NEW DELHI: A day after the World Health Organization conferred the Global Health Leaders’ Award upon the Asha workers, many among them resorted to questioning the intentions of the city government on their needs - including a raise in their honorarium. On Monday, they told this newspaper that this award means nothing to them when they don’t even have enough money to make ends meet.
The anganwadi workers have been organising protests and strikes since January 31 demanding better pay and working conditions. However, the protest was halted after the Delhi government and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal imposed Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and suspended more than 1,000 anganwadi workers.
Since then anganwadi workers have been protesting in small groups against the suspension order and have also been demanding a hike in their honorarium. The suspect order has also been challenged in the High Court. “Does the government really care about the scheme workers is clear by the fact that the Centre is yet to pay the incentive and honorarium as per the meager increment announced by the Prime Minister in September 2018,” said anganwadi workers and helpers union member Vrishali.
Pushpa Mitra, a terminated anganwadi worker, the award is just a “dikhawa” (showoff) by the organisation. “Nobody cares for us. All we want is that our terminations to be taken back,” she said.
She claims that she wasn’t even in the city when the protests took place and despite that she was terminated. “We did so much work during the pandemic. Without mask and sanitiser we distributed food to people, vaccinated them but all that has not been respected when we sought a hike in the honorarium,” she said.
The workers were demanding that the honorarium of workers and helpers be increased to Rs 25,000 and Rs 20,000 respectively, and their services be regularised with retirement benefits. On February 24, the Delhi government had announced that it had raised the salary of anganwadi workers and helpers to Rs 12,720 and Rs 6,810 respectively.
However, the protesting workers rejected the honorarium revision and said they will continue their strike outside the CM’s residence as the hike was “too little”. Forty-year-old Kardampuri Heeramani, questioned the decision in conferring the award. The mother of two was terminated from serving.
‘For contribution to global health’
World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Sunday announced the honourees of the Global Health Leaders Awards which included India’s over one million strong Asha workers. According to WHO, the honour recognises outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.