An open letter

Anganwardi Worker ICDS-Scheme

HE Governor J&K

I am writing this letter on behalf of the scores of Anganwardi Workers working in different projects of the Kashmir valley. The recent order issued by the state administrative council regarding the disbursement of honorarium of Anganwardi workers through Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI’s)  is highly unjust. This shows the insensitivity of administration towards the women work force who despite being highly educated will now remain subservient to those who are mostly illiterate and educated. These Sarpanch and Panchs who are mostly locals have started threatening Anganwardi workers about their authority over them. I would like to share one of my experience of such an authority, few months back a Panch from my village came to my Anganwardi centre and asked me about the functioning of the centre and in a very aggressive tone told me that you are now under my supervision and now I will decide about your honorarium, whether you will get that or not. Not only this, he also went on saying that every day you will be required to collect nutrition from our office. I could assess from the tone of his voice what he was trying to convince me. And, I really felt pitiable, that how the authorities are subjecting us to the political pressures as well as to an array of other vulnerabilities. Till time, we have just heard about the sexual harassment at workplaces but the Anganwardi workers somehow were safe from such harassment. But imposition of such orders will made this workforce highly vulnerable to a number of harassments such as sexual abuse, psychological problems, and political pressures.  The Anganwardi centres are unlike other institutions and there is every possibility of any untoward incident because these centers are run by the workers and helpers and both are females. These members are mostly locals and being neighbors they will show much authority and what in local language we usually call hamsaai zidd.  Besides, these members are not much qualified to check our registers which are maintained as per the Management Information System (MIS) for which workers have to undergo a specialized training programme.

 Different governments, from time to time have come up with the number of programmes to safeguard the rights and dignity of women and to help them to live a dignified life. Women empowerment which has been the at the heart of every govt. programme has also failed to provide women a safe and secure place in India. One can see the Anganwardi workers protesting every month, may, it be the harsh winter or summer. The Anganwardi workers have become the soft corners of subjugation. The authorities should try to look into the issues of these workers instead of the imposition of such orders. Last year this workforce was on streets for the months together to get their honorarium revised but all in vain. No doubt, the honorarium was revised but it was just a disguise. The honorarium was revised from the existing 3600 rupees to 5100 rupees.  Many schemes such as PMMVY, Poshan Abhiyan etc were launched by the central govt. for the well-being and upliftment of women and children and all these schemes were merged with ICDS-scheme. And it was only for this reason that the honorarium was enhanced.  With the introduction of these schemes, the workload of these workers quadrupled who were now required to keep their centers functional and at the same time ensure the implementation of other schemes as well.  It seems that these workers are not working as employees but as bonded laborers who are bound to accept any order at any time. May, it be the election duty, pulse polio duty, yatra duty, examination duty or any other duty they have to remain at the forefront of any duty. How can an employee handle so many jobs?  Is a matter to ponder over?

From the last days together the Anganwardi workers across the state are on the streets against the said order. How pitiable is it that women are forced to hit the streets day in and day out? What sort of democracy is it, where at the one side laws are being enacted to safeguard the rights of women and on the other orders are being passed to subjugate women and deprive them of their rights?  With the imposition of such orders the workers lose faith in the system and become disinterested in their jobs. The authorities should look into the genuine demands of these workers and should take immediate steps to resolve their issues in order to ensure the proper functioning of Anganwardi centers. If, the authorities are really interested in the ground implementation of these scheme the committees should be framed at the concerned official levels instead of the imposition of these orders. The authorities should also revise the honorarium of these workers after every two or three years to benchmark it with the mounting inflation and also keeping in view the increasing demands of the workers as is the case with other jobs. The fundamental right of equal pay for equal work should be for all and not just for few. Let, Anganwardi workers also live a peaceful and dignified life and save them from the psychological trauma they are facing at the hands of every authority. After all, they too are humans.