anganwadi: Anganwadi workers entitled to gratuity: SC | India News

NEW DELHI: In a big relief to over 25 lakh Anganwadi workers/helpers who are working across the country at the grassroot level, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that they are entitled for payment of gratuity and asked the Centre and state governments to “take serious note of their plight” as they are paid meagre remuneration despite being the backbone of various welfare schemes and rendering important services to the society.
A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and and Abhay S Oka rejected the plea of the Centre and states that they are not entitled for gratuity and brought a 16 years’ old legal battle, initiated by five Anganwadi workers in Gujarat, to a logical conclusion. The court passed the verdict in their favour and also asked the governments “to find out modalities in providing better service conditions of the voiceless commensurate to the nature of job discharged by them”. After losing the battle in the Gujarat HC in 2017, the Anganwadi workers, through their counsel Pyoli, moved the SC which allowed their plea and held that Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 will apply to Anganwadi centres and in turn to Anganwadi workers (AWWs)/helpers(AWHs). The SC rejected the plea of the governments that they are not full-time employees.
Both judges were unanimous on the issue but delivered separate judgments. Holding that social security legislations should always be interpreted liberally, Justice Rastogi said, “When a statute is meant for the benefit of a particular class and if a word in the statute is capable of two meanings, i.e., one which would preserve the benefits and one which would not, then the former is to be adopted.”
“AWWs and AWHs have been assigned all pervasive duties, which include identification of the beneficiaries, cooking nutritious food, conducting preschool for kids… Implementation of important provisions relating to children, pregnant women as well as lactating mothers has been entrusted to them. It’s thus impossible to accept the contention that the job assigned to AWWs and AWHs is a parttime job,” Justice Oka said.
“If we look towards problems plaguing AWWs/AWHs… they are deprived of a salary and other benefits are available to employees of the state,” the SC said. On the issue of employment nature of Anganwadi workers, there have been differences of opinion and contradictory verdicts were passed by the HCs of Gujarat, Delhi and Bombay. Now the SC has settled the law by passing the verdict.

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