The Union Health Ministry on Friday praised Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers in their role in fighting COVID-19 in Karnataka, as the frontline health workers complained of inadequate safety equipment and delayed honorarium, and said they will stage a protest from July 10 against the difficulties faced by them.
Praising ASHA workers, the Union health ministry said they have been actively participating in the COVID-19 household surveys in Karnataka and screening inter-state passengers, migrant workers, and others in the community for symptoms of COVID-19.
In a statement, the ministry said, “Recognizing the increased vulnerability of certain population groups to COVID-19, in a one-time survey to identify households with the elderly, persons with co-morbidities, and immune-compromised individuals, about 1.59 crore households were covered.”
ASHAs regularly monitor such high-risk groups in their area with periodicity of follow-up visits varying from once a day in the containment zones to once every 15 days in other areas, it said.
Around 42,000 ASHA workers have emerged as a crucial pillar in the state’s success in combating COVID-19, the ministry added.
According to ministry, ASHA workers are part of the Rural Task Force headed by Panchayat Development Officer (PDO) at the Gram Panchayat level for addressing public grievances on both COVID-19 and non COVID-19 related services.
ASHA Workers’ Association highlights difficulties faced by them
ASHA workers in Karnataka are working for the past five months combating COVID-19 in the state but said they were still waiting for safety equipment and the honorarium of Rs.1,000 that has been promised to them by the government.
Karnataka State Samyukta ASHA Workers’ Association welcomed the praise by the Union Government but said they are not happy with how workers on the field are treated. Nagalakshmi D, Secretary of Karnataka State Samyukta ASHA Workers’ Association, highlighted the difficulties faced by the ASHA workers.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Nagalakshmi said the government has not provided enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit, mask, sanitisers, and any other protection. From the past five months, we are working day and night, the central government has announced a fixed honorarium of Rs.1,000 for ASHAs performing COVID-related duties, which we have not received.”
Two ASHA workers have lost their lives in the state fighting the pandemic and many have been infected with the virus. Speaking to Indianexpress.com, K. Somashekhar Yadagiri, State President of Karnataka State Samyukta ASHA Workers’ Association, “Many ASHA workers have been infected with COVID-19 as they are frontline workers and visiting various places to conduct surveys without safety equipment. One ASHA worker from Kalaburagi and one from Yadgir district died of coronavirus infection.”
Karnataka ASHA workers to go on indefinite protest from July 10
Meanwhile, the ASHA workers in Karnataka have decided to go on an indefinite protest from July 10. The ASHA workers association has submitted ten memorandums to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and Health Minister B Sriramulu demanding better wages and safety kits while working to combat COVID-19.
K. Somashekhar Yadagiri said, “We have submitted ten memorandums to CM Yediyurappa and the health minister but till now we have not received any reply from the government. We have decided to protest from July 10 stopping all the work.”
The demand includes honorarium to be increased to Rs. 12,000, provide safety equipment while working and test all the ASHA workers for COVID-19 and treat the positive ASHA workers.
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