Karnataka to consider wage hike for childcare workers

Bengaluru: Agreeing to consider wage hike for childcare workers, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Tuesday appealed to them to call off their indefinite protest at the city centre.

“As their demands, including wage hike, are under serious consideration of our government, I appeal to them to withdraw their protest and come for discussions,” Siddaramaiah said in a statement here.

Due to administrative constraints and the Model Code of Conduct for the two bye-elections at Nanjangud and Gundlupet in the old Mysuru region on April 9, the Chief Minister has called the protesters’ leaders for a meeting here on April 19.

About 10,000 anganwadi women and their helpers descended from across the state at Freedom Park here on Monday and begin the protest for higher wages and better amenities at childcare centres.

Around 1.2-lakh Anganwadis and helpers are employed at 65,911 centres across the state for early childhood care and development under the central government’s Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme.

As per ICDS guidelines, an anganwadi is given Rs 3,000 and her helper Rs 1,500 per month as honorarium, with the central and the state government sharing the cost in 60:40 ratio since 2015-16 as against 90:10 ratio since the scheme was launched in 1975.

“The new sharing pattern (60:40) has put an additional burden of Rs 98 crore on the state government, taking the annual wage bill to Rs 332 crore for anganwadis and Rs 157 crore to their helpers,” asserted Siddaramaiah.

Though the central government did not increase its honorarium since 2011-12, the state government had enhanced it by Rs.500 for Anganwadis and Rs.250 for helpers per month from 2013-14 to 2015-16.

“In the state Budget for the ensuing fiscal 2017-18, we have increased the honorarium by Rs 1,000 and Rs 500, taking the income for anganwadis to Rs 7,000 per month and for their helpers to Rs 3,500 per month from April 1,” the Chief Minister said.

The state government has borne Rs 1,550 crore from 2013-14 to 2016-17 as its share of the wages for the anganwadis and their helpers.

Besides increasing their wages every year, the state government had taken many livelihood and welfare measures, including enhancing medical reimbursement to Rs 50,000 each from Rs 20,000 to anganwadis and Rs 10,000 for helpers.

Karnataka State Anganwadi Workers’ Association President S. Varalakshmi, however, claimed that their counterparts in the neighbouring states of Goa, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu were being paid Rs 10,000-14,000 per month.

“Though we staged a similar protest last year, the state government did not respond to our demands. A hike of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 per month, announced in the Budget, is not enough. We want our salary to be increased by Rs 3,000 per month to meet the rising cost of living,” Varalakshmi said.