In Chhattisgarh, anganwadi workers are forced to pay for midday meal eggs out of their own pocket

The government says they will be reimbursed, but they haven’t even received their salaries for the last two months.

ByPrateek Goyal
In Chhattisgarh, anganwadi workers are forced to pay for midday meal eggs out of their own pocket
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Earlier this year, the Congress government in Chhattisgarh, led by Bhupesh Baghel, announced a new plan to address malnutrition in the state’s remote areas: giving eggs to children under the midday meal scheme. 

The government didn’t release money for the project, however. So, anganwadi workers in schools are forced to pay for eggs out of their own pocket.

The state had asked the central government for Rs 40 crore to implement the plan, but was turned down. Eggs have been a contentious issue in Chhattisgarh, and the Assembly saw angry exchanges following Baghel’s announcement. The government then decided to use money from a Rs 3,000-crore District Mineral Foundation Fund to pay for eggs.

Three months later, the money is still to be released. Angandwadi workers told Newslaundry they have been instructed to use their own income to feed eggs to children and that they would be “reimbursed” later. That has not happened yet. Compounding their troubles is the fact that they haven’t been paid their salaries for the last two months.

Susheela Pant has worked at an anganwadi centre in Pundamterma Para since 2008. “The scheme to distribute eggs started on September 9,” she said. “We were told by the supervisor we should buy eggs with our own money. It’s three and a half months since we started paying for this.”

Pant’s centre has about 18 children and three pregnant women. “I pay Rs 3,500 for eggs every month,” she said. “We haven’t received salaries for the last two months. We are not rich people who can afford to spend Rs 3,500 like this.”  

Balmati Yadav, an anganwadi worker in Baludpatel Para in Dantewada, said her family is almost entirely dependent on her salary. “My husband is a landless labourer, he does not get money everyday. My monthly salary is Rs 6,500 per month and I manage my household with that. But for the last two months, we have not been getting our salary. And on top of that, we have to distribute eggs using our own money.”

Yadav said she’s forced to take a loan of Rs 3,000 every month to buy eggs. “We don’t complain about it because we’re scared of losing our jobs,” she said. 

In March 2019, Yadav said, anganwadi workers went on strike, asking for a pay raise. “Many of them were suspended,” she said. “Then the government introduced this scheme to distribute eggs. It’s a good scheme but they aren’t sending money for it. They asked us to spend and said we will be reimbursed every month. It’s over three months and no reimbursement has been given to us…I don’t know what we should do.” 

In the last three and a half months, Yadav has taken loans worth Rs 10,000 to pay for eggs. She said she has told her supervisor about her problems, but nothing was done.

In Dantewada region, anganwadi workers told Newslaundry they have been paying for eggs since September 9. All of them have taken loans. 

Uma Thakur, who works at anganwadi centre in Baludschool Para in Dantewada, asked how the government expects poor people like her to shell out money to distribute eggs. “The government was supposed to pay for this scheme. In this area, one egg costs Rs 6. I distribute 20 eggs a day. So, I spend Rs 3,600 a month. Considering we haven’t received our salaries for two months, this expenditure is taking a toll.”

Gadamani Kunjam, an anganwadi worker in Pondumaspatal Para, Dantewada, said, “Every month, an anganwadi worker has to spend an average of Rs 3,000 to buy eggs. I have taken a loan from the shopkeeper for eggs, and he’s demanding that I repay him. We have no other jobs here so we are dependent on this job. We’re helpless.”

Sanjay Pant, a social activist in Dantewada, told Newslaundry that the government has failed. “These anganwadi workers live hand to mouth already, yet they have been asked to bear additional expenditure which is actually the responsibility of the government. They have not even received an official written order about it; they have just been instructed by the supervisor of the state’s Integrated Child Development Services to spend their own money to distribute eggs.”

Newslaundry sent a questionnaire to Anila Bhendia, Chhattisgarh’s minister for women and child welfare, and made multiple attempts to get a response, to no avail. The story will be updated if a response is received. 


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