Bihar Govt Hikes Monthly Honorarium of ASHAs, Asks Centre to Follow Suit
Patna: Repeated protests by thousands of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) in Bihar forced the Mahagathbandhan government led by Nitish Kumar to increase their monthly honorarium from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500 and demanded the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government to increase their honorarium under the National Health Mission (NHM).
In a significant move to fulfil one of the main demands of ASHA workers, Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav on Tuesday informed that the state government has decided to increase the amount of monthly honorarium from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,500. Yadav also wrote a letter to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandviya, demanding him to increase the monthly honorarium.
“We have increased the monthly honorarium of ASHA workers from our own side, but I wrote a letter to the Union Health Minister in this connection and demanded him to increase their monthly honorarium under NHM from the central government side,” Yadav said.
Yadav’s demand is set to put pressure on the BJP-led central government to either increase ASHA workers’ monthly honorarium or face their anger ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Yadav, a leader of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) -- a major ally of the ruling Mahagathbandhan, praised ASHA workers for their contribution to health services in rural areas. “There is an urgent need to increase the monthly honorarium of ASHA workers in view of their work on the ground in facilitating different health schemes, including vaccination, Janni Bal Suraksha Yojana, Family Planning programme, Kalaazar, Malaria, TB and Leprosy eradication programmes,” he said.
The Mahagathbandhan parties are also part of the opposition alliance INDIA.
The Bihar government’s decision is widely seen as a gift to nearly 90,000 ASHA workers ahead of the festival season in the state.
In August 2023, thousands of ASHAs and ASHA facilitators staged a massive protest in Patna under the banner of ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch -- a joint platform of various unions and associations. They demanded the state government fulfil their nine-point demand.
The protesters threatened to intensify their protest in the coming days if the Mahagathbandan government ignored them and failed to fulfil their demands.
Their main demands include a regular monthly honorarium of Rs 10,000 in place of Rs 1,000, which they say is wrongly termed as a reward, government employee status for ASHA workers, and facilitators, and pension as a part of the retirement package, and disbursal of the pending amount of Rs 1,000/month from April 2019 to November 2020, among other long-due issues.
ASHA and ASHA Facilitators had been on an indefinite strike since early July 12 this year to fulfil these demands. The strike affected ground-level health services like vaccinations, maternity, and child care in hundreds of PHCs (Primary Health Centres), CHCs (Community Health Centres), and Referral Hospitals.
Left parties, which are part of the ruling Mahagathbandhan, including CPI(M) (Communist Party of India (Marxist)), CPI(ML) (Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation)), and CPI (Communist Party of India), supported the protests, with some even joining them.
In the past, Left parties and their MLAs had also raised the issues faced by the ASHAs in the state Assembly.
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