Anganwadi worker’s suicide: No one cried foul, but govt in the dock


By: Satyakam Bharti

A poor woman’s suicide seldom makes news, unless, of course, it is carried out in a police officer’s office. An anganwadi worker in Baijnath could not think of such a desperate measure because she had nobody in particular to blame, but just the system, and therefore there was no one to cry foul when she knotted a rope to hang herself with. She had been wronged. Someone had taken away her job – a job paying just a couple of hundred rupees, but anyway her soul source of livelihood.
In a country where a farmer in debt commits suicide almost everyday without making anybody think about their plight, an anganwadi worker’s death is hardly any reason to raise an alarm. The poor woman was a victim of mechanization of the political system with every government playing the vendetta game very effectively. The victim here may have nothing to do with irregularities in appointment of anganwadi workers made by the previous government, as is being now claimed by the present government. She was as much in need of a job as would be the person who would take her place.
The government has now ordered an inquiry into the irregularities committed in the selection of anganwadi workers and helpers during the Congress regime. The state social justice and empowerment minister even said that only eligible persons would now be appointed. True, but what is the eligibility criteria even the minister may not be aware.
The Central government had floated a scheme known as Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) Programme in the year 1975.  It is funded by the Central government, but its application, however, is at the hands of the respective states. Anganwadi workers are appointed from amongst the local inhabitants and selection is made by a committee.
A Supreme Court judgment dated 07/12/2006 on a case involving the State of Karnataka & others vs. Ameerbi & others states that anganwadi workers are ‘not holders of civil posts’, meaning they are not government employees strictly. Putting up their case, the state had submitted that for filling up of the said posts, no advertisement is required to be made, nor the provisions of the recruitment rules are required to be complied with. Which means that they are generally appointed amongst the volunteers as and when required without taking into consideration any kind of minimum qualification. Supporting this view, the judgment also mentions that anganwadi workers and helpers are not to be appointed on a pay scale. They are to be paid honorarium.  For a non-matriculate, as on 1.4.02, the amount fixed was Rs 938 and for a matriculate Rs 1,000. The point is that the eligibility criterion is as ambiguous as ‘non-matriculate and matriculate, which may even mean that even an illiterate person can be an anganwadi worker.
So the minister should be clear about what qualification she is talking about. She, of course, stated that priority would be given to candidates from the weaker sections so that they could get employment in their native villages. This makes one thing sure that she seriously believes the previous government appointed some real rich people as anganwadi workers.
Whatever be, the point is that poor villagers really look forward to working as anganwadi workers or helpers and are thus being victimized for no fault of theirs, except their political leanings maybe. The government should understand that terminated university teachers may have enough resources to wait for their reinstatement, the terminated PTA teachers may also have the required qualification to find another job, but with their hand to mouth situation anganwadi workers have hardly any scope for political maneuvering, as was evident from the recent suicide.
A simple solution can be that anganwadi workers may be appointed for a fixed term and with a condition that they may be appointed again with a break of at least one term. This way, the hapless villagers may not have to live under the wrong impression of having a permanent government job, and the successive governments too would have enough space to oblige their cadre.

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  1. <DIV ALIGN=JUSTIFY>This is indeed a sad state of governance. Complete apathy of the administration is deplorable. If the govt of the day were to look into all matters with a Congress and BJP prism, life for the common man would become suffocating. I totally agree with the author in raising the question what qualification criteria the minister is talking about. The political parties must remember that it is the common man who elect them and give a chance to move around in lal batti cars. A woman ending her life when the concerned minister is a woman herself shows the ministers are now settling in the comfort zone giving two hoots for the ordinary people. Ministers must remember there exists real people in flesh n blood in the real harsh world.

    Equally shocking is the role of state media who have failed to highlight this news. <del datetime="2008-07-20T13:28:49+00:00">Instead of re-phrasing the press releases issued by the govt,</del> the press must be little more vigilant. It is still not late. They can always pick this story from Himvani. It is there duty to highlight such unfortunate incidents.</DIV ALIGN=JUSTIFY>

  2. Dear Nityin,

    It is very easy to comment sitting outisde a media set up. It is for your kind information that the news about the lady's suidice was widely published in the hindi newspapers in Kangra. But it is unfortunate that they have separate pull outs for each reagion within the state due to which one cannot (sometimes) read Kangra news in Shimla of Shimal news in Kangra or even Solan news in Shimla. It is also unfortunate that the people did not think it to be a news of importance, where as priority is always given to political news in the media.

    U seem to be very frustrated with the media, that in every comment of yours u seem to be highlighing the fact"recycling the press releases", it is your shallow understanding of the "news". Even press releases have news, but all that is news is not press release.

  3. It is very unfortunate that when ever a party comes to power it does not work as a government for the people of the state but it continues to function as party for people with lineations or affilitaions to the party.

    This very important for the leaders to understand that whether a work or appointment is done by the "govt" when BJP is in power or when Congress is in power, should be treated as a work done by a government but not by a party. After teh peopel elect a party to power and they take charge as functionaries of the govt. system they should "in public interest" not only act as partymen but do justice to all. But it has now become a trend in Himachal that whatever Congress did the BJP undid it and vive-versa. And in a fresj case the Congress has once again anounced in case of scrapping of the Tribunal, quoting State Congress Committee President Kaul Singh, "If the BJp does not restore the Tribunal the Congress will do so when it comes to power".

    There seems no respite. And will teh govt. only be shaken up when ther are suicide (Anganwadi),protests (PTAs)or processions-pad yatra (Ekal Nari-Single Women)?



    U seem to be very frustrated with the media..

    Very aptly said. I would not have put this across any better. Thanks!

    As a reader I am concerned about the quality of news being dished out. My 'shallow' understandings tell me that a journallist should ask: What, How, When, Who, Where, and Why’.

    I hardly find any of these interrogatives in the stories and this is my main grouse. Well you summed it best that political news have preference over all other news. So we have a smiling CM or a minister waiving at crowds at a foundation stone laying cermony splashed across the front page. An anganwari worker's death can wait. A constable in ITBP killed in an explosion in Kabul can also wait. No one questiones why the state govt is partial in announcing a lesser ex-gratia to his family. Why should loss of life of a constable be lesser than a Brigadier? The irony here is, the fourth estate in the state is bending in front of politicians. The points raised in your second post are valid points. I wonder why I don't get to read these in newspaper columns!

    Mark my words.. print media is going to face an onslought from the web in future. Functioning of journalism is far more important than the format of it.


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