Nine hundred and ninety one Anganwadi workers and helpers have been terminated until March 14, according to the submission of the Delhi government in the Delhi High Court. According to the Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU), the notices received by workers state that their services are being terminated for being an “active part of the strike, agitation and dharna”.
Thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers had been protesting at the headquarters of the Delhi government since January this year, demanding an increase in their honorarium as well as fulfilment of their other long-standing demands.
Several thousand Anganwadi workers and helpers were given show-cause notices on March 5, while the strike was still going on, and asked to report for duty. When they persisted in the struggle, the Women and Child Development ministry started issuing the termination notices from March 9. The Joint Director, Department of Women and Child Development, publicly gave the call to terminate the services of the Anganwadi workers and helpers on a mass scale for participation in the strike.
On March 10, the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) was imposed on the protesting Anganwadi workers, declaring their strike illegal. The Anganwadi workers and helpers announced that even as they were compelled to go back to work, they would continue to press for their demands. Now they are being threatened with termination.
In response to petitions filed by the DSAWHU challenging the termination orders and seeking re-instatement, the Delhi government, at a hearing on March 15, has told the Delhi High Court that it will temporarily halt the termination of any more Anganwadi workers or helpers in connection with their recent strike. The court is yet to announce its final decision.
The DSAWHU has reported that soon after this, the Anganwadi workers and helpers were being pressurised to sign apology letters and give written assurances that they will not go on strike in future.
The Anganwadi workers and helpers continue to be severely exploited and oppressed, despite their long and persistent struggle over several years. They are not recognised as government employees. They are paid an honorarium which is far below the officially declared minimum wages. They have no fixed working hours, no paid leave or any kind of retirement benefits. This is the difficult situation facing Anganwadi workers throughout the country. All over the country, these workers have been fighting militantly for their rights.
The struggle of the Anganwadi workers and helpers of Delhi is entirely just. The Delhi government deserves condemnation for this barbaric attack on the right of the Anganwadi workers to go on strike in defence of their just demands.