Assam: Reeling Under Imperceptible Remuneration, Women Workers Join Hands in All India Mahapadav, Demand Regular Wages
Think about getting a thousand-rupee monthly as remuneration, that too quite irregularly and after working almost six days a week for a month. Yes, that is the situation of Women workers in Assam working under various schemes of central and state governments. The Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers, the Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Workers and the Anganwadi workers face tough times with the meagre amount of money they receive from the government.
These are the grassroots workers implementing various schemes of both central and state government, be it Ayushman Bharat, Arunodoi (Assam Govt.’s programme), or child care and delivery cases in villages. These are the foot soldiers. However, their plight goes unnoticed until they come out on the streets with their issues and demands.
On November 26, the starting day of the All India Mahapadav, Minara Begum Chowdhury from Hojai came with her fellow ASHA workers to the protest and the scheduled Rajbhavan March in Guwahati. The Rajbhavan March was stopped by the police, and the protestors sat in front of the Meghdoot Bhavan (Guwahati GPO). Speaking to NewsClick, Minara Begum explained the plight of the ASHA workers. “We get only 1000 rupees a month; that is too irregular. Sometimes we need to wait for as long as 10 months to get our remuneration,” Begum said.
Minara Begum Chowdhury with her fellow ASHA workers while speaking to Newsclick.
The general secretary of AITUC affiliated All Assam ASHA Workers’ Union, Minara Begum, further said, “We need to distribute vitamins, folic acid tablets, contraceptives, and condoms in the villages. For each tablet and each condom we distribute, we get only one rupee. This is shameful on our part. Moreover, that one rupee, we need to take from the party (to whom they distribute the stuff).”
Mamata Talukdar, president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) affiliated ASHA Workers’ Union, confirmed it while speaking to NewsClick. However, Talukdar said the ASHA workers get Rs 1000 from the state government and Rs 2000 from the central. “The central government money we get regularly, but the state government keeps us waiting for months to disburse the tiny amount,” she said.
Mamata Talukdar said that in 2006, the ASHA workers were involved in only three tasks, namely working towards reducing maternal mortality, child mortality and family planning. But as of now, they are engaged in as many as 76 various tasks. “In our Uparhali village, we five ASHA workers are involved in 1000 population of 233 families. From the one rupee we get per tablet supplement or condom, we earn around 600 rupees a month. So, we have to work in 3500 rupees as monthly remuneration,” Talukdar told NewsClick.
Talking about their demand, Talukdar said, “We demand that we need regular wage, not remuneration (Manoni Nohoi Mojuri Diyok), and this is our primary slogan.” A similar demand was uttered by Sandhya Rani Deka, who came to the Guwahati protest on the 26th from Sipajhar of Darrang district.
On the same day, NewsClick also spoke to Minu Rabha, who is an MDM worker from Bamuni Gaon near Boko in Kamrup rural district. Rabha told NewsClick, “We work five days a week and get only Rs 1000 monthly, but quite irregularly. We get the amount of ten months in a year.”
Kanaklate Das, the secretary of the CITU-affiliated All Assam MDM Workers’ Union, told NewsClick, “Since 2005, the MDM workers have been working, and till 2008 there was no wage. We used to get 30-45 paisa per student we cooked for. But in 2008, while Manmohan Singh was the PM, our all-India organisation organised a country-wide programme, and from December 2009 onwards, we are getting Rs 1000 monthly. Moreover, the Assam state government has given us 500 per month extra since 2021, and currently, we get Rs 1500 per month.”
“However,” Das continued, “even this small amount is not given to us regularly. We need to wait sometimes for three months, sometimes for six or even eight months.” Das also reiterated the demand of “Manoni Nohoi Mojuri Diyok (Give us regular wage, not remuneration).
The MDM workers’ union also demand that they be given the status of a government employee with a salary of Rs 10,000 monthly for the whole year. Apart from this, they also demand a compensation of three lakhs for those who are injured while performing duties.
Indira Newar of Assam State Anganwadi Worker’s Union, speaking to NewsClick, said they need to be engaged in various central and state government schemes like Ayushman Bharat and Arunudoi, as vaccination, NRC and electoral duties. “What we get is grossly insufficient in comparison to the tasks we have to do per month. If we have to do extra work, we should be given extra money,” Newar said.
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