FOLLOWING RESISTANCE from most of the accredited social health activists (ASHAs) against taking up additional responsibilities of anganwadi workers, who have been on an indefinite strike for 18 days, several district health officers (DHOs) have issued notices, warning ASHA workers of departmental inquiry if they fail to take charge of anganwadis in local villages. According to the information accessed by The Indian Express, notices were issued to ASHA workers in Sindhudurg, Kolhapur and Solapur on Thursday. In Solapur, a circular issued by the DHO had warned ASHA workers of action in the form of a departmental inquiry if they failed to take up the responsibilities of anganwadi workers.
Block and taluka health officers have been asked to supervise ASHAs’ work.
Netradeepa Patil, an ASHA block facilitator in Kolhapur, said, “The state government has failed to recognise us as permanent employees. Our incentives come with a delay of three months. Why should an already over-burdened ASHA take up additional responsibility? The anganwadi workers are right to protest.”
On Wednesday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray uhad rged anganwadi workers to continue the strike, saying it is “now or never”.
He said, “The government is trying to break your unity to end the strike. But the anganwadi workers and ASHA workers are sisters and should not allow such division. We should maintain the unity for our demands.”
In a circular dated September 12, the Directorate of Health Services had asked all DHOs to appoint ASHAs for monitoring nutrition of pregnant and lactating mothers, and children aged less than six years.
ASHAs were also instructed to take aid of gram sevaks in identifying beneficiaries under various women and child development schemes.
An ASHA worker conducts family planning exercises, immunisation of children, aids in delivery, holds camps in rural areas and does routine screening for various diseases in exchange of incentives.
Jyoti Hekale, ASHA in Aurangabad, said, “We have no training on what an anganwadi worker does. How can we suddenly do so much work?”
As many as 2,06,000 anganwadi workers have been on strike, demanding hike in honorarium. Their role involves providing nutrition to children aged less than six years, along with pregnant and lactating mothers. They also refer malnourished children for medical treatment.
In Nandurbar and some parts of Jalgaon, the anganwadi workers had ended the strike last week.
In parts of Gondia, Bhandara and Washim, a few ASHA workers had given into the state’s demand and started monitoring anganwadi in two to three villages.
Shubha Shamim, secretary of Maharashtra State Anganwadi Workers’ Action Committee, said, “In areas where their association is weak, district health officials have succeeded in convincing them to take the additional charge.”
As per the DHO’s circular, an ASHA will be paid at par with what an anganwadi worker gets for taking up the additional work.