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Fair Wages at the End of Service Delivery

Context:

The recent agreement with Anganwadi workers and helpers, resolving their strike in Andhra Pradesh, marked a delayed acknowledgment of their role in maintaining the continuum of care. Disregarding the significance of the final stage in service delivery has proven to be a grave error. Especially for the government, it is crucial not to overlook those positioned at the end of the service chain, ensuring a connection between its programs and the citizens.

Relevance:

GS-2

  • Government Policies and Interventions
  • Food Security
  • Issues Relating to Poverty and Hunger
  • Issues Related to Women
  • Issues Related to Children

Mains Question:

In the context of the recent protest by Anganwadi workers in Vijayawada, discuss the role of offering fair wages to those at end of the services delivery line and its impact on the quality of service. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

About Anganwadis:

  • Anganwadi is a program sponsored by the central government and implemented by the States/Union Territories in India, functioning as a rural center for child and maternal care.
  • Initiated by the Government of India in 1975 as a component of the Integrated Child Development Services program, its primary goal is to address child hunger and malnutrition.
  • Anganwadi centers offer a comprehensive package of six services, including supplementary nutrition, pre-school non-formal education, immunization, health check-ups, nutrition and health education, and referral services.
  • Beneficiaries eligible for the Anganwadi Services Scheme are identified based on Aadhaar, the unique identification system in India.

More on the Recent Agreement:

  • The protest, which lasted a record 42 days in Vijayawada, concluded after some contentious exchanges between the protesters and the state.
  • The State government eventually agreed to address 10 out of their 11 demands, including the implementation of promised salary increments, payment of travel and dearness allowances, provision of life insurance and accident insurance coverage, and end-of-service benefits.
  • Additionally, funds were sought to rectify structural, aesthetic, and sanitation issues in the anganwadi centers.
  • Initially taking a tough stance, the ruling party issued show cause notices and invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act against the Anganwadi workers, but ultimately took corrective measures.
  • It is regrettable that governments often perceive unionized protests and protesters as bothersome without initially assessing the validity of their representation.

Significance of Anganwadi Workers in the Delivery Chain:

Affordable and easily accessible healthcare:

  • Presently in India, around 2 million anganwadi workers are reaching out to a population of 70 million, including women, children, and individuals with illnesses, playing a crucial role in promoting and maintaining good health.
  • Anganwadi workers represent an essential yet often overlooked component of the Indian healthcare system.

Local Connectivity & Community Mobilization:

Anganwadi workers possess a unique advantage over physicians residing in the same rural areas, providing them with insights into the local health conditions. This local knowledge aids in identifying the root causes of health issues and effectively addressing them.

Combatting Malnourishment:

  • India has one-third of the world’s stunted children, and Anganwadis play a pivotal role in the success of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program.
  • This program addresses the nutritional, health, and pre-education requirements of children up to six years old, as well as the health and nutrition of women and adolescent girls.

Ensuring Participation in Government Initiatives:

  • Anganwadi workers serve as India’s primary defense against issues like child malnutrition, infant mortality, lack of child education, community health problems, and the prevention of diseases.
  • These community health workers act as intermediaries for rural communities, facilitating access to key health services and benefits.

Health Crisis Management:

  • Despite limited training and considerable risks, anganwadi workers have actively visited households to raise awareness about COVID-19 and conducted tasks like contact tracing during the health crisis.
  • In this specific case, Anganwadi workers and helpers undertake a myriad of responsibilities, including bringing children to their centers, caring for toddlers, organizing meals, feeding, and educating them.
  • Additionally, they play a crucial role in providing health and nutrition education, as well as counseling on breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding practices to young mothers.
  • As the closest link to the community, especially in rural areas, they are expected to influence families to register children’s births, promote family planning, and support primary health center staff in ensuring the delivery of ante and postnatal commitments.

Conclusion:

Despite being positioned at the end of the line, their significance in the delivery chain should not be underestimated. The State government has commendably addressed most of their just demands, especially the decision to increase their compensation, albeit after more than a month. It is now incumbent upon the government to withdraw all cases filed against Anganwadi workers, remunerate them for the strike period, and refrain from taking further punitive actions against them.


 

February 2024
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