Delhi anganwadi workers boycott elections

22,000 Anganwadi workers pledge to boycott AAP and BJP in Delhi civic polls and set to ban entry of ‘AAP’ and ‘BJP’ candidates in their neighbourhoods   


| The Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union (DSAWHU) held a press conference at Press Club of India, Delhi on November 11th. Fluttering its banner for upcoming MCD polls, the DSAWHU announced to boycott both AAP and BJP in the coming elections as a result of their anti-Anganwadi workers policies in particular and anti-working class character on the whole.

Earlier this year, thousands of anganwadi workers and helpers waged a heroic struggle by striking for 38 days. Despite its relentless efforts, the Delhi Kejriwal Government failed to sabotage the strike. So they, in collusion with the BJP, had declared  the nefarious  HESMA Act through the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. Following that the Union had decided to suspend the strike for the time being. The union had said that since anganwadi workers do not come into the category of government employees, there is no justification for the imposition of a law like HESMA. On the one hand, the Delhi government justified the imposition of HESMA by saying that the essential services provided in anganwadi centres were diminished. On the other hand, the same government had illegally terminated 884 women workers for exercising their constitutional and democratic rights. Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union had filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court regarding this matter. The case is still pending in the Delhi High Court. The High Court has imposed a stay on any fresh recruitment to replace these 884 terminations.

Union president Shivani Kaul, while addressing the media, said that the 38-day strike not only posed challenge to the Delhi Government of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Central government of the Bharatiya Janta Party, but also exposed the bankruptcy or futility of the entire capitalist system. Both the Delhi and the Central governments were shaken by this historic strike. Despite leaving no stone unturned, the BJP government at the Centre and the AAP government of Delhi failed to subdue the strike. Finally, it was out of this fear and embarrassment that they mutually agreed to impose a six-month ban on this historic strike of Delhi’s Anganwadi workers using the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) with the help of the Lieutenant Governor. Even though these two parties have been ignoring the reach of the services rendered by Anganwadi workers and helpers to the people of Delhi, the Union will now make it impossible for them to do so in view of the civic polls. Every anganwadi worker in Delhi has pledged to impose a complete embargo on the entry of candidates and workers of these two parties in their respective areas. Today, even though these two parties are cutting each others throats in vote bank politics, however, whenever it comes to the repression of workers’ rights, both these parties are hand in glove.. Not only the 22,000 anganwadi workers will not cast vote to any of these two parties but their families and friends too will actively boycott them. A campaign will be undertaken among the masses of Delhi for the complete ‘vote bandi’ of these two parties.

All the electoral parties have always utilised Anganwadi women workers as their vote bank and as a tool for their campaigns. They certainly are aware of the fact that the scheme workers have access to engulf any part of this country. Using this same point to their advantage, anganwadi workers and helpers in Delhi will target all those parties who instead of redressing their just and constitutional demands terminated them. It is significant to note that so far, there has been only one party who has stood by them during the strike ― the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of India (RWPI).

The Aam Aadmi Party government had terminated 884 women workers for waging strike for better facilities and demanding minimum wages, said anganwadi worker Zahida. Today, the same Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is declaring that it will provide 5000 rupees as an aid to the construction workers employed in the sites where construction has been terminated  due to rise in pollution, which itself is a pretence. The petty tactics of AAP and BJP were exposed at a brim when they colluded to sabotage the strike. 884 women workers were deprived of their means of livelihood but none of the parties undertook any definite action in their support.

Anganwadi helper Anita said that, ‘We have seen the true colours of all parties during our strike. Both the BJP and the AAP worked hand in glove against us. But Congress too is no exception. The Delhi Government in High Court is being represented by the senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. But a party like Congress does not need any exposure now; the masses are already aware of its sad state of affairs. That’s why the Anganwadi workers will not allow the leaders of BJP and AAP to enter their respective areas for campaigning as their true motive needs to be unfolded. They have no right to show their faces to us. They will be welcomed with garlands of shoes and slippers and with dirt and soot. Also, we will launch a gherao and campaign all over Delhi against the civic body candidates of both these parties.”

Union president Shivani Kaul concluded the conference by saying that the right to boycott cannot be snatched by any government department neither can it undertake any action on them for undertaking such an action. Moreover, if the demand for reinstatement is not met immediately, 22000 Anganwadi workers and helpers of Delhi will launch a strike again on any coming day. This time Employees of all departments under the Delhi government will stand in its support. The Delhi Jal Board, DTC and guest teachers are also facing the wrath of anti-worker attitude of the Delhi government and will not hesitate to embark on road of struggle once again.

Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who covers mass movements around India

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