Over 1.50 lakh Accredited Social Health Activist (Asha) workers will go on strike from September 24 in Maharashtra. ASHA workers from Manipur are also expected to protest. The announcement came despite the assurance of a ₹1,000 incentive from the Central government for testing and tracing Covid-19 patients. Asha workers have been waiting for the remuneration since April 2021.
In the midst of the pandemic, the government of India designated 9,00,000 ASHA workers to assist with healthcare management. The workers have been doing door-to-door surveys of infected Covid-19 patients for contact tracing of closed contacts. They also visit villagers to maintain data of children with malnutrition and health updates of pregnant women.
This often makes them vulnerable to contracting Covid 19. According to the official data, 45 Asha workers had lost their lives to the novel coronavirus in Maharashtra, since its outbreak.
“It is the responsibility of the Asha workers to track the close contacts of infected patients. Also, daily, they have to maintain the health updates of malnourished children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. This exposes the workers to Covid-19 cases. Despite this, they have not been getting their Covid-19 incentives,” said M.A. Patil from the Maharashtra Rajya Asha Gatpravatak Karamchari Kruti Samiti.
“And yet doctors from private setups get lakhs for their services,” he added.
“These workers are risking their lives for such less honorarium amount. Also, we didn’t get the hiked payment of ₹2,000 from April 2021 onward. No one cares for the foot soldiers who are risking their lives amid the pandemic,” said Mr Patil.
ASHA is a part of India’s National Rural Health Mission which was launched in 2005 aimed at providing every village in the country with a trained female worker.
ASHAs serve as a link between their own community and the public health system. As community health activists, ASHAs provide prevention education on a range of health issues, including reproductive and sexual health, and healthy lifestyles to prevent diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.