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Ahead of 2019 polls, Narendra Modi showers sops on army of anganwadi workers to win over rural India

Lakhs of ASHA (accredited social health activists) and anganwadi workers spread across in rural areas of the country had so far lived an unsung life. This all-woman workforce that is engaged in the critical task of rural child healthcare, prenatal care and nutrition programmes for pregnant women in the hinterland has hardly ever received the recognition it deserves.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly engaged with over 28 lakh women workers via a video bridge interaction and announced an honorarium for them. Those receiving Rs 3,000 so far, would now receive Rs 4,500. Similarly, those receiving Rs 2,200, would now get Rs 3,500. The honorarium for anganwadi helpers has also been increased from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,250. They will also be provided free insurance cover under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana and other routine incentives given to them by the Union government will also be doubled. Then there are some performance-based incentives.

 Ahead of 2019 polls, Narendra Modi showers sops on army of anganwadi workers to win over rural India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with the ASHA, Anganwadi and ANM workers from all over the country through video conference, in New Delhi, Tuesday, 11 September, 2018. PIB photo via PTI

Besides the monetary benefits, the prime minister showered praise on their work at the grassroots — their role in combating malnourishment for mothers and newborn children. Modi linked boys and girls from poorer sections of society winning medals in the recently concluded Asian Games with the efforts of anganwadi and ASHA workers in rural areas. While praising their role and enhancing their remuneration, Modi also entrusted them with additional responsibilities.

This is an election year as five states will be going to the polls in next two-and-a-half months and the big bang General Election is due in the next seven months. Thus, the political significance of Modi’s interaction with ASHA, auxiliary nurse midwife and anganwadi workers could not be lost. These workers have penetration in almost every single household, particularly womenfolk around the centres they work. A satisfied group of anganwadi workers could also be potential messengers of Modi government in the hinterland.

The number of operational anganwadi centres as on 31 December, 2015 was 13,49,091. The top 10 states in terms of the number of operational centres have been Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Karnataka, Assam, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh-Telangana (undivided). These states also account for 341 parliamentary seats. The politically critical Uttar Pradesh accounts for around 14 percent of the total operational centres in India.

Given the kind of goodwill these women generally have in their respective areas of work, an endorsement of the Modi government may help influence voting pattern of a substantial section of womenfolk and possibly their family members also.

It seemed to be a well-crafted strategy on the part of the prime minister to directly engage with over 28 women workers in rural areas through a mobile phone application both on account of governance and also eyeing a political dividend.

Hours after Modi finished his interaction with them, the BJP leadership fielded Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani to hold a media briefing at party headquarters in New Delhi. After she was shunted from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting four months ago, she has not been visible at the party’s platforms.

Her arrival at the new party headquarters to address a press conference signified two things: Her rehabilitation as one the most feisty speakers on issues that matters most for the party and political importance the leadership attached to Modi’s interaction with Anganwadi workers. She was also fielded to get on to her favourite turf and take on Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on the National Herald case.

On Monday, the Delhi High Court had dismissed Sonia and Rahul Gandhi’s plea against the income tax department’s decision to re-open their tax assessment for year 2011-12 relating to Associated Journals, publishers of National Herald. The court had also rejected plea by Congress leaders that media be restrained from publishing reports on this count.

Irani asserted while Modi is trying to reach poor sections of society as he did through interaction with Anganwadi workers on Tuesday, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were only concerned about accumulating money for their own family.

Updated Date: Sep 12, 2018 08:06:53 IST