When Smriti Irani and Rahul Gandhi, rivals in Amethi, connected in Parliament

In a rare encounter in Parliament, women and child development minister Smriti Irani on Friday replied to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s question in the Lok Sabha. The two are rivals outside Parliament in Amethi Lok Sabha constituency.

Smriti Irani had defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress leader, who had also contested from Wayanad in Kerala, won and entered the Lok Sabha.

In a rare coincidence, the two connected in the Lok Sabha. During Question Hour, Smriti Irani made a written reply to Rahul Gandhi’s unstarred question pertaining to anganwadi workers and helpers who come under the women and child development ministry.

Rahul asked whether anganwadi workers and anganwadi helpers were receiving additional incentives for the additional Covid-related tasks carried out by them and, if so, the details. In another question he wished to know whether Smriti’s ministry had received complaints regarding violence against anganwadi workers during the pandemic.

In the last part of his question, he asked whether a significant number of vacancies for Child Development Project Officers (CDPO) and Anganwadi Lady Supervisors were lying vacant across the country.

Replying to his questions, Smriti said as anganwadi services was centrally-sponsored scheme, which was implemented by states and Union Territories (UTs), the government had issued directions to them to make all possible arrangements for providing safety equipment like masks, sanitisers and the likes to the anganwadi workers, anganwadi helpers and ASHAS in the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Also, anganwadi centres are closed due to Covid-19 pandemic so as to control the spread of the virus, she said.

She further said the government has enhanced the honorarium from October 1, 2018. Apart from the honorarium and other incentives paid by the Centre, respective states and UTs were also giving monetary incentives to these workers. Various state governments were compensating these AWWS and AWHs out of their own resources for COVID-related activities, she said.

Regarding violence, Smriti said no state has reported any such incident to her ministry. “However, it is the duty of the state administrations to ensure safety and security of AWWS/ AWHs.”

Regarding vacancies, she said from time to time, the states and UTs are advised to fill the sanctioned positions of staff which are lying vacant for effective implementation of the scheme. “Further, directions and advisory have been sent to the states and UTs to recruit the personnel on contract basis till such time the vacancies are filled on regular basis,” she said in her reply.

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