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Tech woes: Anganwadi workers in Maharashtra return their phones due to technical glitches

Technical glitches, lack of provisions, and privacy violations are just a few of the alleged problems with the app that is contributing to their woes while on the frontlines of the pandemic. 

Anganwadi workers in Maharashtra have started to return their mobile phones to the State Women and Child Department (WCD), as a mark of protest beginning August 17, according to a report by Hindustan Times

The Anganwadi workers are protesting the inadequacies of POSHAN Tracker app which was launched six months back by the Union Women and Child Development Ministry. 

The ministry claimed that the app would automate data collection done by Anganwadi workers but instead of aiding them in their work, the app has purportedly increased their workload. Such technical glitches could lead to the duplication of efforts and delay in work, thus adding to workers’ woes.

The organisers of the protest told MediaNama that they can’t predict the exact number of phones returned but intend to return all the phones being used by Anganwadi workers in Maharashtra by the end of the month. 

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What are the problems with the app?

MA Patil who is one of the organisers of the protest shared the following problems in regards to the app: 

  • Defective, riddled with technical glitches and no provision of deletion of records: “When a six-year-old child becomes a year older, his name shouldn’t be on the list however the application doesn’t delete his name. Thus, the child keeps getting a nutrition package which is incorrect,”Patil said. He also added that many workers couldn’t download the POSHAN tracker app on their phones.
  • Language trouble: “The app is partially in English due to which the workers are unable to fill the forms,” Patil said, “Marathi is the official language of the state and all official transactions and communications should ideally be in Marathi.” The Anganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana had highlighted the same issue in their plea seeking the Bombay High Court’s intervention. Patil also added that the workers have had to get the work done on their own mobile phones, for which they have to rely on someone else for filling the form in the app which isn’t very feasible on a daily basis.  
  • Outdated mobile phones issued: “The mobile phones which were issued to the workers belonged to Panasonic company and have very less RAM. Lack of Panasonic service centres for repairing mobiles is also a cause of concern for the workers,” Patil said.
  • Invasion of privacy: The HT report stated that the app is infringing the privacy of workers since it automatically uninstalls social media apps, such as Facebook, on their mobile phones without authorisation.

Patil said that the workers are not opposed to using the app but are merely demanding the provision of better mobile phones and an accessible app so that they can carry out their work in a seamless manner.

State blames Centre, says not allocated enough funds 

Patil said that three weeks back the workers had tried to reach out to the state WCD minister Yashomati Thakur regarding this issue. He said, “The authorities admitted to the problem but said that they haven’t been allocated sufficient funds, to buy new mobile phones for the workers, by the Central government and hence can’t help us much.”

In a petition filed by Anganwadi Karmachari Sanghatana in Bombay High Court highlighting the grievances of ASHA workers, the court had refrained the authorities from withholding or deducting the remuneration of Anganwadi workers on the basis of the functioning and use of POSHAN tracker application.

Protests in Punjab and Haryana against POSHAN tracker app

Anganwadi workers in Punjab and Haryana had also staged protests against a government order that linked payment of honorarium of Anganwadi workers to inputting of data into POSHAN tracker, according to a report by The Hindu.

The workers complained that the government had neither provided them with mobile phones nor money for recharge. In addition to that, the payment of their honorarium had also been linked with the mobile application without providing them with a mobile phone.

In Himachal Pradesh, the app posed a different challenge for the workers. The workers complained that recording of information on the mobile application had increased their workload multi-fold. Many Anganwadi centres are situated in remote locations and don’t have internet connectivity due to which the workers have to cover a long distance to get network coverage. Despite the mobile application being developed to replace registers, the workers had to enter details in their registers for backup in case the data is lost, as per the report.

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