The Plight of the Anganwadi Supervisors

Anganwadi Supervisors in Uttar Pradesh have formed a separate Association of their own, because they were the ones burdened with the responsibility of ensuring that the Scheme is being implemented in letter and spirit. 

Yet they remain unaware of the policies of the Government, and lack proper professional training so as to be able to understand the problems arising in the process of implementation of the schemes and gather expertise during field work. Gradually they tend to develop an ‘employee mentality’, i.e., without any mental involvement in the working of the Scheme. Since they are never included in designing new schemes, it is impossible to expect their active involvement in making them successful. Also, there is no provision for periodical assessment of the problems faced during implementation. At the level of officials, can one expect any positive suggestions when they are totally cut-off from practical difficulties at the village level and are hardly interested in knowing them.

The Anganwadi Supervisors have to inspect the Centres, submit reports and take care of completion of targets, yet it is strange that they are denied the facility of official means of transport. As per rules, a supervisor has to check implementation in 25 Centres, but due to lack of staff, they are forced to visit 50-60 Centres, after which they have to submit their report at the Project Office, which could be more than 30 kilometers away from the area under supervision. In tribal areas, especially, means of public transport is few and far between and almost nil after evening due to which the Anganwadi workers are forced to walk on badly maintained or even kutchcha roads. One wonders why some two-wheeled vehicle cannot be given to these workers. The Association leaders have been demanding transport costs in areas where public transport facilities exist, but so far, nothing has been done to resolve the problem.

The CDPOs and DPOs as well as clerical staff are prompt in demanding T.A. and D.A. but the Anganwadi supervisors, have to spend from their pocket for visiting the aanganwadi centres.
Anganwadi workers complain that the procedure of their appointment is not fool-proof, and many time there are political appointments. In such cases where relatives of powerful Block Pramukhs and Gram Pradhans are appointed, they flout norms with impunity and are involved in corrupt practices or draw remuneration while remaining at home.

The leaders of the UP Anganwadi Supervisors Association say that the Supervisors are the backbone of the ICDS. But they are burdened with tasks which are not allocated to them as per the manual- like doing clerical work of maintaining records, maintaining the store, going house to house for vaccination work or election related work, working to fill pension forms for widows and old women, even opening the Anganwadi Centres and distributing rations to them as well as doing the work of Block Level Officers. As a result, the workers are not able to discharge their routine duties resulting in their getting discredited and in many cases departmental action has been initiated against them for neglecting their work.

Other problems of Anganwadi workers and helpers So far, no complaint committees against sexual harassment have been set up and there are no provisions for formal complaints of sexual harassment in the Department or from others during house visits, or visits to the Centres and district hospitals where cases of sexual harassment and violence are not infrequent. In Sultanpur district of U.P., a primary school teacher stabbed an Anganwadi supervisor returning from election duty. He threatened to kill her even in the hospital. It was after a movement by the Uttar Pradesh Anganwadi Supervisors’ Association that she was saved and the culprit arrested. In another incident in Kanpur a CDPO had forcibly stuffed ‘panjeeri’ (roasted ata mixed with sugar) into the mouth of a supervisor, saying ‘take, eat this’. Leaders say that sometimes it is the workers who compromise for the sake of some favours or even to climb up the ladder of power and influence. But in many cases women fearing victimization quietly accept exploitation and feign ignorance regarding corrupt activities. This damages the work environment and leads to an unhealthy work-culture.

Women workers have to bear the brunt of family pressures as well as the pressure of overwork in their jobs, and they cannot complain as this would leave them in a position where they would have to choose between the two. As a result of this constant tension of balancing home and work, the workers’ health suffers and they lose enthusiasm. This is more so because of the patriarchal thinking within the family and at work.

Although the ICDS is under the Department of Women and Child, there is absolutely no consideration for women workers; no officials listen to the specific problems they face as women, during work. So, the women workers know that there will be no solutions. This creates some kind of despondency in them.

According to Government norms, all employees of the ICDS should be females, since the work is related to women and children. But, since 1998-99, recruitment of male officials (CDPOs and DPOs) has been allowed in the state. Pregnant and lactating mothers and adolescent girls do not feel free to discuss their problems with them; hence it becomes difficult to get a clear picture of the problems faced by them. Even the Anganwadi workers are shy of discussing many problems with them.

Officers and family members discourage Union activities and create fear of retrenchment, so workers do not want to join the Association, though they want their problems to be resolved. There is no toilet facility for women workers.

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