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Why new HR policy has brought Anganwari workers, helpers on roads

JAMMU: Joining the long-list of protesting employees on the roads of Jammu and Kashmir are the Anganwadi Workers and Helpers. The reason is the new HR policy notified by the UT administration.

While approving this new human resources policy for female Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) and Helpers (AWHs) working in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) in the Union Territory in the month of November, the Administrative Council—equivalent to Cabinet in the popular government—hailed the move as a major step towards the empowerment of women in Jammu and Kashmir.

A week later, when the policy was notified by the social welfare department, it triggered a round of protests across Jammu and Kashmir. The protests by the workers and helpers, redesignated as Sanginis and Sahayikas, respectively, have only intensified in the coming days, with the stakeholders now thinking of moving the court and planning agitations in the national capital.

Here is what has brought Anganwari workers, helpers on roads:

Disengagement of workers, helpers

The trigger for the protest is largely the disengagement clause in the new HR policy, among other things. This clause, however, stems from the chosen criteria of selection of the employees. The new policy says that the Electoral Ward in which the Aanganwadi is located will be adopted as a unit for selection of Aanganwadi worker and helper.

Read the new Policy here: New HR policy for AWWs and AWHs-2022

“The candidate should be a resident of the Electoral Ward where AWC is situated. Name in the voter list for the ward shall be considered as the proof of residence of the candidate. In case the name of the candidate appears in Voter list along with her parents, then she must provide certificate of being unmarried issued by the concerned Tehsildar. Wherever, there is any dispute as to residence for any reason, then a residence proof certifying the ward of residence from the concerned SDM/ACR shall be considered,” says the new policy.

Setting 10+2 as the minimum educational qualification for the post of Aanganwari worker, the policy says that in case there is no eligible candidate available in the ward, candidate from the adjoining ward would be considered which would require prior approval of Mission Director, Poshan Abhiyan, and further if no suitable candidate is available from adjoining Ward also, candidate from the nearest Ward within the Panchayat can be considered.

This relaxation does not apply to the selection of Helper. With no minimum educational qualification required, the selection of the helper will be restricted to the electoral ward where Aanganwari Centre is located, says the policy.

While the new engagement rules are not bothering the AWWs or AWHs, it is the disengagement policy that has set a panic among them.

The policy states that if after engagement, an Anganwari worker or helper permanently shifts or changes her place of residence outside the ward on the basis of residence of which, she was selected, then she will be deemed to have been disengaged from her post and the vacancy so accrued will be filled as per the stated procedure.

The AWWs and AWHs who were engaged from their original place of residence and subsequently married into another area, fear their services will be terminated now.

“The government is disengaging the services of workers and helpers who have been married. Is getting married a sin in this country? Firing someone after getting married makes no sense,” said one of the protesters in Srinagar.

“We were willing to render services at our respective wards. We have been coming to our centres from our in-law’s place every single day. We are discharging our duties with utter honesty but disengagement is unacceptable,” said another.

The government, however, is in no mood to relax the clause, irrespective of the workers and helpers attending their respective centres from their in-laws’ places.

The new policy says: The marriage of an AWW/Helper outside the Panchayat concerned shall be inferred as permanent change of residence.

Even, the temporary shifting of residence by the workers and helpers outside the Panchayat for more than 3 months continuously, despite attending duties at the Centre, will also be treated as permanent change of residence, the policy said.

Retirement, sans Pension and Gratuity

The new policy pegs the relieving age for AWWs and AWHs at 60 years, against the earlier age of 65 years. While the new policy doesn’t make an explicit mention of whether it is applicable to already engaged workers and helpers, the stakeholders are apprehensive and are demanding the reversal of the clause.

“We are being told those Anganwadi workers who have attained the age of sixty years should sit at home, the move is unjustified and uncalled for,” said a protesting worker in Jammu.

Their argument is that the retirement age for Anganwari workers in New Delhi and Ladakh is 65 years. “Our retirement age should be enhanced to 65 years to bring us at par with other Union Territories and the status quo should be maintained with reference to our postings,” they said.

There is some divide among the protestors in different areas of the UT. Some are of the opinion that retirement at 60 is not that bad an idea, but the stakeholders are on one page in demanding gratuity and pension as post-retirement benefits.

“If the government wants to disengage these workers, then they must frame a retirement policy, apart from lump sum compensation for Anganwari workers and helpers, who have given 30-40 years of their life to nourish ICDS,” says one of the protestors in Jammu.

“The government must pay Rs 5 lakh to Anganwari workers and Rs 3 lakh to helpers before relieving them from service. They should also be paid at least Rs 5000 as monthly pension so that they can sustain in this stage of life,” said another protestor in Srinagar.


The AWWs and AWHs allege that the new policy is discriminatory in nature against the workers and helpers of Jammu and Kashmir.

“J&K is paying Rs 600 for workers and Rs 300 for helpers since the year 2010 as state share towards our wages. After including central share, we are being paid Rs 5100 per month for workers and Rs 2550 for helpers. This is much lower than the neighbouring states,” says Neena Sharma, state executive member of Anganwadi Workers Welfare Association (AWWA) affiliated to Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) in Kathua.

In the monthly wages of AWWs and AWHs in neighbouring states, Haryana’s state share is Rs 8161, Delhi’s Rs 6750, Punjab’s Rs 3650 and Himachal Pradesh’s Rs 4500. Why is Jammu and Kashmir paying only Rs 600 and Rs 300 PM for workers and helpers, respectively, she claims, demanding state share to be enhanced without any delay.

“Similarly, on the retirement age, the central guideline has fixed the same at 65 years. Then why is the J & K government hell bent on retiring us at 60 years of age,” she says.

AWWA general secretary Roshu Sharma says that the government should focus on paying our dues rather than framing such policies.

“Our salaries from the month of April 2022 have not been released. The salary from January 2019 to March 2019 and the arrear on Account of enhanced honorarium in centre share of Rupees 1500 per month for Anganwadi worker and Rs 750 for Helper has also not been paid till date for the period October 2018 to December 2018. Why is the government silent on our statutory dues and pending salaries,” she asks.

Govt’s version

The Dispatch reached out to Sheetal Nanda, Commissioner Secretary to Government, Social Welfare Department for her comments, but the officer is yet to revert. As and when received, The Dispatch will update this story.


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