The Committee on Local Bodies and Panchayat Raj for Karnataka tabled its report for 2019 – 20 in both the Houses has expressed concern about the infrastructure in anganwadis, while also mentioning the health risks due to the lack of toilets and ventilation, reported Deccan Herald.
The report stated that while the government was to build 3,026 new toilets in anganwadis across Karnatakas, only 1,663 toilets had been constructed at the time of compiling the report. Also, while 5,011 anganwadis were lined up for repair work, the repairs of only 2,965 had been completed.
It was also mentioned that while the construction of some anganwadis had not begun at all, in several other villages the walls were leaking due to being of poor quality. It was said that the funds for the infrastructure development of anganwadis had been diverted to civil works instead.
In Bagalkot, the toilet construction target was 238, but only 11 new toilets were made. In Ramnagar, no toilets were constructed against the given target of 121 and the same was with Raichur which had a target of 76 toilets to be constructed.
Speaking to Deccan Herald, S Varalakshmi, President of the Karnataka State Anganwadi Workers Association, CITU, said that the infrastructure had suffered due to a scarcity of funds. “Till 2018, the government granted only Rs. 1.80 lakh for infrastructure development per anganwadi. Recently the amount has been increased to Rs. 5 lakhs, as against our demand of Rs. 15 lakh taking present day costs into consideration.”
She also added that in several regions where toilets were made, especially in the Kalyana Karnataka region, there was no water.
“Anganwadi workers fetch water from afar. It is a serious issue. Also, the problem of dingy spaces persists in urban areas where space is a constraint. Here, many anganwadis also run from rented buildings. In such spaces, toilets are not available in the same building. In many instances, the government has not even paid rents and anganwadi workers are paying it from their pockets,” she said.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that 1,206 anganwadi centres in Dakshina Kannada do not have compound walls to prevent encroachers from taking upon the land. This puts the children at risk and the workers of the centre have to work hard to save the food-bearing plants and vegetables that grow in the premises and are consumed by the children there.
While some anganwadi centers across the country will have CCTV cameras set up soon, others are still grappling with problems related to basic amenities like no toilets and no take home ration.
Another issue that anganwadi workers and helpers face is of wages. These front-line workers, mostly women, are an invaluable link between the people and the government. However, till date, they haven’t received the due that they deserve for their work.
Sabrang India had reported the plight of these workers earlier. The Anganwadi workers have been battling for a minimum wage of Rs. 18,000 per month, garnering support from the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and other outfits affiliated to the Communist Party of India (CPI – M). They complain that the salaries promised to them don’t come on time and sometimes they have to go months without getting their pay. At such times, they selflessly contribute from their own pockets – for charts, toys and other items, for they love the job they do. Not just this, they also prepare food and ensure the kids get a variety in their diet.
Till date, their dues are never mentioned as salaries, but are called honorariums. Their nature of work is never seen as hard labour and they are never looked at as employees, but as someone engaged in voluntary social service.
Regularization of anganwadi workers is still on the cards. The wage increase made in 2018 hasn’t been implemented efficiently yet.
It is rather disappointing to see the government’s apathy with regards to the anganwadi centers and the children and the employees there. With bureaucracy being so convoluted, it is difficult to say if the state of one of the most important pillars of the child development services will ever achieve their full potential, benefiting crores.