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Govt backtracked on MESMA fearing vote demand by Oppn: Cong

The fear of facing a vote in the Maharashtra Assembly forced the state government to stay the invocation of the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act (MESMA) against anganwadi workers, the Congress claimed on Thursday.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said the BJPs ally Shiv Sena had also voiced its objection to invoking the stringent Act against the anganwadi workers, and this too put pressure on the government.

The senior Congress MLAs remarks came after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday stayed the invocation of MESMA against the anganwadi workers.

The government had last week invoked the MESMA to stop workers of anganwadis (the state-run women and child care centres) from going on a strike.

“Considering the sentiments of the august house, the government has decided to stay the MESMA against anganwadi workers,” Fadnavis said in the Lower House.

Notably, the Shiv Sena, an ally of the BJP, and the opposition Congress and NCP were in their demand for withdrawal of MESMA on Wednesday, which was enforced last week on the anganwadi workers.

Vikhe Patil said the opposition parties had given an adjournment notice regarding the government’s decision to invoke MESMA against the anganwadi workers on March 19.

“The Shiv Sena was quiet that time. However, suddenly the party became active after getting a message from Matoshree (Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s residence),” he alleged.

“Since the Shiv Sena also opposed MESMA on anganwadi workers on Wednesday, the opposition Congress and NCP had planned to seek a vote on the issue on Thursday. The government got a whiff of our plan and decided to back-track,” Vikhe Patil alleged.

He criticised the women and child welfare Minister, Pankaja Munde, for saying that 125 children had died during the strike by anganwadi workers late last year.

“If the anganwadi workers are to be blamed, who is responsible for the death of malnourished children when anganwadi workers are in service?” the LoP asked.

Members of the Shiv Sena, the Congress and the NCP on Wednesday created ruckus in the Assembly, seeking withdrawal of the MESMA invoked against anganwadi workers.

Munde had urged the members to consider the children’s situation if the anganwadi workers go on strike.

“During their strike, 125 malnourished children died. Who is responsible? Dont fall prey to the politics of the anganwadi workers associations,” she had said.

The MESMA empowers authorities to take strong action, like detention, against the workers of services covered under the legislation, if they go on strike. All offences covered under the Act are non-bailable, according to its provisions.

Notably, the Anganwadi Kruti Samiti had gone on strike from September 11 to October 8 last year.

Earlier this month, the anganwadi workers sat on a dharna at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai and threatened to go on strike in support of their demands to raise their honorarium and retain their retirement age at 65 years (from 60).

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