Scheme Workers Participate in Large Numbers in the Nation-Wide Rural Bandh and Sectoral Strike

Thousands of scheme workers, including ASHA, anganwadi, mid-day meal, mamta, courier and other scheme workers, responded to the national call for rural bandh and sectoral strike on February 16th, 2024.

The participation of women workers was notable across all states of the country, which is adding a new dimension to the country's labour movement. Women workers, have historically been part of labour movements, and have had a significant impact on labour policies. Despite the double bind, they come out with all strength to challenge the present regime. Importantly, scheme workers across the nation have been giving a fitting reply to the Modi government through their consistent struggles with their demand to be recognised as workers, to provide them with permanent jobs, pay minimum wages, etc., especially since they provide essential services to the people of the country and ensure that the health and other benefits reach to the last person.

Scheme workers in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Uttarakhand, Delhi and other states took part in the February 16th protest call, in a move to show their strength against the BJP-RSS, which is bringing in labour laws that would thwart the long-struggles of these workers. The scheme workers who came to the protest in their uniforms, took to the streets and such an organized participation of lakhs of women put the corporate-backed Modi government on a backfoot. This strike exposed the anti-worker nature of the government, which has undermined labour laws. The strike further proved that this government is deceiving the workers in general and the women workers in particular, through its lies and rhetoric.

It has been firmly established among the scheme workers that despite the risk they undertook during covid to protect the lives of the people, the Modi government has disregarded them by not increasing their wages in the past 5 years of being in power. The nation-wide strike by workers and farmers, along with the on-going farmers' protest at Delhi borders, has busted the Modi's narrative. The massive and enthusiastic participation of workers, especially in backdrop of the recent consecration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, is quite significant. The workers and farmers have been able to successfully establish their agenda over the religious propaganda of the BJP.

In Patna, scheme workers, especially ASHA workers, along with mid-day meal and anganwadi workers, affiliated to AICCTU, participated in large numbers in the procession, which were held on the city's main routes. In several districts, ASHA workers participated under the joint banner of AICCTU and other independent unions. In many PHCs, ASHA workers declared strike and held demonstrations. The newly formed 'Bihar State Anganwadi Workers Union' affiliated to AICCTU also participated in several districts. The significant anger among the scheme workers who feel betrayed by the Modi government was visible through their participation in the protest. The workers are also angry that the Bihar government has not implemented the promises made to the ASHA workers. The Bihar government, which has not yet arrived at any decision in regard to the monthly wages of mid-day meal workers, who are being paid less than Rs. 50 a day, i.e., Rs. 1,650 per month, and are only paid for 10 months a year, showed their anger during the protest.

From block-level to Patna, AICCTU, All India Scheme Workers federation, Employees' Federation (Gop Group), including AHSA, mid-day meal, contract workers, and government employees, along with AIARLA, MNREGA Workers Union, Farmers' Unions participated in the rural bandh and sectoral strike.

Comrades Shashi Yadav, Saroj Chaube, Ranvijay Kumar, Rambali Prasad, Premchand Kumar Sinha, Manoj Yadav, Jitendra Kumar, Murtaja Ali, Surendra Yadav, B-Swan leader Rishav Kumar, ASHA leader Archana, Jalash Devi, Sushma Devi, Anuradha Kumari, Anita Raj, mid-day meal worker leader Sona Devi, Anganwadi leader Poonam Yadav, AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari, state secretary Anita Sinha, Anuradha Devi and others participated in the protest.

In Jharkhand, mid-day meal workers participated in the strike on a large scale in districts like Garhwa, Dumka, Latehar, Deoghar, and Giridih. In three districts of Odisha, mid-day meal workers of Rayagada, Kendrapara and Sonpur joined the protests. In Assam, ASHA workers joined the protest, whereas in Uttar Pradesh, demonstration were held in several district on the issue of honorarium for ASHA workers in PHCs, who submitted memorandums addressed to the Prime Minister. In Uttarakhand, protest marches were held in Haldwani, Nainital, Rudrapur, Almora, Ranikhet, Dwarahat, Chaukhutia, Sialde, SALT, Bhikyasain, Champawat, Lohaghat, Tanakpur, Patti, Barakot, Okhalkanda, Dhari, Hawalbagh and Bhainsiyachhana, Pithoragarh, among other places, where the Uttarakhand ASHA Health Workers Union, Uttarakhand Anganwadi Employees Union and Mid-day meal Workers participated.

In Delhi, due to the imposition of Section 144, ASHA workers decided to strike work in the hospitals, and a signature campaign is being undertaken in regard to their demands. In Maharashtra, thousands of anganwadi workers participated in the protests, while observing a protracted strike for increased honorarium.