Lucknow: The Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers who were hailed as ‘Corona warriors by prime minister Narendra Modi for their selfless service in the COVID-19 pandemic, were brutally attacked by the state machinery.
In Uttar Pradesh's Shahjahanpur, the police resorted to a brutal attack on the protesting ASHA workers on Tuesday and detained them. Scores of workers from all over the district had gathered under the banner of the ASHA Health Worker Union near the rally venue to stage a protest over the non-fulfillment of their longstanding demands, including a hike in honorarium and, risk allowance and insurance cover while on pandemic duty, as well as, regularisation of appointments, provident fund and social security against the Yogi Adityanath government who was there in the city to address a rally
In multiple videos of the incident that went viral on social media, it can be seen how women constables are thrashing a few ASHA workers. Police, however, claimed that it was a minor scuffle and no one was hurt and detained either.
Contrary to the police statement, ASHA workers claimed that they were detained when they were marching towards the rally where CM was addressing the gathering, and released after the CM concluded his visit.
The incident has sparked a controversy across the state, which is scheduled to go to Assembly polls early next year. The Congress party has sought action against all police officials involved in beating workers.
"Every attack on the ASHA sisters by the Uttar Pradesh government is an insult to the work done by them. My ASHA sisters have given their services diligently in the COVID pandemic and on other occasions. Receiving an honorarium is their right. It is the duty of the government to listen to them. ASHA sisters deserve respect and I am with them in this fight," Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said while sharing a video of the incident on Twitter.
The Congress leader further claimed that ASHA workers will be paid Rs 10,000 per month if the party is voted to power in the state in the upcoming assembly polls.
Meanwhile, following the attack from the police, the ASHA workers under multiple organisations in Bareilly expressed their displeasure over the incident and demanded immediate suspension of the accused policemen. It has also warned that if action is not taken against the accused policemen, ASHA workers will stage protests and boycott health programmes soon.
Shivvati Sahu, district vice-President of ASHA workers said that ASHA workers deliver programs and plans of the health department from door to door while risking their lives. “The beating of ASHA workers going to meet the chief minister is condemnable. "If the accused policemen are not suspended, then the ASHA worker organisation will be compelled to take strict steps, even we will not hesitate to boycott the work," she said.
“We strongly condemn this cowardly act of the UP government which infringes upon the democratic rights of the people and demands immediate action against police officials,” ASHA Union said, adding that the workers had been protesting in several districts of Uttar Pradesh for the last several months demanding arrears of honorarium. Angered by the administration and the Health Department not paying any attention, they threatened to boycott the vaccination drive which the ASHA workers were leading at the forefront.
The agitation of ASHA workers, demanding state employee status and an honorarium of Rs 18,000, continued for the seventh month in the state.
"ASHAs are the strong link of any health services. We worked without fear during the COVID-19 period. The ASHA workers play an active role in all health programs initiated by the government. However, the government is not paying attention to our concerns. Our key demands are that we should be given an honorarium of Rs 18,000 and also given the status of state employees," Savitri, another ASHA worker, told NewsClick.
In September, thousands of 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 under the banner of Scheme Workers Federation of India participated in a nationwide protest. 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.