Pune: Even today, anganwadi sevikas (workers), who run nursery schools and implement government schemes for children, adolescent girls and pregnant women, are paid just Rs 5,000 per month. Over 3,000 anganwadi workers and their assistants (madatnis) from Pune district protested in front of the Zilla Parishad office demanding a pay hike on Monday, an extension of the statewide protest, which started on September 11.
Speaking to Sakal Times, Jaya Kadam, an anganwadi sevika from Dandekar Bridge area in Pune, said, “The government expects that we ensure proper nutrition for every malnourished child in just Rs 4. So, the budget for malnourished children, malnourished women and pregnant women is Rs 4 per head. This is a mockery of addressing the problem. In addition, there is no proper place where we can teach the children. We are given places under a building without charts and registers. All of these expenses, we have to pay from our pockets, which leaves very little to spend on our daily survival,” said Kadam.
In every anganwadi, there are at least 70 children from nearby areas. Also, pregnant women and adolescent girls visit the anganwadi to avail various facilities provided by the government.
“For months together, we do not get paid. Small expenses allowance is there but we do not receive that. For buying registers, we have to spend from our salary. In a city like Pune, living is getting expensive every minute. How does the government expect us to survive in such a small amount? We are blamed for the increasing malnutrition, whereas government policies are still age-old,” said Kadam.
The condition is worse for ‘madatnis’. These helping women are paid half of what the anganwadi workers get. Shobha Gharmarkar from Chandan Nagar, a madatni, said the government officials or politicians should try running a household with four family members in Rs 2,500.
“I have four family members in my home. It is virtually impossible to run a house for a month with only Rs 2,500. In addition, the quality of food we get at the anganwadi is so bad that most children do not eat it. The government should accept our demands soon so that we can resume our work,” said Gharmarkar.
Nitin Pawar of the Action Committee of the Maharashtra State Anganwadi Workers Action Committee said these workers toil every day at the grassroots level and have to demand something as basic as respect.
“These women are the first school teachers to many children. However, higher officials do not respect them or their work. They are often subjected to verbal abuse. We demand these workers should get leave when unwell and there should be one month’s leave every year. The pay hike is a major issue. With such less money, how does the government expect them to survive?” said Pawar.
Speaking to Sakal Times, Deepak Chate, Deputy CEO at the Women and Child Development (WCD) said the decision will be taken by the state-level authorities.
“Anganwadi workers and their madatnis play a crucial role in the overall development of children, their health and well-being of adolescent girls as well pregnant women,” said Chate.