Covid-19: 600k Asha, Anganwadi staff on 2-day strike over payments
Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers, who have been at the forefront in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, took to the streets on Friday demanding regularisation of their wages and payment of dues accrued over the last few months.
The workers, who went on a two-day strike from Friday, have been conducting door-to-door surveys and were enlisted by the Centre for the fight against the pandemic. They were also involved in the screening of the migrant labourers, who were forced to return to their homes after they were left jobless by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many of Bihar’s nearly 90,000 ASHA workers have been on a strike since August 6. Sarita Roy, 37, who has been staging a sit-in protest along with 30 other ASHA workers in Bihar’s Begusarai, said they have also not been provided proper personal protective equipment (PPE) kits. “We go to areas where there are hundreds of cases but have not even been provided with personal protective equipment kits,” said Roy, who has been an ASHA worker since 2007.
Roy said they have not been paid for the last four months. She added two of her fellow workers, Kiran and Sarita Devi, have tested Covid-19 positive and lost two others to the disease. “We are not provided with the equipment even as we carry out all immunization tasks and even document maternity rates.” She said they are paid just Rs 5,000 a month and that too they have not received for the last four months.
The ASHA workers have been credited with helping India eradicate polio and reducing the number of women dying during childbirth. They have been involved in ensuring maternal health and immunization in rural areas with limited medical facilities.
Jyoti Sahare, a 45-year-old Aanganwadi worker in Maharashtra, said that the government must provide safety equipment to them. “We have families too. If we contract the virus, they will be at direct risk,” she said. “We need protective equipment.”
HT reached out to the women and child development ministry, which oversees the Anganwadi programme, for comments but received no reply.
Jeet Kaur, 48, who has been ASHA worker in Punjab for 12 years, said people are not forthcoming when they go for door-to-door surveys. She added they have also been attacked. “We have been slapped, chased and abused,” said Kaur, who visits nearly 50 houses daily.
The Initiative of Health Equity and Society director Mira Shiva said the workers would not have needed to go on strike if they were given their due. “If ASHA workers, who are basically women, were given due remuneration for their work, measures for the protection and treated with dignity after their many appeals, they would not have needed to go on strike.”
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- Lon Varratu drive was launched in June 2020, and till now, 272 Maoists, including senior cadres, have surrendered in Dantewada district.