Maha govt stays MESMA invocation against anganwadi workers

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Bowing to pressure from the ally Shiv Sena and the opposition Congress and NCP, the BJP-led Maharashtra government has stayed the invocation of a stringent Act against anganwadi workers.

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

The Act 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.

Members of the Shiv Sena and the opposition Congress and NCP had on Wednesday created ruckus in the Legislative Assembly, seeking withdrawal of the MESMA.

Making a statement on the issue in the Lower House, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Considering the sentiments of the august house, the government has decided to stay the MESMA against anganwadi workers.”

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).

On Wednesday, the Assembly witnessed eight adjournments before the presiding officer, Yogesh Sagar,put the budgetary demands to vote amid noisy scenes and finally adjourned the House for the day.

Vijay Auti (of the Shiv Sena) on Wednesday said the government has announced a hike in the anganwadi sevikas honorarium from Rs 4,500 to Rs 6,500, but it is yet to issue a Government Resolution (GR).

“We appoint widows, poor and destitute women as anganwadi sevikas. Yet, you bring these women under the MESMA,” he said demanding that the MESMA be withdrawn against the anganwadi workers.

The issue had figured in the Lower House earlier this week also, during a debate on the budgetary demands of the women and child welfare department.

The Women and Child Welfare Minister, Pankaja Munde, earlier said in the Assembly that the state government was justified in invoking the MESMA against a proposed strike by the anganwadi workers.

Munde had urged the members to consider the childrens 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 minister said that the state government had given an affidavit in the Bombay High Court about bringing such services under the ambit of MESMA.

“Hence, it was not possible for the government to revoke the decision,” she had said.

Munde also said that the honorarium of anganwadi workers had already been raised, and the decision to reduce the retirement age to 60 years had been revoked.