In a standoff with the Andhra Pradesh government, over 1 lakh Anganwadi workers and helpers in the state continue their strike for the 30th consecutive day, defying the Essential Services and Maintenance Act 1971 invoked by the government. The workers, employed in 55,607 centers, initiated the strike on December 12, demanding higher wages, regularization of services, and improved retirement benefits.
The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led administration’s decision to categorize Anganwadi workers as “essential workers” under the Essential Services Act was intended to ensure the continued functioning of vital health and childcare services. However, the workers argue that their demands for better working conditions and recognition as formal government employees are legitimate and must be addressed.
The key demands put forth by the agitating workers include official recognition as government employees, an increase in their current monthly wage from Rs 11,500 to Rs 26,000, provision of gratuity benefits, and an extension of retirement age to 62, aligning it with other government departments.
The protesting workers allege that the state government is meting out a ‘raw deal’ to them and their colleagues, leading to the participation of approximately 1.06 lakh women in the strike, affecting the functioning of Anganwadi centers across the state.
Despite the government’s ultimatum to rejoin duties by January 8, the workers chose to escalate their protest by organizing a ‘jail bharo’ (fill the jails) demonstration on January 9. They have further issued a warning, threatening to call for a statewide bandh after the Sankranti festival if their demands are not addressed promptly.
The impasse has sparked concerns among citizens who rely on Anganwadi services for healthcare and childcare. The government’s invocation of the Essential Services Act underscores the critical nature of the services provided by Anganwadi workers, but the continued strike raises questions about the effectiveness of the legislative measures in resolving the ongoing dispute.
As the standoff persists, the focus is shifting towards negotiations between the government and the agitating workers, with the hope that a resolution can be reached to restore normalcy to the essential services provided by Anganwadi workers across Andhra Pradesh.
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