They seek phones to download mandatory mobile app.
Anganwadi workers in several States, including Punjab and Haryana, are up in arms after a government order threatened them with a pay cut if they did not download the government’s mobile application called Poshan Tracker to record delivery of services by them. They demanded to know who would give them the mobile phones and bear the expenses for recharge.
The mobile application and the use of technology for real time growth monitoring and tracking of beneficiaries is the mainstay of the government’s Poshan Abhiyaan or Nutrition Mission which aims to improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.
In Punjab’s Gurdaspur, several thousand anganwadi workers and helpers held a demonstration on Friday registering their protest against the mandatory use of the mobile application.
“There are nearly 30,000 anganwadi workers affiliated to our union and none of them have downloaded the Poshan Tracker application because the government has neither given us mobile phones, nor money for recharge,” says Usha Rani, president, All India Federation of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers (AIFAWH). “Most workers are financially weak as widows, disabled and divorced women get a preference for the job. How can then the government expect them to foot the bill from their pocket?” she asked.
They are also demanding payment of dues totalling approximately ₹40,000 – ₹45,000 per worker in Punjab, which they say have accumulated since the inception of the scheme in March 2018.
“On the one hand, the government has linked our incentives with the mobile application and on the other hand, it hasn’t procured mobile phones for us. As a result, it has failed to pay us our monthly incentive under the Poshan scheme of ₹500 per month for three years and ₹200 per month for recharge sanctioned by the Centre, which add up to ₹27,000. We have also not been paid an amount of ₹200 per beneficiary under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana,” says Usha Rani.
“We are not opposed to the Poshan Tracker, but we need a mobile phone, expenses for recharge as well as training to use smartphones as the application is compatible with mobile phones that are Android 6 or above. Many workers only know how to use the keypad mobile phones,” says Shakuntala Devi, general secretary, Haryana Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union.
The AIFAWH has demanded that the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development withdraw its “illegal and unethical order”.
The order issued by the Women and Child Development Ministry on March 4 read, “It may be kindly noted that payment of honorarium of AWWs (anganwadi workers) for the month of March 2021 onwards will be linked to downloading of Poshan Tracker App and expeditious inputting of data by all anganwadi workers in States and Union Territories. Allocation of food grains/funds to States and Union Territories from the first quarter of 2021 onwards will also be based on data of beneficiaries on boarded on Poshan Tracker system.”
Workers also questioned Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani’s claim in May that over 14.05 lakh anganwadi centres in the country were connected with the Poshan Tracker when anganwadi workers in many States have not been able to download the application.
In Himachal Pradesh, anganwadi workers are faced with a different challenge.
“Recording all the information on the mobile application has resulted in two or three fold increase in our workload,” says Veena Sharma, general secretary, Himachal Pradesh Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union. “Many anganwadi centres are situated in remote locations and often don’t have Internet connectivity. As a result, we have to walk 500 metres to 1 km to a spot where we can get some network coverage. Moreover, though the mobile application was developed to replace registers, we still have to enter all the details in our registers for backup in case the data is lost,” she explains.
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