One of the most telling comments I've heard recently
At a public meeting in Banswara, during a performance (a scathing musical attack on corruption at the grassroots - starting from the sarpanch and the patwari and the block officer, to the collector, constable and politician) Shankar Bhai stopped singing and asked his audience, "Who's the happiest person in your village? Who's the 'best-fed'?"
And a tribal sitting at the back of the crowd called out, "The aanganwadi worker!"
The Aanganwadi worker -
She who controls the kitchen, and the medical supplies at the aanganwadi centre.
She who could stand between life and death.
She who often fails to do her job.
She who must struggle and face ruthless violence.
She who rightfully takes pride in being such a nucleus of power.
We (the government, if you like... but it's still the tax-payer's money) pay aanganwadi workers under the ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme), to improve the health of vulnerable groups like infants, pre-schoolers (less than six years old) and pregnant and/or nursing mothers.
The aanganwadi worker's duties include organising at least one meal a day, vaccination, referring women and kids to the hospitals and orgainising check-ups, helping with teaching the pre-schoolers (whatever they're supposed to know before they enter school... I wouldn't know what this means, though) general health and hygeine education etc.
Those who wanted a basic minimum of health and nutritional security for the poor in this country, gave us the aanganwadi worker.
That the poor of this country should say that this worker is the happiest, 'best-fed' of them all, is a telling comment...
Another telling comment, heard at the same public meeting -
"Why do they speak of work for 100 days in the year? Do they think our bellies are vacation for the remaining 265 days?"