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UP: 3-day Mahapadav of ASHA Workers Ends, Threat to Intensify Stir

The ASHA workers are demanding higher wages, social security and the promised incentives.

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: The Indian Express

Lucknow: The three-day mega strike by Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers and health workers from across the state ended on February 2. In this three-day Mahapadav, the union leaders announced that this struggle would be intensified further.

The health workers — who receive incentive-based remuneration for their volunteer work — have been demanding a fixed minimum wage, as well as social security and basic benefits. The workers said they are being overworked and get no respect or returns in their job. 

"There is no fixed monthly payment for ASHA workers. We get paid according to the work we do. We have been demanding for more than six years that a fixed monthly payment of Rs 26,000 should be finalised so that we can run our families properly, but the government not paying heed to our genuine demands, " Laxmi, an ASHA worker, came from Badaun to join the Mahapadav in Lucknow's Eco Garden told NewsClick. 

'Aaj karo, urgent karo, humko permanent karo', 'Do hazar me dum nahi, 26 hazar se kam nahi' and Ashaon ka soshan band karo, were the slogans being raised at the Eco Garden ground. (During the protest, 'Do it urgently today, make us permanent', '2,000 has no use, we demand not less than Rs 26,000', ‘Make ASHA workers and Asha Sanginis permanent’, ‘Stop exploitation of ASHAs’, Yogi-Modi come to senses’) .

Kavyda Kumari, 45, who has been an ASHA worker for 10 years in Unnao joined the three-day protest along with a dozen colleagues. She said she had assisted several pregnant women in their difficult times. "We have been working round the clock. If there is an emergency, I have to leave home any time. But we are given no respect by state governments. We do not have fixed salaries or health benefits," she said. 

The protesting volunteers claimed their counterparts in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal get higher fixed salaries. "We do not get fixed salaries and the incentives are minimum. We do not have leaves or can claim benefits," said Sugandha Maurya.

The women are demanding a fixed payment of Rs 26,000 a month or the state minimum wage. They also want the UP government to do away with the point system on incentives. In addition, they want social security benefits like leave, provident fund, gratuity, pension, medical assistance, life insurance and maternity benefits. "An amount of at least Rs 5 lakh should be given on retirement or retrenchment or removal," the protesting health workers demanded. 

The other demands include formation of a women's cell to prevent sexual violence, provision of PF, ESI benefits to ASHAs, guarantee health insurance of Rs 10 lakh, life insurance of Rs 50 lakh.

The three-day protest was organised from January 31 to February 2 under the banner of Uttar Pradesh ASHA Workers Union in Lucknow in which thousands of ASHA workers from the state, including Banda, Prayagraj, Ballia, Azamgarh, and western Uttar Pradesh, participated 

Asha Kushwaha of Kanpur told NewsClick: "Payment has not been made for several months. How do we run our household with a salary Rs 2,500, which we never get on time. The government has praised our work on many occasions, especially during COVID-19, then why doesn't it increase our wages?" 

Gayatri Srivastava said during the pandemic, the government had announced an allowance of Rs 1,000 per month to ASHA workers, but the payment has not been made till now.

The protesting health workers also alleged that each and every ASHA worker had contributed Rs 5 to Rs 1,000 for Golden Ayushman Cards and were still contributing. The government last year announced a relief amount of Rs 5 per card and this year's announced Rs 10 per card, but has not paid so far.

ASHAs are provided a Rs 2,000 monthly and performance-based incentives of Rs 3,000-Rs 5,000 under the state and the National Health Mission (NHM). However, the health workers have alleged that they receive not more than Rs 2,000.

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