Asha workers fight on 2 fronts: Against Covid-19, for better pay

They put in long hours while conducting door-to-door surveys, screening patients in home isolation or at testing centres but are paid just Rs 4,000 per month as basic salary.
Asha workers speak to a resident during a door-to-door survey at JJ colony in Patparganj.(Raj K Raj/HT)
Asha workers speak to a resident during a door-to-door survey at JJ colony in Patparganj.(Raj K Raj/HT)
Updated on Jun 28, 2020 08:48 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRisha Chitlangia

At the forefront of the war against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Accredited Social Health Activist (Asha) workers in Delhi are fighting another battle on their own -- their right to seek better remuneration.

They put in long hours while conducting door-to-door surveys, screening patients in home isolation or at testing centres but are paid just Rs 4,000 per month as basic salary.

The Delhi Asha Workers’ Association (DAWA) has given several representations to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and health minister Satyendar Jain, requesting that the workers be paid Rs 10,000 per month during the pandemic.

Teams of Asha workers and Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANMs) have been deployed in various parts of the city to screen the entire population to map the spread of Covid-19, as part of the survey ordered by the Centre last week. The survey will be completed by July 6.

Also read | Sero survey in Delhi begins to map exposure to coronavirus

“We are at the forefront of the battle against Covid-19, but our pay is not proportional to the work we do. The government had given Rs 5,000 to construction workers and auto drivers during the lockdown. And we are paid just Rs 4,000, including Rs 1,000 for Covid duty. The government should think about us too,” said Usha Thakur, the general secretary of DAWA, who is working in Najafgarh as part of the team that screens Covid-19 patients to check if they can isolate themselves at home.

According to an order issued on April 13 by the Delhi State Health Mission, the workers are to receive get Rs 3,000 as core incentive along with Rs 1,000 for Covid-19 duty from April to June as announced by the Centre.

“I’m the only earning member in my family, as my husband lost his job in February. As part of Covid-19 duty, we have to cover 50 or more houses daily for the survey. We are on duty all the time. Sometimes I get a call at night to locate a Covid-19 positive patient. After putting in long hours, all we get is Rs 4,000, including Rs 1,000 for Covid-19 duty,” said Rajan Bidhuri, who is deployed in Tughlaqabad village.

To make ends meet, Bidhuri works extra hours taking pregnant women for check-ups and children before five for immunisation to the dispensary to earn the extra incentive. “I earned Rs 5,000 as an incentive, besides the Rs 4,000, in April. I’m yet to get my salary for May,” Bidhuri said.

But not everyone can do other work to earn the incentive, as they are posted at testing centres or are given other Covid-19 duties.

Also read | Govt using five weapons against Covid-19, says Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Priti (36), who goes by her first name, said that she got just Rs 2,320 for April. “I have been on Covid-19 duty since April. But I didn’t even get Rs 4,000 (the amount assured by the government). It is difficult for us to do our other routine jobs along with Covid-19 duty. Moreover, a lot of migrant workers have gone back to their villages due to which there aren’t enough people, especially pregnant women and children, whom we can take to the dispensary for routine check-ups,” said Priti, who is currently posted at a testing centre in Vasant Vihar.

Kavita Yadav, the state coordinator for Asha workers, All India United Traders Union Centre, said they have a list of 100-plus Asha workers who tested positive for Covid-19. The first Asha worker tested positive for Covid-19 in April.

“They are risking their lives like all other essential service providers. Then why this disparity? Due to Covid-19, a majority of them are unable to do their regular work and are losing out on incentives. The order passed by the Delhi government regarding payment of core incentive is not being implemented at all the dispensaries. We request the government to look into our demand and ensure timely payment of salaries,” said Yadav.

The Delhi government didn’t respond for comment despite repeated requests.

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Friday, December 03, 2021