Srinagar: The recent announcement of Minister of Women and Child Development, Government of India that the Center intends to replace hot cooked meals in Anganwadi centres with ‘ready to eat’ packed dry mixtures will render 26 lakh Anganwadi workers jobless, CPI (M) state secretary Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami said.
In a statement issued here he said that by introducing direct benefit/conditional transfers in place of take home ration given to children, pregnant women and lactating mothers the intent of the BJP-led NDA government comes to fore.
“It is a move to weaken and ultimately dismantle the Anganwadi centres and to involve corporate food giants in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS),” the communist leader said.
“If implemented, not only will it dismantle the entire ICDS, but jobs of over 26 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers, mostly from poor and oppressed sections of the society, will be under serious threat. The cash transfer will sound the death knell of ICDS, which has earned worldwide recognition for its role in reducing severe malnutrition and bringing down infant mortality rate across the country,” Tarigami added.
He said that the ICDS is a unique outreach programme to meet the nutritional needs of crores of children under the age of six and to improve the nutrition levels of pregnant and lactating mothers from the most vulnerable sections of our society. ICDS plays a vital role in a country which is home to 190 million undernourished people – the highest in the world.
“In the past, there have been attempts by the corporate sector to enter the ICDS programme by substituting packed readymade food for freshly cooked meals. This is contrary to the spirit of the programme as well as the Supreme Court’s directives which prioritize decentralized, locally produced food made by women’s groups, thus providing both fresh food to children and employment to women. The weakening of ICDS can lead to over all weakening of the trade union movement, particularly among the women and rural workers. Considering all these aspects, it is important to fight and defeat this move,” he added.
Tarigami demanded that the government should immediately stop the move to introduce direct and conditional cash transfers and packaged food in ICDS, regularize all Anganwadi workers as Grade III and helpers as Grade IV government employees,
He also demanded minimum wages of skilled workers to Anganwadi workers and that of semi skilled workers to helpers and said that remuneration should be linked up with consumer price index.
The CPI (M) legislator also sought social security benefits, including gratuity, pension, provident fund and medical facilities to be provided to Anganwadi employees.
“The announcement of PDP-led government in last Budget session to enhance the honorarium of Anganwadi workers by Rs 500 has also not been fulfilled. The promise, like the most promises made by the incumbent Government have remained limited to promises only,” the legislator rued.