A statewide protest by the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers was staged in front of 25 District Collectorate offices in Telangana on Monday, June 10. The protest saw members from the Telangana Voluntary and Community Health Workers’ Union and the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) come together demanding the government to release pending wages of five months.
The police, continuing the common practice within the state, responded in an unconstitutional manner by arresting around 100 members from different parts of the state.
The workers, in addition to the demand to release the pending salaries, expressed their anger over the non-fulfillment of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s promise about fixing their salaries.
Speaking with NewsClick, P. Jayalaxmi, president of the Telangana ASHA Workers’ Union criticised the state administration for not fixing the salaries which was promised by the Chief Minister in 2016.
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The pending salaries of the workers also includes allowances that they are supposed to receive for their work during the election season, added P. Jayalaxmi.
It is a common practice for the ASHA workers to work extra during the election period which includes checking the status of voter registration and distributing election-related material.
Fixed Salary for Workers
Neglected by the ruling government, across all India, ASHA workers have been constantly demanding for better working conditions and other welfare provisions. As earlier reported by NewsClick, the government has not taken care of its health forces by having a very casual approach towards solving their day-to-day problems.
The government has failed to set a routine for the ASHA workers and instead chose to incentiviSe the whole set of activities which leads to uncertainty in monthly payments.
As per the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) guidelines, a total of 43 different functions are assigned to the ASHA workers along with specific remuneration for each of them.
“The maximum they can get for an activity is Rs 5,000 for administering medicines to drug-resistant tuberculosis patients, to a minimum of just Re 1 for distributing an ORS (oral rehydration solution) packet. But ASHAs say they normally earn through antenatal care (Rs 300), institutional delivery (Rs 300), family planning (Rs 150) and immunisation rounds (Rs 100) as cases of other diseases are not many in number. So their monthly remuneration is directly dependent on what type of activities they get to do in a given month,” reported Down to Earth, while throwing light on the erratic nature of their monthly salary.
The government, rather than focusing on promises which remain unfulfilled, should bring economic security to the lives of ASHA workers by addressing the precariousness of their situation and the continuous delay of monthly payments.
These assurances to the workers have reduced to become a tool for the ruling government only to be used during the election season to secure votes. The promises find space in the election speeches but fail to provide any relief to the increasingly deplorable lives of ASHA workers.
One can add to this list of failed assurances an announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2018, which included an increment in the remuneration for ASHA and Anganwadi workers.
A closer look at the range of tasks that are performed by the ASHA workers would reveal that not only such announcements of a meagre hike in salary amount to an insult to their work, but they also fail to address the real issue which is to fix their salary – as demanded by the ASHA workers – and allow them to attain financial stability.
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