Twenty lakh women working under the Integrated Child Development Services, a UPA mass reach programme, will get free sarees designed by the National Institute for Fashion Design next month.
The goodwill gesture is aimed at sending a message to women in villages across India that the government cares about them.
Anganwadi workers, mandated to implement the ICDS, are considered the face of the government at the village level.
“They are the central figures at the anganwadi centres due to their continuous contact with the village people, especially women,” said a women and child development ministry order asking state governments to provide free sarees to each anganwadi worker and helper.
“All anganwadi workers in a particular state will get two sets of sarees in a year of the same design and colour to make them feel they are part of the government,” said WCD minister Krishna Tirath.
Anganwadi workers are not government employees but they get a monthly honarium from the government for running the centres, which provide supplementary food and medicine to children under six.
The ministry will bear the cost of Rs 8 crore — Rs 200 for each saree.
“The sarees will provide them an identity,” an official explained, adding they would also get a name badge. Officials said the saree would be contemporary and different from what women wear in villages.
The ICDS is the world’s largest under-six child care programme. It works through a network of more than 14.5 lakh anganwadi centres.
After the women’s reservation bill, the move is another effort by the UPA to make women feel empowered.