Almost every Anganwadi worker and helper in Kashmir has spent on an average a sum of Rs 50,000 in the past one year during the protests against the social welfare department: the amount that exceeds their annual income.
Human sufferings have no end and proving this was a fact, Anganwari workers of Kashmir are reeling under serious economic crisis and have been pushed to the wall. Everyone knows what these workers demand but hardly any person is aware of the agonies they encounter.
Aarifa from Buchpora who works as a helper from the past 25 years while narrating her grim tale of sufferings said, “I have been protesting for my genuine salary right from the past one year and almost all Anganwadi workers and helpers who hail from north, south and central Kashmir have spent more than Rs 50,000 in fare, refreshment, and treatment to the injuries inflicted by forces during protests in the past one year.”
45 year old, Aarifa is a sole bread earner for her family and is doing her best to make sure that her children survive, “but she hasn’t received a penny from the past five months.
Her husband had died few years back due to kidney failure.
“Since I am a helper I work for meager amount of Rs 1800 but from the past five months we have been protesting, demanding hike in our salaries. I have never received my salary on time and our salaries are kept pending for a longer period,” Aarifa said.
She said that her bus fares exceed her monthly income and there is nothing left for her so she is not able to do anything for her children.
While lamenting on the salary issue, Aarifa said, “My neighbors have helped me a lot, at least they made sure that my kids eat and survive in today’s world. Recently my son failed in his matriculation exams and he decided to leave his studies, keeping in view the situation of our family.”
She said that they have been assured a salary hike in previously but nothing has been done so far.
Protesting, and speaking their hearts out continuously for almost a year has been a norm for these ladies. Over 100 stories have been carried by local media but no one from the administration has bothered to respond to their demands.
Another woman Idrees Jan, a helper from Safa Kadal is a widow and has been serving the department for the past 18 years. She has not received a single penny from the past eight months.
“I live with my two kids, our salaries are pending since September and it has been my family (Maika) that used to come and help us. Every time they visited us when there was no one to help us, we were left to die but I just want to say that our sufferings are endless,” Idrees said.
She said that not only their wages for these eight months are pending but their wages were seldom released on time.
“There is no proper procedure to release our salaries, if our four-month salaries are pending only two months are released and that takes a toll on us but from the past eight months, we are left to die. My family has been a pillar for me otherwise we wouldn’t have survived,” she said.
Speaking in a painful voice she said her kids asked her to buy fruits but she was not in a condition to buy anything as she had nothing in her pocket.
Idrees Jan is suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and cannot do any other physical activity.
Rafiqa Khanum, a worker from Kupwara said the workers of J&K are discriminated against compared to the workers of other states. “Previously Sajad Lone promised hike in our salaries but now authorities are making an excuse that finance department is running short of money,” she said.
“Eid ul Fitr is nearing and our children have a dream to play, enjoy their life but the day is kind of a black day for us as we have nothing to feed our families,” she said.
She asserted that it has become a social stigma now and is resulting in divorces of many women.
“We get married as families think we are having a job and can earn. Since we have been suffering for ten months now there have been allegations on our families that they have cheated and lied about our jobs, and that has resulted in divorces in many districts,” she said.
Masooda, who represents Anganwadi workers from Ganderbal told Rising Kashmir that they are yet to be promoted from the past 25-30 years. “It has been a dark phase for us since September 2017 as our salaries were not released.”
“There are various helpers, workers from Ganderbal who are almost starving. Zamrooda from Safapora is the one who has seen worst of the lot. Such has been the circumstances that not a single penny has been left in her pocket,” Masooda said.
Masooda stated that another helper Dilshada who is suffering from asthma is left to die as she doesn’t have any money for treatment. Since Dilshada is suffering from asthma she wants her daughter to continue with the service but the department doesn’t allow her to do so, thus forcing her to take voluntarily retirement.
“Helpers are completely frustrated and have lost the mental ability to think, such has been the trauma. Ours is the only department that treats us differently and we are now requesting the Chief Minister on the humanitarian basis to do justice as most of us also thought of ending our lives in frustration,” she said.
Aamina, General Secretary, Anganwari Workers Association Kashmir Province said the tragedy in itself is a shame on government as “they have forced women to hit the streets regularly”.
“Let alone the luxurious things of life we are not able to afford the basic necessities of food, medication, clothes for our kids. When whole Kashmir is busy with Eid festivities we are left high and dry,” she said.