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'Kejriwal didn't keep promise of higher wages': Delhi Anganwadi workers, helpers protest

By Harsh Thakor* 

In a unique display of protest on May Day, Delhi's Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union, along with the Karaval Nagar Mazdoor Union and the Delhi Metro Rail Worker Union, successfully resisted the police patrol stationed to obstruct their rally, seeking to prevent the demonstrators from proceeding further. However, the rally managed to reach Jantar Mantar, the spot designated for protests near Parliament in Delhi.
President of the Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union Shivani told the rally how the rulers showed scant concern for the day to day needs of the workers, being unable to provide them an adequate living wage or housing. She dwelled on how the corporates had a total monopoly and patronage of the ruling party and how laws were being amended to strangulate the working class.
Other union leaders narrated how the Centre was leaving no stone unturned in reducing the working class to shackles by passing 44 laws making it completely subservient to the corporates by extending working hours without awarding any compensation, and giving owners the maximum power to retrench workers.
They demanded an eight hour work day and related the demand to awarding an adequate living wage, proper living conditions and work conditions. The virtual stripping of all rights of workers to protest was highlighted, as also how the rulers were intensifying their efforts to alienate the working class. The speakers criticised the Arvind Kejriwal government for not complying to its promise of increasing wages of workers.
Women activists spoke about the “ruthless exploitation” they faced at the hands of the rulers and expressed opposition to the police force for blocking their protest. The anger or indignation amongst the workers against the behaviour of the ruling classes has touched a boiling point, they said.
The May Day agitation by the Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union was preceded by protests on January 31, March 14 and April 18, which allegedly earned the wrath of the rulers. A national bulletin critical of Arvind Kejriwal said, "He heralded himself as a brother, and now, has forced us, whom he called sisters, on the roads. What do we do if not indulge in protests? They won't even let us take rallies, The police are nothing but a mere dolls of the Government. But we won't stop fighting, till they listen and fulfill all our demands."
The protestors included workers from Bawana, Delhi, and other nearby areas who sought a stable occupation, minimum wages, and decent working conditions. During their earlier protest, the Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union members surrounded the Women and Child Development (WCD) Department office in Delhi on April 18, demanding the release of pending honorarium and on-time payment.
While WCD officials met with workers’ representatives and assured payment of arrears within a week, the anganwadi (childcare) workers alleged that the Central and state governments were dismissing workers for their involvement in their indefinite strike for higher pay which began on January 31.
The workers ended the strike, which involving thousands, on March 14, after the government imposed its anti-strike Essential Services Maintenance Act. Over 1,000 workers were terminated during the strike.
There are about 10,700 anganwadi centres and 20,000 anganwadi workers and helpers in Delhi. The current monthly honorarium for anganwadi workers and helpers is Rs 9,678 and Rs 4,839 rupees respectively, apart from minor incentive payments for selected programmes.
Strikers had demanded a monthly wage of Rs 25,000 for anganwadi workers and Rs 20,000 rupees for helpers.
---
*Freelance journalist

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