The workers say that the newly-issued sarees “look like a banner.”
The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) refused to recall the controversial sarees distributed to the Anganwadi workers, saying the design is government-approved.
The sarees were proposed in 2020, but the distribution was delayed due to the pandemic. Right now, the government has 2.5 lakh sarees worth Rs. 10 crore in warehouses, ready to be distributed to one lakh workers.
Several Anganwadi workers have refused to wear the sarees the government has provided. The sarees have the words ‘POSHAN abhiyaan’ printed in Kannada on its border. Reports say the workers thought the POSHAN abhiyaan logo in the floral pattern made the sarees resemble government banners.
“The sarees were approved by the government. We did not find it necessary to consult the workers about the design,” said Kiran, deputy coordinator in the ministry’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
“These sarees are only to be used twice a month. For example, we have a POSHAN aandolan in September—Anganwadi women will wear these sarees to raise awareness about our scheme,” said Shivkumar, coordinator in the ICDS, Ministry of WCD.
POSHAN stands for Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition. It is also known as the National Nutrition Mission. The focus of the programme is to improve the nutritional outcomes for lactating mothers, pregnant women, and children.
“The problem is the imposition of the dress code. The workers were just handed a sort of uniform—they weren’t even consulted,” said Poorva Gultai, a sociologist.
No other government scheme requires the workers to wear sarees or dresses bearing the scheme’s logo.
Anganwadi workers have had several problems in recent years. According to reports, the workers were not paid their salaries on time during the pandemic, despite increased workload. This is the latest of our problems, said S. Varalakshmi, state president of the Karnataka Anganwadi Workers’ Association.
“We have a lot of problems. Our salaries are not paid on time, and they are far too low for the work we do. These sarees are overshadowing the real issues we face at work, and we’d like the government to address those,” she said.