Haryana: Asha Workers March to Vidhan Sabha with Long Pending Demands
Call for march was given by Asha Workers Union, Haryana- affiliated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)
Thousands of Asha workers from Haryana reached the Vidhan Sabha on Tuesday, December 27. Asha workers from all over the state were marching towards Chandigarh with their age-old demands when the police tried to stop them by heavily barricading the Panchkula-Chandigarh border which created an atmosphere of tension on the spot. Thousands of ASHA workers from across the state started their protest procession from Sector 2 of Panchkula, marching towards Chandigarh with their demands.
Thousands of Asha workers from Haryana
A scuffle broke out between the police and the workers at the Housing Board Chowk. After this, thousands of Asha workers remained firm till late evening and continued their dharna, but at seven in the evening they returned after postponing their dharna with a warning to the government.
The Asha workers participating in the protest, demand that they should be made permanent employees, and should be provided with all social security benefits including retirement benefits. Along with this, there should be a minimum wage of Rs 26,000 and forced labour should be stopped.
The call for this assembly march was given by the Asha Workers Union, Haryana- affiliated with the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Even before this, under CITU’sleadership, Asha Workers Union has propelled many victory movements and has been continuously struggling for Asha workers in the state and the country.
Addressing the protestors, Union State President Surekha said that Asha workers have been serving the health department for the last 17 years, working as an important link between the health department and the general public to implement all the schemes of the health department at the ground level. For 17 years, the government is refusing to pay salaries to these workers, who provide basic health facilities to infants, teenagers and pregnant women, and is even refusing to make these employees permanent. “When work is being taken from ASHA workers, a stricter attitude is being adopted towards them than even permanent employees. Even against the strike on February 17, 2022, the government imposed ESMA on Asha workers, which we strongly condemned and retaliated against. We strongly condemn the anti-workers attitude of the government and demand that all workers should be made permanent employees. Rs 26,000 minimum salary should be given. All social security benefits including retirement benefits should be given,” she said.
Asha workers are the backbone of primary healthcare
Asha workers are the backbone of primary healthcare in the country. It was mentioned earlier that Ashas are community health volunteers under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) who act as a vital link between the government's health system and the community. NHRM was later expanded to cover urban areas in 2013. At present, there are about 10 lakh Asha workers in the country.
At present, the government across the country is not ready to consider the Ashas who do such important work as employees. Their monthly income is less than the minimum wage. Haryana currently has over 20,000 Ashas, who, like other parts of the country, are community health volunteers, acting as a vital link between the health system and the community. Under NHRM, they are entitled to work-based incentives for over 60 activities listed by the Centre. In addition, Ashas get an incentive of Rs 2,000 from the centre for a set of routine activities. In addition to work-based incentives, states are also allowed to fix monthly remunerations for Ashas. In Haryana, this amount is Rs 4,000.
Addressing the workers, Union General Secretary Sunita said that the department is continuously pressurising Asha workers to work online, make Ayushman Bharat cards door-to-door and do KYC, NCD (non-communicable diseases) work online. Whereas for the last three years Ayushman Bharat cards are being made by Asha workers whose incentive amounts have not been paid by the department to date. The department is constantly pressurising the workers for new online work. On the one hand, the department is continuously imposing new tasks on the workers and on the other hand, giving salaries to the Asha workers is a distant thing; incentive amounts are also not being fixed for those works.
The leaders of the organisation said that they had appealed in the Honourable High Court against the removal of the elected representatives of the people's representatives in the Panchayat elections, that the Asha workers are volunteers and the Election Commission has not given them any guidelines regarding contesting elections or continuing in office. Therefore, the department can neither stop the workers from contesting the elections nor relieve them from the post on their own. After the appeal, the Hon'ble Court has given a stay on the letter issued by the Department, but the officers are dictatorially disobeying the orders of the Hon'ble High Court and efforts are on to remove Asha Worker from the post. There is tremendous anger among Asha workers against this stand of the department and the government.
The leaders of the union said that the impossible tasks were being made possible in very difficult circumstances, no one listens to the Asha workers, and their services are continuing in these worst and inhumane conditions for 12 years. “Whether the temperature is 44 C, be it day or night, epidemic or outbreak of seasonal diseases, incurable tuberculosis, or anything else, everything has to be done by hope, the government has a work plan for them but there is no plan for a better life. Yes, they have definitely recruited in-charges at various places named BCPM, who are engaged in the task of threatening, forcing labour by strangulation and snatching a big part of whatever the workers get,” the leader added.
The condition of Asha workers in the country is not better than this. Almost everywhere they are forced to work in this miserable condition. Trade union leaders have expressed concern about this several times, but unfortunately, the government does not pay any heed. The activists involved in the demonstration said that as of today, many of them are not even paid, which shows that even today in our country, women workers are considered second-class workers. They say that the honorarium they get is not humiliating. It is a matter of regret that these women workers who work day and night do not even come under the ambit of the labour laws of our country and that is because the government does not consider them as workers, in its view, they are mere servants, that is, they have to serve the public. And just take what you get in return for that service.
Addressing the workers, CITU State General Secretary Jai Bhagwan said that the government is continuously taking anti-people and anti-labour decisions. By abolishing 29 labour laws, the government has brought four labour codes through which it is attacking the right to form unions and strike which cannot be tolerated in any form. In the name of new health policy, digital health mission and in the name of Ayushman Bharat card scheme, the government is working to hand over public tax money to big private chain hospitals, while there is no effort to improve the public health structure. Education and health are the basic needs of a human being, the responsibility of fulfilling which is the responsibility of the governments in a democracy, but the government is pulling back from all its welfare schemes and by adopting the policy of hire and fire, it is also attacking the employment security of the people. This cannot be tolerated in any form. Against this, the people of Haryana state will carry out even more aggressive struggles in the coming times.
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