Lucknow: Thousands of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers, auxiliary nurse midwives, who are at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight, and Anganwadi, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Mid Day Meal Scheme (MDM) workers in Uttar Pradesh (UP) under the banner of Scheme Workers Federation of India participated in a nationwide protest on Friday. The federation, affiliated to the All India United Trade Union Centre and other unions, demanded risk allowance and insurance cover while on pandemic duty, adequate honorarium, regularisation of appointments, provident fund and social security.
The ASHA and Anganwadi workers, who have been protesting against their working conditions and low wages for the last several years, intensified their protest since the pandemic hit the country. In addition to their usual work, the ASHA and Anganwadi workers have also been assisting the immunisation drive by bringing vaccines to the doorstep of the marginalised sections.
Around 12 lakh women employed under different government schemes in UP want to be recognised as full-time regular government employees. “One of their demands is a minimum salary of Rs 21,000, paid and casual leaves and medical benefits. No ASHA, Anganwadi and MDM workers should be sacked. The sacked Anganwadi and mini-Anganwadi workers above the age of 62 should be rehired,” Veena Gupta, president, UP, Anganwadi Karmchari Union, told Newsclick.
The ASHA and Anganwadi workers demanded PPE kits during COVID-19-related surveys and Rs 50 lakh medical insurance cover for the families of the workers who died due to infection contracted on work. “We extended our services at the grass-root level in the battle against malnutrition and immunisation drives. Many workers died due to virus infection but were neither recognised by the government nor paid compensation,” Gonda-based ASHA worker Savitri told Newsclick, demanding recognition as a frontline warrior and compensation for her dead colleagues.
The protesters also demanded an additional COVID risk allowance of Rs 10,000 per month for all the contract and scheme workers on pandemic duty, immediate payment of arrears of salaries and allowances, withdrawal of the recently passed Central “anti-labour” codes and regularisation of workers
“When Uttar Pradesh was in the grip of the deadly second wave of Coronavirus, ASHA workers went door to door in rural areas to spread awareness and distributed medicines while Anganwadi workers conducted several surveys. Both the workers were doing additional work related to the vaccination campaign. Unfortunately, their workload has significantly increased without a hike in salaries,” the ASHA Workers Union said.
The union also pointed out that according to the recommendations of the 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conference, workers should be recognised as labourers, receive a minimum salary of Rs 21,000 per month, pension of Rs 1,000, ESI and PF.