Centre accuses West Bengal of spending low on women workers

New Delhi: Taking a dig at the Left on the "low" level of spending on women workers, a minister on Thursday said in the Lok Sabha that the democratic forces of West Bengal would give a reply to them.

"The democratic forces of the state will give a reply to you," Minister of State for Labour Harish Rawat said replying to a call attention on the deplorable condition of working women, especially in the unorganised sector, raised by Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI).

Maintaining that Rs 118 crore was collected by West Bengal government as construction cess since 1996, Rawat said, "The amount spent was only 0.61 percent" while in Bihar, 0.04 percent was spent out of a similar fund of Rs 51 crore.

Earlier, when several Congress members including Dipa Dasmunsi claimed that anganwadi workers were being paid Rs 4,000-Rs 5,000 in states but not in West Bengal, the CPI leader said, "If there is any dereliction of duty by any state government, including West Bengal, it should be corrected. Let there be no political acrimony on this issue."

Replying to the call attention, the Minister said government had created a National Social Security Board with a corpus of Rs 1,000 crore to meet the needs of various sectors, including working women.

"We are identifying the areas (where help is required)," Rawat said, adding that the Centre was committed to empowering women in every field and had enacted 22 laws to deal with the problems of working women.

The CPI leader said it is a matter of shame that Parliament, all these years, has never discussed problems of working women who face wage discrimination, harassment at workplace, alarming job insecurity and denial of maternity benefits.

In this context, Dasgupta alleged that women stringers of All India Radio and Doordarshan were denied maternity benefits. He also said that anganwadi and ASHA workers were "lowly paid" for the socially-important jobs they do.

"The Cabinet Secretary gets Rs 80,000 and these workers get between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000. Is this social justice? Is this gender equity? Is it not a case of discrimination," he asked.

His speech was marred by heated exchanges between Left members on one side and those of Congress and Trinamool Congress on the other.