Those we take for granted -Kiran Bhatty & Dipa Sinha
-The Indian Express
Anganwadi workers, teachers, nurses are paid low salaries, their work devalued
Frontline workers providing basic services through various government programmes form the backbone of the country’s social welfare system. India’s ability to achieve its SDGs or to have a healthy skilled workforce that contributes towards economic progress or social and human development depends to a large extent on the performance of teachers, nurses, anganwadi workers, panchayat secretaries and PWD staff. That is perhaps why they have been at the receiving end of the criticism for shortfalls in the country’s social indicators. Unfortunately, while the blame is easily apportioned, there is not enough attention paid to the conditions under which they work or the value that is attributed to their work.
These workers face a number of obstacles in doing their daily jobs — lack of infrastructure, poor training, interminable bureaucratic reporting responsibilities, no supportive supervision, absence of clear accountability structures (to the community they serve as well as to the higher-ups), poor grievance redress mechanisms and for a majority, less than commensurate remuneration. These concerns are usually covered up in the narrative of rampant absenteeism and poor attention to core responsibilities. It is based on the assumption that all government employees are paid according to the Pay Commission scales. Nothing could be further from the truth, at least as far as the frontline government employees are concerned.
Let us take the example of anganwadi workers. There are almost 14-lakh anganwadi workers in the country providing health and nutrition services to over eight crore beneficiaries. They provide a long list of services, ranging from teaching pre-schoolers to visiting homes of young children for nutrition and health counselling. Despite the importance of the work, their positions are considered “honorary” and their emoluments kept out of all norms of minimum wages and pay grades. In most parts of the country, anganwadi workers get about Rs 5,000 a month, which is less than the minimum wages and even these small salaries are often irregular and delayed. A study of six states by the Centre for Equity Studies in 2016 revealed that 35 per cent of the workers had not received their previous month’s salary, 50 per cent of the workers felt that the funds they received for running the day-to-day activities of the centre were inadequate and 40 per cent reported spending their own money to keep the centre’s activities going.
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