SRINAGAR: Two senior Anganwari workers on Tuesday attempted self-immolation at press enclave near city centre Lal Chowk. At least a dozen workers are on hunger strike since Monday demanding salary hike and regularization.
Tasleema Subhan, the State President of Anganwari Association, and Haseena Sofi, a senior worker who has won several government awards for her work, poured kerosene and tried to set themselves ablaze. However, other workers who are also on the strike foiled their attempt.
Anganwari workers are paid much lower wages as compared to other employees in the government. They are engaged on a long term basis in Government of India’s Integrated Child Development Scheme.
‘Workers’ are paid Rs 3600 per month – Rs 3000 by GoI and Rs 600 by J&K government. “Ever since I was appointed as a worker I haven’t seen concern minster standing for us like concern minsters in other states. I can that we were forced to go for hunger strike,” Fehmeeda Akther, a physically challenged Anganwari worker from Anantnag, told Kashmir Reader.
Workers seek “humane” wages of Rs 10000 for ‘workers’ and Rs 8000 for ‘helpers’.
She said she has been working in ICDS since 1991 and has faced severe financial challenges in running her household. Her “very low” wages fall short of the “expenses” her household and job incurs. While she is engaged as a ‘worker’, ICDS also engages ‘helpers’ who are paid “even lower” wages.
The workers and helpers have been demanding a raise in wages and regularisation for many years and are on a strike, hoping to impress upon the want government to meet their genuine concerns. Many of the workers and helpers have few other work opportunities. But their work is instrumental in ensuring that the scheme reaches every neighbourhood and school.
“If I had been financially better off, I would not have been the part of this protest,” Amina Bano, Srinagar General Sectary Anganwari Workers Association said. “Every one of us has problems and government should address our issues. Government has decided our retirement age but the question is what benefits shall we get at retirement without being regularised.”
Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Asiya Naqash, however, put down the demands. “Over the last two and a half years, we have resolved their issues. I wonder what prompts them to come out on the streets,” she questioned.
The Srinagar General Sectary of the workers’ association claimed that hundreds of workers and helpers engaged by ICDS were “either divorced or widowed” and the wages were not enough to fulfil their families’ basic needs.
“Our everyday challenge is whether we should pay bus fare or provide for our children. Market prices are touching the sky. Our concerned minister should, at least, look at our wages afresh for their (children’s) sake.”
The protesting employees vowed to fight for their cause until their demands were met.