Anganwadi workers across India are perhaps one of the most underpaid and overworked group of women. They form the backbone of the Integrated Childcare Development Scheme that seeks to provide health care to pregnant women, nursing mothers and their infants as well as pre-school education to children between 3 and 6.
These women are also the point persons for vaccination schemes that are carried out in every habitation. The work is gruelling, the hours are long and the salary they get is miserly.
Radhika Chincholkar reports the heartbreaking story of one former anganwadi worker from Chincholi village in Hingoli district Maharashtra.
Between 2011 and 2012 Sindhu More ran the village anganwadi centre. Under her guidance around 100 children came to the centre each morning to learn and play. They went home after getting their daily mid-day meal. For her efforts Sindhu earned a salary of INR 4000, a considerable jump from the money she got as a wage worker.
Then abruptly, Sindhu was asked to leave. Why? Because she had three children.
There are no rules that openly lay down the number of children a woman can have to be eligible for the job. Yet, Maharashtra like many other Indian States comes with a baggage of repressive two-child policies.
In 2000 and then again in 2005 there was an uproar in many groups, including health workers, policy makers, activists and researchers because the Maharashtra Government laid out norms that prevented families with more than two children to avail of State benefits like free healthcare and education for girls. It even prevented women with more than two children from applying for positions like anganwadi workers or Village Head.
This violation of women’s control over their reproductive rights and further a denial of government services meant especially for them continues to this date in underhanded ways. Many State sponsored schemes are directed at the poorest of Indian families, in this context women like Sindhu are even more vulnerable.
“The anganwadi is close to my house, I remember how happy the children looked when Sindhu used to work there. She is 12th pass, knows how to do her job and is a dedicated worker. What were they thinking when they fired her?” asks CC Radhika, an activist who has been working on women’s rights for 15 years.
Sindhu had been very honest right from the start, clearly stating in her application letter that she had three children. Why then this injustice? Sindhu has filed an appeal in the lower courts at Aurangabad and is waiting to hear a decision on the matter.
In the mean time, the number of children who attend the anganwadi has dwindled from 100 to a few dozen at best. The children are in the care of the anganwadi helper who is hardly qualified to do the job she is being forced to do. She admits herself, that she manages to do the bare minimum that the children need in terms of teaching them.
The future of a 100 children and a very dedicated care taker, Sindhu are in the lurch right now. You can help set this right. Pick up your phone.
Call to Action: Please call Sudhir Thombre, the Block Development Officer on 02456-260018 or +91 9420614743 and ask him to appoint an anganwadi worker in Chincholi immediately.