Vijayawada police detained scores of Anganwadi workers and helpers as they gave a call for ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ on January 22 as part of intensifying their protest demanding salary hike and other benefits. The statewide protests have been going on for over 40 days. From the early hours of Monday, January 22, Vijayawada police detained scores of Anganwadi workers who wanted to present their charter of demands, signed by thousands of workers and helpers, to Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. The protesters raised slogans of “CM down down” against Jagan as they were being detained.
The stir has gained momentum in recent days, with over 55,600 Anganwadi centres across the state now shut down and over one lakh workers and helpers staying away from work. The protests have continued despite the government prohibiting Anganwadi workers from engaging in agitations for six months by invoking the Andhra Pradesh Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1971.
On January 22, several Anganwadi workers staged a sit-down protest in front of Mylavaram police station in Vijayawada against detention of workers. Police were seen detaining protesters who were on their way to Vijayawada from Guntur and other places, and sending them back to their towns.
A day before the ‘Chalo Vijayawada’ protest call, the Vijayawada police had announced that the protest did not have their permission and that prohibitory orders were in place in the city under Section 144 of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure). The NTR district police commissionerate said in a press release that they had information about certain “anti-social forces” planning to instigate violence during the protests. It said that 1500 police personnel would be deployed on January 22, along with CCTV cameras and drones to heighten surveillance. Those who disobey the prohibitory orders would fake action for unlawful assembly and other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, police had said.
Anganwadi workers are currently paid Rs 11,500 per month, while helpers get Rs 7,000. The demands by protesters include hiking their monthly wages to Rs 26,000, extending benefits like gratuity and insurance available to government employees, and regularising their jobs.
TDP chief and former CM Chandrababu Naidu condemned the police action on protesters. Naidu, who is in Ayodhya to attend the consecration ceremony at the Ram temple, said, “It is atrocious that the government is taking retaliatory measures against the Anganwadi workers. Instead of suppressing the protests and breaking the strike in an unethical manner, that time would have been better spent on solving the problem. We strongly condemn the government's action of detaining Anganwadis. I demand that the Chief Minister put aside his ego and focus on solving their problem.”
On January 21, TDP National General Secretary Nara Lokesh also extended support to the protesting Anganwadi workers and helpers. In a statement, Nara Lokesh slammed the Jagan Reddy government's "lackadaisical attitude that has resulted in this statewide agitation.”
He also promised the agitating workers that the "incoming TDP-Janasena government would address the fair demands of the Anganwadi workers and justice would be done".
Elections in the state are scheduled to be held this year in April-May.
With IANS inputs