare KV Ushasri Charan told reporters at Tadepalle that the government had taken note of the issues raised by the workers. Assuring them that the issues would be resolved, she urged them to resume their duties.

Dismissing the assurance as a PR exercise, the Union alleged that the government was turning a blind eye to their main demand for an increased salary and gratuity.

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The government’s efforts

An official statement said that the state government had responded favourably to the demands by releasing funds to anganwadis operating in rented buildings.

It mentioned that ₹66.54 crore had been sanctioned for 16,575 rental buildings in rural or tribal areas and 6,705 rental buildings in urban areas.

It said that an additional ₹7.81 crore was released for consumables (soap, phenyl, etc), and ₹6.36 crore as maintenance funds to 21,206 anganwadis (at the rate of ₹3,000 per centre).

A government order (GO 44) issued on Wednesday increased the age limit for promotions to 50 years from 45 years. The government also set 62 as the upper age limit for retirement.

The order also stated that anganwadi workers would get ₹1 lakh on attaining 62 years of age. The helpers would be provided ₹40,000 as an end-of-service benefit.

The government also announced that anganwadi workers could claim travelling allowance and dearness allowance once a month. Helpers could claim them bi-monthly. “The order will be implemented from the date of issue,” it stated.

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Main issues neglected

“The government is claiming that our issues have been addressed but has left the main demand aside. Our primary request is a minimum salary hike of ₹26,000 for anganwadi teachers, as per various pay revision commission reports. However, the government has not taken any action on it,” NTR District Anganwadi Union Secretary NCH Supraja said.

In response to Minister Charan’s comments that the state government had written a letter to the Union government regarding gratuity funds, Supraja said, “Even the prime minister’s home state, Gujarat, is implementing the Supreme Court order on gratuity. Writing a letter to the central government for approval doesn’t make any sense.”

She added: “If the gratuity fund is implemented, anganwadi teachers and helpers would receive nearly ₹4-5 lakh at the time of retirement. However, the government is stating that it would provide a retirement fund of ₹1 lakh and ₹40,000, respectively, after hiking the age limit to 62 from 60.” She said this was not justified.

The TDP government stopped paying the travelling allowance and dearness allowance in 2017. “Although the government is now saying that it will reinstate TA and DA from this month, the question about five years’ service remains,” she said.

On the allocation of ₹80 crore, the workers argued the government was bound to pay them, as they had paid the rent from their own pockets.