Hailed as COVID warriors and Heroes, the Anganwadi workers (AWWs) of the biggest world’s largest community-based programme for child development – the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), and the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) under the National Rural Health Mission are not even paid as per the minimum wage of the Government of India.
Conveniently categorised as volunteers, and not workers, their honorarium is below the minimum wage by the Government that hails them as heroes. This is how, in reality, we respect our true warriors who have been in the forefront in the pandemic. There is so much double talk from the government. On the one hand Anganwadi workers are not allowed to contest elections because they are “employees of the government” but on the other, they are not considered as workers to be paid wages.
Those who were expected to report to work when everyone was advised to ‘Stay Home and Stay Safe’ due to the pandemic, can only be Essential Worker. Isn’t this enough to argue the case that AWW and ASHA should be workers and not volunteers. And presently, with all the Covid duties, they are definitely not part-time as successive governments would have us believe.
As workers, AWW and ASHAs would be entitled to timely payment, minimum wages, dearness allowance, and retrenchment benefits. Bonus will come as a right, and not charity as it currently does. Further, as government employees, they would be further entitled to retirement benefits and pay revisions.
Anganwadi workers and ASHA workers have time and again come out on the streets in almost all states to demand their rights.
We must support the struggle of these essential workers to be recognized for what they really are. It is condemnable that despite their persistent struggle to put forward their demands, successive governments at the centre and in the states continue to make just empty promises.