It is hard to overstate how crucial anganwadi workers are to India. They are tasked with ensuring the health and nutrition of children across hundreds of thousands of anganwadis in villages and urban slums, and providing them with informal pre-school education.
These workers are also frequently roped in to perform a variety of other roles – as was seen through the Covid-19 pandemic, when they had to screen people for symptoms, ensure they were quarantining and deliver rations to families.
But despite how vital they are to the country's welfare, anganwadi workers are not considered government employees. Rather, they continue to be termed "volunteer workers".
The cruelty of what seems like a minor point of terminology is immense. Across the country, these workers earn less than minimum wage though they work long, punishing hours under the government's supervision. They receive no benefits, such as insurance and pensions, and are left stranded without any support after they retire.
In Common Ground, Aarefa Johari tells the story of how these workers' mounted a fight for fair treatment and basic rights, till it was crushed by a 2006 Supreme Court judgement. You can read the story here.
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