A mockery of our hard work’:

Aaganwari workers and helpers held strong protests in Kupwara

A mockery of our hard work’:

By Dr Ab Qayoom

Kupwara,01, Mar:This is what Union President shouted along with other Anganwari workers in Kupwara, as they came out to protest against the JK- UT government. For the past many months, Anganwari workers and helpers regularly held protests for their genuine demands. The protest, led by the Kupwara Anganwari Workers and Helpers Union, has one major demand: a substantial increase in their honorariums. Workers told this reporter they’re considered “volunteers” and not government employees, so they receive honorariums, not salaries. At present, Anganwadi workers in Kashmir receive a monthly honorarium of around Rs 5,200 and helpers around Rs 2500. They’re demanding an increase to Rs 25,000 and Rs 10,000, respectively. “It’s been three years since we got anything from the UT  government or the central government,” said Union president of the Kupwara Anganwadi Workers and Helpers. “Now, we are asking for an increase as well as the arrears due for the last three years.”

The “main demand”, President said, “is to achieve employee status”.“Many of my sisters have been working for decades,” she said. “But today too, they are treated as only volunteers, which deprives them of insurance, ESIC and other benefits.” Zareefa an Anganwadi helper, said, “We women don’t want anything for free. We request our LG. administration to increase our honorarium. What we want is self-respect which we will get if we become financially stable.” We Anganwadi workers lay a strong foundation for the health system,” Nusrat, who has been in the job for 10 years. “We come under the ministry of women and child development. But unfortunately, there is no development for us, the women in Anganwadi's. With such little income, it is hard for us to earn the respect of society as well as our family.” Nahida said she holds a postgraduate degree in social work and has not received a promotion in the last 10 years. “Our salary is too low for us to be able to afford good clothes,” she said. She also pointed out the work that Anganwadi workers had done during the pandemic, despite there being no healthcare system to protect them.“Masks, PPEs, sanitisers and other basic facilities were not provided to us amid this pandemic,” she said. “At such a time, how can we think this government will provide us good healthcare services". Anganwari workers and helpers also spoke about increased work pressure and hectic schedules, which puts severe strain on their work-life balance and morale.“Suppose an Anganwadi worker goes on long leave,” said Zahida, an Anganwadi worker . “In this scenario, her work is given to us. But you can’t imagine what we are paid for the extra work; we are paid Rs 100-300 only. This is how they make a mockery of our hard work.” In this regard scores of Anganwadi workers and helpers held a protest demonstration at Kupwara to press the demand implementation of the minimum wages Act"Meanwhile' they appealed LG Government release of pending salaries and provide monthly wise wage to all frontline workers with the incentive of Rs 25'000 per month, otherwise, our protest will remain to continue.

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