Maharashtra government stays decision to bring anganwadi workers under MESMA
Employees of services under MESMA can be taken into detention by authorities, and the offences registered under the act are non-bailablemumbai Updated: Mar 23, 2018 11:24 IST
Owing to pressure from anganwadi workers, Shiv Sena and the Opposition — the Congress and NCP, the Maharashtra government on Thursday stayed its decision to impose the Maharashtra Essential Services and Maintenance Act (MESMA) on anganwadi workers. The parties had disrupted the proceedings of the legislature on Wednesday, demanding the withdrawal of MESMA on anganwadi workers.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced the decision of the government in the state assembly. Fadnavis stated that anganwadi workers were brought under the purview of MESMA to prevent them from going on strike.
Employees of services under MESMA can be taken into detention by authorities, and the offences registered under the act are non-bailable.
The anganwadi workers run the Centre’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), which battles malnutrition among young children and pregnant and lactating women. The state has around two lakh such workers working at 97,000 anganwadis. They cater to around 56 lakh children below the age of six.
Last year, the anganwadi workers were on a strike for around 26 days. During this period, more than 120 infants had died due to malnutrition and improper care in anganwadis across the state. The state government had come under severe criticism, both by the judiciary and the political parties for being negligent. The Bombay high court questioned the government for keeping the anganwadi services out of essential services.
“The anganwadi workers had gone on 26-day strike in September-October last year, following which a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the high court. The PIL blamed the government for the death of infants that occurred during the strike period. The government through its two affidavits had informed the court that the MESMA was lapsed in August, and thus could not be invoked during the strike. The act was again enacted in February this year,” the chief minister said on the floor of the house.
“Now, the anganwadi workers have again threatened to go on strike to meet their demands. Their decision to go on strike can have health implications on malnourished infants and lactating mothers. Thus, to prevent them from doing so, the state government had decided to invoke MESMA on anganwadi workers. However, considering the demands of legislators across party lines, we have now decided to stay the decision,” Fadnavis said.
Meanwhile, the Opposition claimed they were preparing to ask for a poll on the issue. The BJP was scared that Shiv Sena may not vote in favour of their decision (to invoke MESMA) following which the government was left with no right to continue ethically, said the Opposition.
“Our (Congress-NCP) strategy for today was to demand for a poll over the decision of invoking MESMA against anganwadi workers. We would have got majority of votes as Sena is strongly opposing the move and would have voted against it. As soon as the government came to know our strategy, they decided to withdraw it,” said Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, leader of Opposition.
Of the total strength of 288-member house, the BJP has 122 members while Shiv Sena has 63, Congress 42 and the NCP has 41 members.