Demanding increase in honorarium, Karnataka Anganwadi workers lay siege in Bengaluru
A protest by Anganwadi workers in Karnataka, who have been demanding a raise in their pay, entered the fourth day on Thursday as they continued to stage a sit-in in the state capital Bengaluru.bengaluru Updated: Mar 23, 2017 13:35 IST
A protest by Anganwadi workers in Karnataka, who have been demanding a raise in their pay, entered the fourth day on Thursday as they continued to stage a sit-in in the state capital Bengaluru.
Around 10,000 Anganwadi workers, teachers and helpers, have been camping outside the Freedom Park in the city for the past three days.
The workers are demanding that the honorarium paid to Anganwadi teachers be increased from Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000 a month and for helpers from Rs 3,000 to Rs 7,500 a month.
The other issue the workers are protesting for is the regularisation of their employment. Anganwadi workers are considered social workers and not permanent employees of the government.
This was made clear by Union women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi in May 2016. In a reply in the Rajya Sabha, she had ruled out increasing the honorariums, saying it was “part-time” work.
“We are willing to camp here no matter how long it takes for the government to increase our wages,” Manjula said.
“It is heartening to note that the number of protesters has only increased over the past three days, seeing the government’s lack of response,” Varalakshmi, one of the leaders of the protest and a member of the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, said.
Indeed, the workers have literally been camping on the road, sleeping there at night.
“In fact, we have a big problem now. There are too many of us and not enough space for us to sleep on this road,” Varalakshmi added.
The protest has caught an unprepared state government off-guard. The initial response, Varalakshmi said, was to deny the women space at the Freedom Park to protest. Undeterred by this, the protesters decided to squat along the road daring the government to take action against them.
Apart from the 10,000 women who have come from the across the state, Varalakshmi said at least 60,000 of the 63,000 Anganwadis were closed in solidarity with the protesters.
Since then the government has tried various means of ending the protests. However, negotiations have stalled because the state government has expressed its inability to increase the honorarium.
Speaking in the legislative assembly, chief minister Siddaramaiah accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government of the current impasse. He said under the United Progressive Alliance government the Centre’s share of funds for running the ICDS scheme was 90%, which had been reduced to 60% under the current government.
However, Jyoti, another Anganwadi worker, refused to buy the chief minister’s words.
“If this is true the Telangana, Goa and Kerala governments should also not have been able to increase the honorarium paid to workers in their states,” she said.
Jyoti warned the government that delaying the increase will only swell the ranks of the protesters.
“We are prepared to sit here for 15-20 days. Every misstep of the government has increased the number of protesters here. I am getting calls from other women in the district who say they will join us here because of the government’s ineptness.”