As many as 190 accredited social health activists (Asha workers), deployed in urban areas under the National Health Mission (NHM), are waiting for incentives since they joined work in February 2015.
Ash a workers, the foot soldiers behind the success of the mission in urban and rural areas, are being forced to run from pillar to post in the local civil surgeon’s office to get their stipends running into lakhs.
Information gathered from the district health department reveals that a total of 330 Asha workers were appointed in the NHM for urban areas. They were attached to 22 dispensaries and three primary health centres (PHCs) including Adampur, Kartarpur, and Jamsher.
As per the letter issued by the NHM director to them, they were to be given incentives for 42 types of works, including streamlining delivery cases in nearby hospitals, registration of pregnant women, duties at polio booths, follow up of delivery cases, preparation of birth certificates and other important works.
Seeking anonymity, an Asha worker said they had been facing hardships due to non-disbursement of stipends by the department for the last one year as most of them belonged to poor background and depended only on their jobs. She said that some of them were widows and only breadwinner of their families.
Another worker explained that due to unprecedented delay in their payments, they were borrowing money from moneylenders or from relatives to make both ends meet.
“We are not only workers but activists who create awareness about health programmes being run by the government and promote healthy practices among people,” added an Asha worker deputed in a dispensary.
She said the government was spending money on the construction of hospitals, buildings, and purchasing machinery but they had forgotten about incentives to be given to Asha workers.
The health department recently purchased SIM cards for all Asha workers for better promotion of health services while dues of workers remain pending.
An official said they had received the budget for all 330 workers while dues had been transferred into the accounts of 140 workers.
He added, “The payments got delayed due to non-availability of bank account numbers of workers, hectic process of inspecting the incentive forms and shortage of staff. The dues would be disbursed to the remaining 190 Asha workers within one week.”
When contacted, managing director of National Rural Health Mission, Hussan Lal, said, “There is no shortage of funds with the health department. I will inquire about the case of pending dues. A delay could have happened because of many reasons and the matter will be sorted out.”