The two-day-long protest by anganwadi workers has rocked the Karnataka Assembly. The ruling Congress and the opposition led by BJP charged at each other for not being sensitive towards the anganwadi workers’ cause.
The BJP and JD(S) demanded that the Congress government concede to the anganwadi workers’ demands and fix their minimum wage at Rs 10,000 per month.
The treasury bench, led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, accused the BJP-led Centre for reducing its share of contribution in the centrally-sponsored anganwadi programme and burdening the state government.
Over 600 anganwadi workers began their protest on Monday at Freedom Park in Bengaluru, demanding a hike in their monthly income. The overnight protest went into day-two, and five women – Manjula Raj, Gundamma, Ratna, Jayanti and Kavitha – were admitted to the KC General Hospital in Malleswaram after they became unconscious.
Women workers along with their children are still protesting despite the lack of proper food, water and basic sanitation facilities.
Former CM and JD(S) President, HD Kumaraswamy said that there are about 1,25,000 anganwadi workers in the state and their demand would cost the government about Rs 612 crore.
“This is not that big of a burden considering the government’s current budget expenditure has been pegged at Rs 1,86,000 crore,” Kumaraswamy added.
Leader of Opposition, Jagadish Shettar attacked the Siddaramaiah government claiming that the government had not increased the salaries of anganwadi workers since the Congress came to power.
Irked by Shettar’s comments, Siddaramaiah lashed out at the BJP in the Assembly.
“The BJP government had not increased the wages of anganwadi workers even once during its five-year term in Karnataka. Not during Yeddyurappa’s stint, not even when Sadananda Gowda was the CM. Since 2013, when the Congress government came to power, we have alternated between increasing the wages by Rs 500 and Rs 250 every year. In 2016, when we could not increase the wages. Hence, we have increased it by Rs 1,000 this year,” Siddaramaiah said.
With the Rs 1,000 hike in wages, the anganwadi workers will now be earning Rs 7,000. This irked Jagadish Shettar, who pointed out that this would still not meet the Rs 10,000 demand made by the workers.
“Our neighbouring states are offering Rs 10,000 as the minimum wage for anganwadi workers. Why can’t Karnataka government do the same?” Shettar questioned.
However, YSV Dutta of JD(S) and Women and Child Welfare Minister Umashree highlighted that the Central government has also not met the anganwadi workers’ demands.
“The Central government was supposed to fund 90% of the wages for anganwadi workers, while the state government put in the remaining 10%. The share is now 60-40 and it has burdened the state,” Siddaramaiah said.
“The Karnataka government is sympathetic to the anganwadi workers’ cause. We have met with their representatives and will meet them again to discuss the issue. I have also notified the concerned authorities to ensure that the protesting workers get adequate supply of food and drinking water until the protest ends,” Umashree added.
Several other BJP MLAs walked into the well of the Assembly and raised slogans demanding that the state government concede. Unable to control the angry BJP MLAs, Speaker KB Koliwad walked out of the Assembly.