By Shamanth BS
On 21st March, the Freedom Park in the heart of Bengaluru was swarming with thousands of Anganwadi workers from all over the state demanding an honorarium of at least ten thousand rupees from the state government. Most of these workers had travelled from remote villages across Karnataka and had spent the night on the streets of the city in the hope of getting their demands fulfilled. In fact, a few women fell sick and were rushed to a nearby hospital during the protests. After four days of peaceful protests led by the Karnataka State Anganwadi Association (KSAA), the CM Siddaramaiah assured them that the government would hold discussions on the 10th of April. In response to this, the president of the KSAA said that if the demands are not met, they would march to Siddaramaiah’s house afterwards.
The unsung heroes
Protests by Anganwadi workers in India are not a rare event – the All India Anganwadi Workers federation has been persistent in demanding basic necessities for its workers for many years. These agitations last only till the pacifying assurances by an elected representative because the workers are unable to continue their protests due to crippling financial conditions.
In 1975, Anganwadi (‘courtyard shelter’) Centres were set up as part of the Integrated Child Developmental Services (ICDS) programme to tackle principal issues such as malnutrition and child hunger. However, the Anganwadi workers in villages are expected to provide basic health care, educate people about nutrition, counsel on pregnancy and take care of kids between the ages of 3 and 5, all by themselves.
A fair fight
Rangamma, a 45-year old Anganwadi worker who travelled 600 km from Bidar to take part in the protests, said “I have worked as an Anganwadi teacher throughout my life and today, I regret choosing this job. Most of the workers like me in Anganwadis are forced to work around the clock without proper benefits”. Over 20 lakh people now work in Anganwadi Centres. Their demands deserve a fair hearing.
Featured Image Credits: Shashidhar B.