The Supreme Court has held that Anganwadi workers engaged under the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) Programme are not entitled to minimum wages as the Minimum Wages Act is applicable only to workmen working in the industries specified therein.
Rejecting the claim of the Anganwadi workers for minimum wages, a Bench of Justice SB Sinha and Justice Markandey Katju said ICDS programme would not constitute an “industry” within the meaning of the Act and the Anganwadi workers were not industrial workmen.
“There cannot be any doubt whatsoever that it is one thing to say that the State would be liable to pay minimum wages irrespective of its financial constraints but it is another thing to say…whether such a claim can be raised in respect of those who are working under a project.
“It is not a case where the concept of minimum wage, living wage or fair wage can be brought in service,” the Bench said.
The court held that the Anganwadi workers did not hold any civil post and therefore were not entitled to minimum wages.
Launched in the year 1975 by the Centre, ICDS Programme is implemented through respective state governments.
Under the Scheme, about 100 workers are required to be recruited from each of the urban and rural projects and 50 for the tribal projects and they are paid Rs 938 to Rs 1031 per month depending upon their qualification and experience.
Some Anganwadi workers had moved the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal seeking their regularisation but the tribunal refused to entertain their plea. Later, a larger Bench of the tribunal held that Anganwadi workers held civil post even though they were paid honorarium. The Karnataka Government challenged it before the apex court.
Both the Centre and the Karnataka Government contended that the tribunal’s order would lead to serious financial implications and the programme itself would become non-functional. They had contended that the Anganwadi workers could not be treated as holders of civil posts as bulk of the posts were not sanctioned and required to be filled from amongst the volunteers.