Second wave: Covid warriors await pending salaries

Covid-19 State

Months have passed but Anganwadi workers/helpers-turned covid-warriors have not received their salaries in Haryana.

Haryana: Aasha Nain, an Anganwadi helper for 25 years, has taken up domestic work during the pandemic. She works for six households, while she waits for her salary to get credited to her account. 

She was receiving her salary on the third or fourth of every month when the central government imposed a nationwide lockdown last year. “But since 2021 when  Covid cases started coming down, the government eased the restrictions but we did not receive our salaries,” said Aasha. She is widowed and has several small loans to repay.

Anganwadi workers (AWWs) and anganwadi helpers (AWHs) are frontline workers who render their services towards child care and development. However, they turned into Covid warriors

when the country saw a rise in cases in March 2020 and the government imposed a nationwide lockdown.

“Though anganwadis were closed, we never stopped working. We were doing the same work through phones. We went door-to-door to keep the track of census, to distribute the ration and to distribute sanitary pads” Aasha added.

Anganwadi workers/helpers are paid in two installments, one from the central government and one from the state government. Both have failed to provide salaries on time.

Rimpi, an Anganwadi worker from another village said that she received her last salary in January. She doesn’t know how much she is yet to receive from the central and state government. She doesn’t even know for which month she received her salary in January.

“Our Child Development Project Officer (CDPO) who is responsible for the salary is not taking care of it for the time being. The other person who was given charge of this is Covid positive, so I don’t know when the salary will be credited to my account,” she said.

“The salary is being credited to everyone’s account,” said an official from the Women and Child Development Department, Haryana, while refusing to comment any further.

They (AWWs and AWHs) are the most accessible health care workers, said Sourya, a public policy lawyer. “Earlier, they helped us with the polio vaccination and we (the country) were able to remove polio from India. Similarly, for the mass vaccination of Covid-19, we need Anganwadi workers more than ever,” he added.

They are risking their lives for the people of the country amidst a pandemic by providing them food and keeping records of the census. Without them, the country cannot complete the current vaccination drive, he said. “They keep the record of every family under the area assigned to them and we need numbers (count of people) to vaccinate. Why would they risk their lives, if they aren’t given any remuneration for their work?” asked Sourya.

He further said that the delay in salaries could be for many reasons, like proper allocation of the budget which is already less for Anganwadi services. The delay is also caused due to the delay in signing salary bills for the treasury by bureaucrats/senior officers. “There should be a proper mechanism to check whether the AWWs and AWHs are receiving salaries after bills are cleared by bureaucrats,” Sourya suggested.