Patna: Since 1st of December 2018, ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers in Bihar are on indefinite strike. This strike has entered 34th day under the banner of ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch- a joint platform of unions and associations.
The Executive Director of the State Health Society, Bihar in a letter to all district magistrates ordered to keep surveillance on protests of ASHA workers so that the vaccination, ambulance service and OPD facilities of Primary Health Center (PHC) are not hindered.
Total 12 demands have been put forward by ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch some of them are as follows:
- Government employee status for ASHA workers;
- Minimum Rs. 18,000 monthly honorarium;
- 50 per cent reservation in nursing schools for eligible ASHA workers;
- After training ASHA workers to be given exemption in age limit and appointed as ANMs;
- 50 per cent BCM (Block Community Coordinators) posts for eligible ASHA facilitators;
- ASHA workers should get the benefit of all high-level committee recommendations including work terms and conditions and honorarium;
- ESI (Employees’ State Insurance), EPF (Employees Provident Fund) and social security for all ASHA workers.
“The order from ED of Bihar Health Society is draconian. At present, ASHA workers are undertaking a hunger strike at PHCs statewide till 7th January. On 8th January in every district, we will protest in front of the District Magistrate office. In name of women empowerment, the government is misleading us. On 9th January we will participate in the nationwide general strike of workers. In 17 states, the state government is paying an honorarium to them but only Bihar government is reluctant in doing so.” said Shashi Yadav, Bihar state president of ASHA Workers Union while exclusively talking to Newsd.
Further, she posed a question- Without giving minimum wage, how does the government think to empower women (AHSA workers)? According to reports, four ASHA workers have lost their lives- two died out of cold and two in an accident.
On the 27th day of the strike, there was a statewide rail blockade by ASHA workers. Railway movement in Darbhanga, Bhojpur, Muzaffarpur, Patna were disrupted for short span of time.
It should be mentioned here that barring a few states, the ASHA workers do not get fixed salaries, but incentives for every job they do. And it ranges from Rs 15 to Rs 1,000. There are 43 activities they are supposed to engage in depending upon the need of the concerned area. They are supposed to get a combined sum of these incentives at the end of every month.
There are 93,687 ASHA workers in Bihar who were recruited in rural areas with a purpose to counter against increasing Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR).
However, as per the Modi government’s definition, Anganwadi and ASHA workers are not ‘workers’ but only ‘volunteers’, who do not receive any ‘wage’ but only an ‘honorarium’! So the principle of the minimum wage would not apply to these scheme workers. Instead of paying heed to demands of workers, Bihar government is downplaying their plight by keeping surveillance on their protest.