After statewide protests by anganwadi workers demanding a hike in monthly honorarium, the state government announced a performance based incentive hike for the agitating workers. But, they are not pleased.
Anganwadi workers and helpers are not happy with the recent announcement. All photos: By arrangement
On September 16, the Uttar Pradesh government stated that it had raised the monthly ‘honorarium’ of anganwadi workers and helpers in the state. This came a month after protests were staged by the anganwadi workers.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath-led government claimed to have increased the monthly honorarium for anganwadi workers from Rs 5,500 to Rs 7,000, whereas for mini anganwadi workers and helpers it has been increased to Rs 5,500 and Rs 4,000, respectively. This, claims the state government, is expected to benefit more than 373,000 anganwadi workers and helpers across the 75 districts of the state.
However, anganwadi workers and helpers are not satisfied with the recent announcement and have termed it as an eyewash.
“We openly oppose this decision. Seven thousand has not been increased in honorarium (fixed pay) as the government claims,” objected Sarita Singh, member of the Anganwadi Karamchari Va Sahayika Association in Uttar Pradesh. She is also a member of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of India (CFTUI), a national umbrella organisation of trade unions and associations.
“The hike will be given incentive wise. For instance, five hundred will be given when distributing ration and one thousand will be given as part of the poshan tracker feeding work. Those [anganwadi workers] not coming under this category for some reason will not get this money that month,” she clarified to Gaon Connection.
“We would have appreciated this announcement much more if this was included in the monthly honorarium,” she added.
Last month on August 17 and 18, about 150,000 anganwadi workers in Uttar Pradesh agitated demanding a hike in monthly honorarium. The women have been demanding Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 a month for each anganwadi worker as was promised to them by the state government way back in 2017.
They called off their two-day strike after reportedly being assured by the state government that their monthly honorarium would be increased.
However, the recent announcement of the state government has failed to address their concerns, claim the anganwadi workers.
“All party leaders are claiming that the honorarium of anganwadi workers has been increased. But this is jumlebazi (empty rhetoric). The government has lost our trust,” Sarita Singh, who had led the two day protest from Jaunpur.
Under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, the anganwadi services envisage the anganwadi workers and helpers as honorary workers from the local community who come forward to render their services, on ‘part time’ basis, in child care and development. These include monitoring child growth, looking after malnourished kids and pregnant women, distributing ration, administering other health services under the ICDS. These workers are not considered as employers, hence receive an honorarium and not a monthly wage.
According to a statement made in 2019 by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, nationally, the workers at main-anganwadi centres are entitled to an honorarium of Rs 4,500 per month, those at mini-anganwadi centres are given Rs 3,500 a month, while anganwadi helpers receive Rs 2,250 a month.
In addition to the honorarium paid by the central government, the respective states and Union Territories also give monetary incentives to these workers out of their own resources. For instance, the Uttar Pradesh government gives an additional Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 honorarium to the anganwadi workers and helpers, respectively.
Therefore, in Uttar Pradesh, an anganwadi worker earns a total of Rs 5,500 in the main anganwadis, Rs 4,500 a month at the mini anganwadis, while the helper earns Rs 2,750 a month.
“I work all day and earn five thousand five hundred rupees a month while my household expenses are at least twenty five thousand rupees a month,” Priyanka Singh, an anganwadi worker from Raebareli district told Gaon Connection. The anganwadi worker was crestfallen that even after all the fighting and protesting they had done, the raise was given so grudgingly and with so many caveats.
The government poster tweeted on September 16 claims to have increased the ‘honorarium’ but a government circular dated September 14 clearly states that it is a ‘performance linked incentive scheme’ for anganwadi workers, which are two different things.
As per the state government’s circular, Rs 500 each will be given as performance-based incentive to anganwadi workers and mini anganwadi workers for monthly distribution of nutritional supplement to registered beneficiaries. The anganwadi helpers will be given Rs 400 as ‘incentives’, not honorariums.
Whereas, on completion of monthly feeding work under Poshan Tracker for registered beneficiaries, Rs 1,000 will be given to anganwadi workers, Rs 750 to mini anganwadi workers, and Rs 350 to helpers.
Simply put, the incentives for workers at main and mini anganwadi centres, and helpers have been increased by Rs 1,500, Rs 1,250, and Rs 750, respectively.
“The hike should have been for all workers, and not based on incentives. Those working better should be encouraged accordingly. Yearly incentives or rewards could have been considered,” Sunita Singh, Lucknow-based member of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a non-profit working in public health, told Gaon Connection.
As part of the steps being taken by the state government to effectively monitor development of children, pregnant women and lactating mothers under the Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN) Abhiyan, smart phones were given to anganwadi workers.
“We were given smartphones in 2017. But they stopped working in just a few months. Mine stopped working after a year. How do we put data in a POSHAN tracker app without smartphones,” asked an exasperated Priyanka Singh who now feared that she would not get the additional incentive [Rs 1,000 per month].
“In the POSHAN tracker we have to file all details of all beneficiaries such as name, mobile number, Aadhaar, height, and weight. But not all of us have smartphones. How do they expect us to work without it,” the 36-year-old anganwadi worker demanded to know. According to her, it costs anganwadi workers at least Rs 150 a month for data packs needed to use the POSHAN tracker on their smartphones.
The anganwadi workers’ association had issued a demand letter dated August 18 listing out the promises the state government had made to them. According to the association, on June 7, 2017, the state government had promised Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 monthly honorarium to anganwadi workers and helpers. Thereafter, on February 22, 2018, the state government had promised a monthly hike of Rs 1,500.
But, these promises were never delivered, said Sarita Singh of CFTUI. The anganwadi workers’ association has reiterated its demands:
Gaon Connection contacted Radha Chauhan today (September 20), additional chief secretary, Department of Child Development Services and Nutrition, Uttar Pradesh. “I appreciate your focus on this matter. May like to connect with Principal Secretary Child Development Ms Hekali,” she responded.
Hekali Zhimomi, chief secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh, who had issued the government circular of September 14, was, however, unavailable to comment.
Meanwhile, the union leaders are expected to have a meeting on September 27 with all members of Anganwadi Karamchari Va Sahayika Association to further discuss the demands of anganwadi workers.