Thousands of Anganwadi workers march to Delhi Secratariat

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Lokesh Goswami :Thousands of Anganwadi workers and helpers marched from Rajghat to Delhi Secratariat today under the leadership of ‘Delhi State Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union’ (DSAWHU). As is well-known, DSAWHU has been leading a strike of thousands of Delhi Anganwadi workers and helpers for past 37 days due to non-implementation of a legally-binding agreement that the Kejriwal government had concluded with DSAWHU in July, 2015. This agreement clearly stated that the honorarium of workers and helpers will be increased. However, Kejriwal government refused to implement this agreement for past 2 years despite repeated reminders by the Union. After all attempts of Kejriwal government to break the strike of workers proved helpless, the government was obliged to declare ultimately that the honorarium of workers and helpers will be doubled, however, no written agreement with the Union has been signed in this regards, nor has the government issued any government order, gazette or notification. And now, when the new month has started, there has been no payment made by the government as per the “increased honorarium” or any payment at all. Strike cannot be discontinued on the basis of twitter activism of Arvind Kejriwal or a Press statement issued by Manish Sisodia, especially in the view of the fact that this same goverment tried to end the strike by hook or crook: they conjured up fictitious unions colluding with the supervisors, CDP officers, their own party workers and NGO members and spread rumours that an agreement with so-and-so union has been concluded; they tried to intimidate and threaten workers and helpers with termination and penal action; the workers of AAP even attacked many anganwadi workers and helpers physically and slapped false FIRs against them. When they failed to breach the organization and unity of anganwadi workers, they were compelled to issue such tweets and press statements. However, this cannot be trusted as they have put the ball in LG’s court, though the Kejriwal government and its ministers including Manish Sisodia have repeatedly and vehemently iterated that except the issues of Police, Law and Order and Land, the Delhi Government is not dependent of LG Office in anyway and can take any decision. This cannot be trusted even more because when the Kejriwal government failed to honor a legally-binding written agreement with the Union for past 2 years, how can the workers and helpers trust tweet of Kejriwal and a mere press statement of Sisodia? Did the Kejriwal government ask the LG before it spent more than Rs 1000 Crore of the hard-earned money of people of Delhi on its false propaganda and advertisements? Did Kejriwal ask the LG before it raised the salary of its MLAs to Rs. 2.5 lakhs? Then why this farce when the issue of honorarium of anganwadi workers and helpers came up? This shows that we cannot trust the tweets and press statement of the government. Union spokesperson Ms. Vrishali said, “We continue the strike as we still wait for our arrears. We will end the strike today itself, only if the government is ready to conclude a written agreement with us promising the increment in honararium, the amount of increase, the date from which the increment will be in force and also promising that no striking workers will be victimised now or later. But the government is eluding giving any written document and now has resolved to using the ultimate excuse of using LGs name. The Kejriwal government is scared of the Union and is avoiding talking with it, though it concluded a written agreement with the same union in 2015. The reason for this is the anti-labor policy of Kejriwal government which always tries to delegitimize the unions.”

Union president Ms. Shivani Kaul said, “The Kejriwal government has made the announcement that it will increase the pay of workers and helpers, but the truth is that the strike has entered a new month as the workers still wait for their increased honorariums along with the arrears. Today we, thousands of anganwadi workers and helpers marched from Rajghat to Delhi Secretariat to protest against this farce. In 2015 also we had been promised in a legally-binding agreement with the Union that the honorarium will be increased; Kejriwal government had agreed with 6 other demands also in 2015. However, the government betrayed us and refused to implement this agreement, though we went to the Delhi Secretariat time and again to remind the government about this agreement. With no other option left, we organized this strike. However, showing its anti-workers attitude, this time the Kejriwal government refused to even talk with the Union and indulged in all kinds of shady activities to break the strike like conjuring up imaginary unions with its own supervisors, CDPO, AAP workers, NGOites, etc and spreading the rumours. When all of these attempts failed, then under immense pressure, first Kejriwal tweeted about honorarium increment and then Sisodia issued a press statement. Now you tell us: we have been sitting in rain, in sun, in hot and humid weather for past 37 days outside CM’s house organizing this strike and dharna, how can we end it before we receive our outstanding payments or our increased honorariums or a government notice? What happened to the tweet or press statement made by the government announcing the cabinet’s decision to increase the honorarium? When will we receive all those payments in our accounts? That is why, we will end our strike in two situations only: Either the Kejriwal government conclude a written agreement with the DSAWHU stipulating the amount of increment, the date from which it will be implemented and promising that no striking workers or helper will be victimized; or the government issues a government notification, order or gazette stipulating the above conditions. We want to declare from this open platform that strike is not our hobby, but a household cannot run on Rs. 5000 or Rs. 2500. We don’t trust Kejriwal government because we haven’t got anything from it for past 2 years except betrayal, false promises and hollow announcements. We are ready to end the strike today and now if the government concludes a written agreement with us. Without such an agreement, we will have to wait for a government gazette or notification regarding the conditions of honorarium increase. It is true that our unprecedented strike has destroyed the arrogance of the Kejriwal government, but not totally. The government is so afraid of the Union that it fails to gather the courage to face it directly and negotiate. That is why, it is working in closed rooms in clandestine fashion. The Union resolves to make the Kejriwal government pay for this stubborn attitude. We are running a boycott campaign against the candidate of AAP in the Bawana by-elections and we’ll make sure that AAP loses. Hundreds of anganwadi women workers have been running this campaign in Bawana itself for past couple of days. We will stop this campaign only when the government talks with the Union and stays away from its conspiracies to delegitimize the Union.”

Ms. Huma Qazi, member of the Leading Committee of the DSAWHU told, “The same Manish Sisodia who was crying crocodile tears in his press conference about the meager honorarium that we receive is not ready to say when our increased honorariums will be sent to our account! Well, he cannot fool us with this farce. The government has now reached for it last weapon, using the LG as a shield, as it always have been and putting all the blame on him.  If you were so moved by the low honorarium that we receive, why didn’t you implement the legal agreement concluded with our Union in 2015 in which your government promised honorarium increase? Why didn’t you engage with the Union in a negotiation? Why you tried to intimidate and threaten us through your officers, supervisors, AAP goons and even tried to attack us physically? The truth is that 95 percent of anganwadis are closed due to our unprecedented

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