Two netas fight it out in Lok Sabha

New Delhi: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar got into a war of words in the Lok Sabha on Thursday as the former raised the issue of the wages of Anganwadi workers.

Both Kharge and Kumar blamed each other for "manipulating" the issue, and while the Congress leader blamed the Centre for the low salary of the Anganwadi workers, Kumar said states had the choice to increase their remuneration.

Raising the issue in the Lok Sabha, as Anganwadi workers are agitating in his home state Karnataka, Kharge said they were getting lesser pay.

The Congress leader said he was speaking on the situation arising out of the ongoing agitation by the workers in many parts of the country, including Karnataka.

He said the Centre has decided to reduce its share in payments to the Anganwadi workers from the earlier 90:10 arrangement to 60:40, increasing the burden on state governments.

"It is a big burden on states. They are not even getting minimum wage. 35 lakh people are involved with Anganwadi across the country. If you don't address the issue, it is going to be a huge agitation," he said.

Ananth Kumar, however, said that it was Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka that was not paying enough to the Anganwadi workers.

"The Centre is giving Rs 3,000 (per worker), the states can increase their contribution," Kumar said. 

"In Karnataka,... the state government is not giving as much as they should that is why there is an agitation. But he is manipulating the issue," Kumar said.

Uttarakhand, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, many state governments gave more money than their share, the BJP leader added. 

"If the Siddaramaiah government is sensitive about the Anganwadi workers, they can also give Rs 3,000 on their part, they are giving only Rs 2,000," he said.

He also questioned whether the Karnataka government has recruited the sanctioned number of Anganwadi workers.

This time the opposition members accused the Minister of misleading the house, to which Kumar replied: "I am not misleading, I am authenticating the papers and placing before you."

Karnataka State Anganwadi Workers' Association is carrying on an agitation in the state over low wages, demanding their salary be increased to Rs 10,000 per month from the present amount of around Rs 6,000.