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While major contribution to implementation of social welfare schemes is through social volunteers and anganwadis, nurses, teachers, etc .their economic and social condition remains pathetic. Their problems have not been addressed either by governments or other welfare organizations for many years.

Devalued

The social and economic progress depends upon providing basic services. The teachers, Anganwadi workers, nurses, panchayat secretaries or PWD employees are crucial for services like basic schooling, childcare and nutrition, health counseling, etc. Their need in rural areas is very much especially in helping poor and the needy. But they are grossly underpaid and even their services devalued by the government or public. For instance, there are about 14 lakh anganwadi workers in the country providing health and nutrition services to over eight crore beneficiaries. ( Those we take for granted, written by Kiran Bhatty and Dipa Sinha, date January 24, 2019, indianexpress.com). Even though their services are significant, they are given ‘ honorary’ payment. In most states, they are paid about 5,000 per month which is lower than minimum wage prescribed for government employees. Even the salaries are delayed or paid irregularly. A study of six states by Center for Equity Studies (2016) revealed that 35% of the workers did not receive their previous month’s salaries, 50% felt that funds they received for running day – to – day activities of center were inadequate and 40% reported spending their own money to keep the center’s activities going.

Similarly, though teachers are paid around Rs. 50,000 , the recruitment is low. Various governments do not fill vacancies and they resort to some form of contract or part- time teachers whose payment ranges from 3,700 to 50,000. In Gujarat, a case filed showed that some teachers have not even paid minimum wages. Despite Gujarat High Court order, the grim situation continues. The SC has not delivered final verdict for four years. In Madhya Pradesh, a nurse staff at Nutrition Rehabilitation was paid Rs. 10,000 though the work included night shifts. Information on such incidents is not in the public domain.
Pathetic conditions

The workers face innumerable obstacles. The pathetic condition of the workers reflects in their daily struggles. Their grievances never addressed and they have to pacify bureaucrats as well as public in times of crises. The training is often poor and there is no accountability. Their constant reporting to higher- ups creates tensions and constant hostility. Lack of training leads to inefficient performance.

According to an article (‘Taken for granted’ , Anganwadi workers demand better pay and condition, by Manira Chowdhury, 10/Sep/ 2018, thewire.in) , though the website of the ministry of women and child development provides for insurance and maternity leave benefits, none of the provisions have been implemented. The workers are also over- burdened with other jobs like election duty and survey fr government departments.

Grim future

The future of these ‘ marginalised’ workers seem to be grim. There was not much to cheer about in budget of Feb 2018. They are part of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program which is the world’s largest. The All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH) expressed its unhappiness against the present government and organized strikes for increase in wages and working condition last year.(Anganwadi Workers angry with Budget, 1 Feb 2018, newsclick.in). Over 60 lakh scheme workers including anganwadi workers and helpers voiced their strong disappointment with meagre allocation of finance.

Their struggle for better living condition is still continuing and government has not done much to redress their grievances. As their work is of prime importance, they should be provided with adequate financial facilities and social assistance

The writer from everywhere and anywhere is interested in social justice. Some of the works appeared in Poemhunter, Scarlet leaf review, Leaves of Ink, Dissident Voice, Velivada, Virasam, counterview, Tuck Magazine, etc

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