‘Is it possible to eat three meals, feed your family and pay for your children’s education with just Rs 7,000?’ they ask.

Why did thousands of women sleep on a public road under the Bengaluru sky
news Protest Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - 11:29

Thousands of workers, mainly women and some accompanied by children, geared up to spend the night under the Bengaluru sky outside Freedom Park on Tuesday. Organising themselves into groups based on the district they hailed from, the women pulled out blankets from their bags as the sky turned dark, and lay down to sleep on one of the busiest stretches in Bengaluru.

These women had gathered here for a simple reason: to demand that the government hike their salaries enough to at least pay for the basic necessities of life.                       

After the anganwadi workers took up their agitation in Bengaluru for a 43% hike in pay, the Karnataka government had, on Tuesday, met with their representatives and had promised action.

The workers had called off the protest after the meeting, but resumed it later in the day.

“We are currently being paid Rs. 7,000. We want the government to pay us Rs. 10,000 at least. In February too, we had protested right here at Freedom Park. At the time, none of the leaders bothered to pay any attention. We will continue this agitation until there is a fruitful outcome,” said Varalakshmi, President of the Karnataka Anganwadi Workers’ Association.

Varalakshmi said that during the protest in February, they had demanded that the state government pay us Rs. 14,000, according to the scheme announced by the Centre.

“Now we are asking at least Rs. 10,000. Is it truly possible to have three meals a day, feed your family, pay for your children’s education in a good school and make it through the month with just Rs. 7,000? Can any of the leaders live like that?” questioned Malini, a protestor.

The Karnakata government has set aside Rs 1.86 lakh crore for expenditure during the state budget. There are 1.25 lakh Anganwadi workers and increasing their pay would cost the government Rs. 612 crore.

On Tuesday, a ruckus erupted in the Karnataka Assembly as opposition parties demanded that the state government concede to the workers’ demands.

The morning session witnessed sloganeering by the BJP leaders and an irked Speaker, Koliwad, walked out.

The CM then met the anganwadi works’ representatives and fixed April 19 as the date for their next meeting to finalise the pay.

A few hours later, the workers demanded that the government issue a meeting notice in writing. When there was no response the resumed the protest.

The workers, mostly women, and a few of their children, then spent another night at Freedom Park. The protestors formed groups based on the districts they were from.

The BBMP had put up 30 portable bio toilets at the venue up on the directions of the Women and Child Welfare Minister Umashree.

The BBMP Commissioner, Manjunath Prasad visited the venue and informed the protestors of the toilet facilities. He promised them that 50 more toilets would be set up is necessary. BWSSB tankers were sent to the spot to provide drinking water for the protestors.

“Some of the workers had got rice and curd and ate that for dinner. A few others went to nearby hotels and food stalls to buy food. A few people had come by. I think from some residents in the area, who gave us food packets. We had come prepared with blankets as well,” said Malini.

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