Four years after 40 accredited social health activists (ASHA workers) were appointed in three towns of this district, 20 are fired, and the officials who hired them are in trouble.
The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) authority that expelled the volunteers also wants their four years of salary and other allowances recovered from the Punjab health department officials who posted them.
SK Sharma, mission director of the NHRM, has ordered an inquiry into who hired the team and posted it in urban areas against rules. ASHA teams work only in rural areas.
In 2008, the officials concerned had also appointed 13 volunteers at Dharamkot and seven in Baghapurana. Some officials even ran a village health and sanitation committee in Moga city. All appointments will be under examination.
The volunteers hold appointment letters from Dr Manjit Singh, civil surgeon of Moga in 2008, handed in the presence of the-then deputy commissioner, Satwant Singh Johal, Satwinder Kaur, leader of the terminated workers, has said. "The district NHRM office fired the termination order of 20 workers," she said, "but the shunted group waits the higher authority to speak."
The dismissed workers plan to move the Punjab and Haryana high court. "For four years in the health department, we worked without break," said Satwinder Kaur. "We attended five training camps and cleared all formalities for the job. We will fight for our right."
The sacked employees on Thursday handed over a memorandum to deputy commissioner Arashdeep Singh. "Poor women of villages carry different diseases but health workers avoid their doors," said Phool Mittal, social activist and joint secretary of the Aggarwal Sabha. "It was a shame when someone in the health department appointed them in violation of rules. It needs a high level of inquiry."
"The ASHA workers were hired in a wrong way, because they can work only in rural areas," Dr Gulshan Rai, civil surgeon of Moga, said in reaction to a question. "All norms were ignored at the time of appointment. We are investigating the matter. A report will go to the state office of the NHRM."
The government money paid to the ASHA workers as allowance in the past four years will be recovered, Dr Rai has confirmed. "Either the government officials or the women hired can be asked to pay," he added. "The state office of the NHRM will decide."