Anganwadi Workers/Helpers entitled to payment of gratuity; ‘Time to take serious note of their plight’: Supreme Court 

Supreme Court: In a detailed judgment stressing on the importance of the work done by the Anganwadi workers/helpers at the grassroot level, the bench of Ajay Rastogi and Abhay S. Oka, JJ has held that Anganwadi workers/helpers are entitled to gratuity under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.

Writing separate but concurrent opinions, both the judges agreed that the Anganwadi Workers/Helpers have been entrusted with the important tasks of providing food security to children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years, pregnant women as well as lactating mothers, apart from rendering pre¬school education. And for all this, they are being paid very meagre remuneration and paltry benefits.

The Court observed that it is high time that the Central Government and State Governments take serious note of the plight of Anganwadi Workers/Helpers who are expected to render such important services to the society.

Justice Oka wrote that the definition of ‘wages’ is very wide. It means all emoluments which are earned by an employee on duty. Thus, the honorarium paid to Anganwadi Workers/Helpers will also be covered by the definition of wages.  As Anganwadi Workers/Helpers are employed by the State Government for wages in the establishments to which the 1972 Act applies, the AWWs and AWHs are employees within the meaning of the 1972 Act.

He also held that it was impossible to accept the contention that the job assigned to Anganwadi Workers/Helpers is a part-time job. It is full-time employment.

He added,

“the Government of India by a notification dated 3rd April 1997 has notified educational institutions as establishments under clause (c) of sub-section (3) of Section 1 of the 1972 Act. In the Anganwadi centres, the activity of running a preschool for the children in the age group of 3 to 6 years is being conducted. It is purely an educational activity. The job of teaching is done by Anganwadi Workers/Helpers. The State Government is running preschools in Anganwadi centres in accordance with Section 11 of the RTE Act. For the reasons recorded above, I have no manner of doubt that the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 will apply to Anganwadi centres and in turn to Anganwadi Workers/Helpers.”

Justice Ajay Rastogi observed,

“If we look towards the problems plaguing the Anganwadi workers/helpers, the first and foremost, they are not holders of civil posts due to which they are deprived of a regular salary and other benefits that are available to employees of the State. Instead of a salary, they get only a so called paltry ‘honorarium’ (much lower 24 than the minimum wages) on the specious ground that they are part-time voluntary workers, working only for about 4 hours a day.”

He, hence, observed that the time has come when the Central Government/State Governments has to collectively consider as to whether looking to the nature of work and exponential increase in the Anganwadi centers and to ensure quality in the delivery of services and community participation and calling upon Anganwadi workers/helpers to perform multiple tasks ranging from delivery of vital services to the effective convergence of various sectoral services, the existing working conditions of Anganwadi workers/helpers coupled with lack of job security which albeit results in lack of motivation to serve in disadvantaged areas with limited sensitivity towards the delivery of services to such underprivileged groups, still being the backbone of the scheme, time has come to find out modalities in providing better service conditions of the voiceless commensurate to the nature of job discharged by them.

[MANIBEN MAGANBHAI BHARIYA v. DISTRICT DEVELOPMENT OFFICER DAHOD, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 507, decided on 25.04.2022]


Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Abhay S. Oka


Counsels

For appellants: Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh and P.V. Surendranath

For State of Gujarat: Advocate Aastha Mehta

One comment

  • Another feather in the cap of Anganwadi Workers militant struggles!
    Supreme Court Orders on Gratuity and improvement of working conditions of anganwadi workers and helpers.

    AIFAWH Congratulates the Gujarat state anganwadi workers and helpers union for consistent legal battle which has led to the Supreme Court judgment on 25/04/22 acknowledging the legal right of the anganwadi workers and helpers for Gratuity.

    The union in Gujarat has also been in the forefront of struggles on the streets facing severe repression and threats by Gujarat government.

    By this historic judgment, the Supreme Court has made a course correction on its infamous judgment refusing to take any position on legal entitlements of the anganwadi workers and helpers saying ‘ it is one thing to say there is an employee employer relation between the government and anganwadi employees but it is another thing to say they are government employees’.

    The Supreme Court has not only clearly directed the government to provide Gratuity but also has directed it to give 10 percent interest and implement it within three months.

    The Apex Court has also directed the Government of India to review the working conditions of the anganwadi workers and helpers and take appropriate measures including increase in wages.

    AIFAWH demands that the Government of India, which has always been citing the Supreme Court for not recognizing the role of anganwadi workers and helpers must immediately implement the Supreme Court order and recognize the role of the anganwadi workers and helpers who have been fighting one of the biggest challenges faced by the country, malnutrition.

    We demand the Government of India immediately implement the recommendations of the 45th Indian Labour Conference on the rights of scheme workers- provide status as workers, minimum wages and pension, ESI, PF etc.

    AIFAWH while welcoming this judgment, decided to intensify its struggles for the just demands of basic rights.

    AIFAWH has also decided to take up the issue of the illegal termination of workers and helpers in states like Haryana and Delhi and the directive by the Union Government to suppress the struggles of the anganwadi workers and helpers, in all possible ways.

    AIFAWH will intensify the struggles and will organise massive March to Parliament and Padav during Monsoon session of the Parliament.

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