ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers are considered volunteers. What a pompous name for them and what a prestigious identity! Beyond the name and identity is hidden the ever increasing burden the ASHA workers bear, the lowest remuneration that they get, and the basic rights that they are deprived of. Like all downtrodden women their sufferings are also beyond description
Their main task as directed was very important and enormous, that is to take care of all pregnant mothers and children. But other tasks that are being continuously shifted on them are preventing them from carrying out their main task. One after another they are piled up with tasks like handling drought-flood-storm and cyclone situation, duty at events of sports and games and at different fairgrounds, during elections, at examination centres. Even ASHA workers are given the weird task of executing to locate and alert people who are clearing bowels behind bushes, surveying door to door people who drink wine. They are even given the job of identifying co-morbid corona patients without providing them proper safety measures. They are even burdened with a lot of state government projects. They cannot refuse any task. They have no right to suffer from any ailment. They will not be spared for any family ceremony or problem. If anybody gets stuck in a crisis she is curtly said, like what the corporate capitalists do, either work or get lost.
ASHA workers are to work in format system. If by any chance a worker gets more than Rs 3000 in a month -only Rs 3000 after a month’s back bending work -her earning is curtailed by whatever means possible. Besides it, their pays are reduced by many a pretext. Abrupt field visits, what mistake was committed six months back, why children are not gaining weight, why ASHA workers are not referring, even overlooking a single dose of vaccination invites punishment. If medicines, thermometer are not supplied by the hospital, ASHA workers’ poor salary is cut. When a patient due to lack of infrastructure in hospital goes to a nursing home out of insecurity, ASHA workers are to bear the responsibility. ASHA workers are held responsible for a lot of such irregularities. Without infrastructure and proper salary all of a sudden day and night hospital duties for ASHA workers have been started. First, they have not given any training, neither any arrangement for their staying at night nor their dinner has been made. For an entire month the ASHA workers remain isolated from their village. Many unseemly events are being reported from different districts. In many hospitals outsiders annoy the ASHA workers. Despite these have been reported the government remains indifferent. Everybody knows, health is on the concurrent list. But, neither the central government nor the state government does fulfil the responsibility of building up proper infrastructure necessary to provide service to the people.
It’s 15 years that the central government has launched ASHA project. Last year the Prime Minister himself at a TV talk promised salary enhancement for the ASHA workers. The promise has not been fulfilled while the central government, true to their nature of serving the capitalist class, declared bank loan waiver for industrialists at the tune of millions upon millions. The government rather is reducing the allowance meant for the ASHA workers. encouragement grant, announced by the government, has been cut on various pleas during the lock down period. ASHA workers are compelled to work 12-13 hours. Despite this hard work they are not given respect and security. The family life of the workers has been shattered. They are isolated from family life due to burden of work. Clearly, this is a glaring example of grossly unfair labour practice and that too with hapless female workers. The ASHA workers, therefore, are compelled to take to the path of mass movement to realize their just demands, informed Ismat Arah Khatun, General Secretary, Scheme Workers’ Federation of India.