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The plight of anganwadi workers in Odisha

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Since the independence of India poverty, high mortality rates, overpopulation, malnourishment etc have been some of the major factors towards India’s underdevelopment. And mainly the rural population of India which constitutes about majority of the population are the worst sufferers. So to have an overall check from the grass root level and to provide basic health facilities to the children residing in villages, the central government came up with a program named Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) in the year 1975 under Ministry of Women and Child Development. The Anganwadi workers being the carriers of ICDS play a vital role so far as the health of the children is concerned.

Anganwadi workers have a major responsibility especially towards the women and children and their overall development. They are assigned with some basic works or services like immunization of children between the age of 0-6 years, taking care of their supplementary nutrition, regular health checkups, looking after and nourishing the mothers/pregnant women and adolescent women and providing basic education to them and many more. Mostly their work is not restrictive and has a crucial role to play when it comes to the promotion of child growth and development. An Anganwadi worker acts as an agent of social change in India.

As the work and responsibilities of the Anganwadi workers is extensive, but the salary they get is extremely less in comparison with the amount of services rendered by them. The Anganwadi workers are really struggling since last two years and striving to get their demands fulfilled. Recently in the year 2017 they have protested many times and when India was observing Labors Day on May 1, these workers went on indefinite strike all over India. Even in Odisha the All Odisha Anganwadi Ladies Workers Association (AOALWA) of several districts protested for constant negligence by the government towards them. But no authority came forward to listen their demands. So again on 8th June 2017 they went on an one day protest with a 11 point charter of demands.

When asked to the Anganwadi workers of some districts in Odisha about their problems, many stated the common demands among which hike in remuneration and the regularization of their jobs were the primary and a long time demand. Sipra das, an Anganwadi worker from Balasore said, “We are getting only 4000 rupees per month irrespective of our amount of work which is very less. In today’s date it’s very difficult to sustain with these much amount. The workers who have dedicated their time for providing service since last 10 years have still not got any increment in their salary.”

Another worker named Pravati said that the amount that they are getting from the government for purchasing raw materials to cook food is very less as the prices of the commodities have almost raised. The market price of an egg costs around Rs.5 to 6 in Odisha but the government is only paying Rs.4 which is low. Despite of their several requests the government has not made any revision in the monetary allocation of the raw materials for food.

Some of the other demands were giving government recognition to the low grade workers i.e. the workers should be treated as government employees, a minimum wage of 18000 to workers and 9000 to the helpers, to regularize their jobs, increment in the cost of raw materials for cooked food, to provide gratuity and pension of 3000 rupees per month after retirement, to provide health facilities to their family members etc.

They also regretted that not a single bill was passed in the 2017 state or central budget for the betterment and development of these Anganwadi centers. The government on the other hand is only assuring them for immediate fulfillment of their demands but not a single step has been taken yet. They are also against the proposal of privatization of Anganwadis. Basanti, a worker in Koraput district said that they have requested repeatedly in front of the government to fulfill their demands, but if this time it will be neglected and if the government fails to meet their demands then they will be intensifying their agitations and will go for mass demonstrations and rallies from the month of July.

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