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BJP-AAP collusion? Delhi polls didn't deter anganwadi workers' protest for demands

By Harsh Thakor* 

Even when the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections were on, one section that seemed to feel totally neglected was the state's anganwadi workers and their helpers. Organised under the Delhi State Anganwadi Workers' and Helpers' Union, they have been campaigning for their rights ever since 22,000 of them went on a historic strike from 31st January 2022.
The 39 day strike saw the Aam Aadmi Party's Delhi government and the BJP's Central government colluding with each other, terminating it by imposing a six-month Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) through the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
Following this, the Women and Child Development Department (WCD), Delhi, terminated the services of 884 women caregivers who spearheaded the movement for participating in the strike. For most of these women workers, honorarium from anganwadi work was the only source of income as a sizeable number of them act as sole breadwinners of their families.
Union president Shivani Kaul believes, the 38-day strike not only posed challenge to the Delhi and the Central governments but also exposed the bankruptcy or futility of the entire system. The retaliation by the authorities prompted the decision of the Union to campaign for impose a complete embargo on the entry of candidates and workers of the two parties in the areas where anganwadi workers and helpers and live.
A campaign was launched in November third week about how the two parties had betrayed anganwadi workers and helpers. They pointed towards how, despite being frontline workers, they were neglected. Many of them were terrorised against any resistance.
A gherao was staged at the Kashmiri Gate on the issue of termination of 884 workers. Leaders said, AAP leader Navlendra Kumar was now issuing threat to the Union leaders, though he had earlier promised to address their demands. A protest was organised outside the office of Gautam Gambhir, a BJP leader. Slogans were raised condemning how the ruling party was hoodwinking the workers, and diverting and dividing them.
Union leaders insisted, pro-people forces should unite in exposing and confronting bankruptcy of the social system at the very base. There was a rally in Kamala Nagar area, followed by gherao of the houses of labour minister Gopal Rai and leader Naresh Balyan in Badarpur and Uttam Nagar respectively. Effigies of the two parties were burned.
Activist Priyambda narrated how the Aam Admi party was establishing a vote bank and literally paying no notice to the demands of the anganwadi workers. She recalled how during the 39 day strike of women workers the party had shown absolute apathy. In her view the AAP was in essence similar to the BJP.
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*Freelance activist who has covered mass movements all around India

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