Kerala: ASHA Workers Promised Higher Honorarium by LDF Govt, Centre Accused of Denying Social Security Measures
TP Ramakrishnan MLA, state vice president of the CITU Kerala state committee addressed the protesting ASHA workers on March 14 in Thiruvananthapuram.
The ASHA Workers' Federation held a two-day protest in Kerala, seeking recognition as workers, minimum wages, pensions and social welfare measures from the Union government. The workers also demanded the state government increase the honorarium from Rs 6,000 paid now and incentive assured through the local self-governments (LSG).
The talks held on March 15 with the government officials were positive. A ministerial-level discussion will be held on March 30 on possible measures to ensure insurance in consultation with National Health Mission (NHM) officials and the commencement of incentives from LSGs.
The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), to which the ASHA Workers' Federation is affiliated, accused the Union government of sitting on the resolutions of the 45th session of the Indian Labour Conference seeking social security coverage for scheme workers and recognition as workers.
Deprived of any positive steps from the Union government, the ASHAs are demanding the state governments provide a better honorarium. The ASHA workers continue to demand a minimum pension of Rs 5,000 and fixed retirement age of 62.
'NO RESPONSE FROM UNION GOVERNMENT'
To connect the marginalised sector with the health system, the scheme was implemented in 2005 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with the voluntary participation of workers called ASHAs. As defined by the NHM, these activists do not have any determined wages but are paid incentives for encouraging delivery in hospitals, child immunisation, and promoting family planning, among other responsibilities.
"With high petrol, diesel and gas costs, it is impossible to survive with the incentives provided by the Union government. Earning Rs 2000/month itself is a huge challenge in a state like Kerala," PP Prema, the general secretary of the ASHA Workers' Federation, told NewsClick.
Despite the long pending demand to ensure social security measures, including pension, employees' state insurance (ESI), provident fund (PF) and insurance, the federation accused the Union government of not initiating any steps to address the concerns.
"Ensuring social security coverage to all the scheme workers was the major demand of the 45th session of the labour conference. Unfortunately, the Narendra Modi government is sitting on the crucial demands of the working class," Prema said.
The workers also highlight the increasing workload from fieldwork, online entries and regular briefings.
"Though we come under the NHM, the officials of the state government act as reporting officers. Some exert unnecessary pressure on the workers, which needs to be stopped immediately," Prema demanded.
DEMAND FOR HIGHER HONORARIUM FROM STATE GOVERNMENT
Upset over the inordinate delay from the Union government, the ASHA workers will also join the massive rally scheduled on April 5 in NewDelhi called upon by the CITU, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU).
The 26,844 ASHAs working in the state turned to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) for better honorarium, and social security measures since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Union government remains insensitive to the demands of the workers, including the frontline workers in ASHAs.
"The state government is providing Rs 6,000 as honorarium, which is still less. We have demanded to increase this, and the government has agreed to hold detailed talks on March 30 with the finance and health departments," Prema said.
The ASHAs have been demanding extensive insurance plans since the present scheme provided by the union government pays compensation only on the death of the workers. The departments of health and finance will work out a model to ensure comprehensive health insurance to the workers during the scheduled talks.
"Besides, we are not entitled to gratuity or pension despite serving for several years in a crucial sector. The Union government must ensure such rights are ensured for us," Prema added.
The CITU had been demanding a minimum pension of Rs 5,000 and a retirement age of 62.
The state government had promised in 2022 to pay Rs 1,000 through the concerned LSGs for the ASHA workers.
"The officials during the talks promised to implement this scheme without delay," Prema said.
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