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Thousands of ASHAs Stage ‘Maha Dharna’ for 2nd Day in Patna; Left Parties Extend Support

During the ongoing budget session in the Bihar Assembly, the Left MLAs raised the issues faced by the ASHAs.
ASHA workers protest in Bihar

Patna: With thousands of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) staging a ‘maha dharna’ in front of the Bihar Assembly in Patna on Wednesday demanding monthly honorarium and other long pending issues, the Left parties MLAs protested in their support outside the main building of the Assembly. During the ongoing budget session in the Assembly, the lawmakers also raisethe issues faced by the ASHAs.

The ASHA workers dharna at the Gardanibagh protest site near the state Assembly entered its second day today. The protesters have issued a warning to the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Nitish Kumar saying they would go on strike on March 25 and 26 and would gherao all primary health centres if their demands were not fulfilled.

The workers began the ‘maha dharna under the banner of ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch on Tuesday with the slogan Rs 1,000 me in dum nahi, Rs 21,000 masik manday se kum nahi (1000 rupees not enough, won't settle for less than 21,000 rupees monthly honorarium)" and the demand of government employee status for ASHA workers. The ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch -- a joint platform of various unions and associations -- is fighting for their long-pending demands of the community health workers.

Bihar Rajya ASHA Karyakarta Sangh president Sashi Yadav said the governments approach was negative towards ASHA workers and the government apathy had continued despite the fact that they did excellent work on the ground in the health services. “The government should provide monthly honorarium to ASHA workers and give government employee status to them.If the government failed to fulfil our demandswe will go on statewide strike after gherao of primary health centres,” she said.

According to Yadav, there are more than 90,000 ASHA workers in the state who would join the strike.

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA Satyendar Yadav, while addressing the protesting ASHA workers, said that Left parties would support them inside and outside the state Assembly. “You are fighting for genuine cause and rights and we will stand with you,” He said.

For the last four years, ASHA workers have been protesting from time to time for several demands such as 50BCM (Block Community Coordinators) posts for eligible ASHA facilitators; ASHA workers should get the benefit of all high-level committee recommendations including work terms and conditions and honorarium; ESI (Employees State Insurance), EPF (Employees Provident Fund) and social security for all ASHA workers.

CPI(M) leader Arun Kumar Mishra said the ASHA workers have been ignored and neglected despite the fact that had risked their lives to work during the COVID-19 pandemic last year and have been the main force behind creating awareness to prevent the coronavirus spread. “They have been protesting for their genuine rights,” Mishra said.

All 12 MLAs of the CPI (Marxist Leninist) have staged protests outside the Assembly minutes ahead of the session started on Wednesday in support of protesting ASHA workers. Carrying handwritten placards in their hands, they stood in solidarity with the protesting ASHA workers, shouted slogans in their support and demanded the government to fulfil their old demands.

The CPI(ML) legislative party leader Mahboob Alam said the ASHA workers were being exploited and they hardly got proper payment for their hard work. “ASHA workers should be given government employee status and the government should provide monthly honorarium of Rs 21,000 to them.”

CPI(ML) leader and MLA Sudama Prasad said that Left parties’ legislators raised the ASHA workers demands in the state Assembly and staged a protest in their support on Tuesday as well.

The Left parties including CPI (Communist Party of India), CPI(M), and CPI(ML) are supporting the ASHA workers protests.

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