Rashmi Rekha Das

As many as 50,000 Anganwadi workers launched a day-and-night dharna at the Lower PMG Square on Monday protesting the state government’s alleged inordinate delay in fulfilling their demands.

The protestors have, meanwhile, threatened to continue their stir for indefinite period till their eight-charter demands are not met. Their demands include government employee status, monthly pension of Rs 5,000 after retirement and compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of an Anganwadi worker following her death.

Acting tough against the state government’s alleged dillydallying attitude in fulfilling their demands, the Anganwadi workers have shut 60,000 Anganwadi centres across the state. 

They alleged that the state government's flagship projects like Mamata Yojana and Harischandra Yojana became successful due to Anganwadi workers. However, the state government hardly cares for their future. They are being deprived of government benefits. Senior Anganwadi workers are getting Rs 7,500 as monthly salary while mini Anganwadi workers are availing Rs 5,500 as monthly salary which is not enough to run a family, they said.

An irate protester Anjali Patel said, “We wrote to the state government a number of times in support of their demands. But the government did not respond to those letters. Instead, the government insulted us and put more burden on us. Finding no other go, we served a notice to the state government 15 days back informing it about our strike.”

Sumitra Mohapatra, President of All Odisha Anganwadi Lady Workers’ Association, said, “Anganwadi workers must get the tag of government employees. The government must pay Rs 18,000 to Anganwadi workers and Rs 9,000 to their assistants. Besides, our demand of Rs 5,000 pension must be fulfilled. If our demands are not met, our strike won’t end.”   

When contacted, Woman and Child Development Minister Basanti Hembram said, “Both the state and the union government allocate funds for Anganwadi workers. The government will take a final decision after a thorough discussion.”