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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Paid a pittance, ASHAs forced to buy or borrow smartphones for Covid survey

But the problem with the plan is that most ASHA workers come from a poor family background and work with no fixed salary. Majority among them in the state do not have smartphones.

Written by Kamaldeep Singh Brar | Amritsar |
June 25, 2020 12:05:01 pm
Paid a pittance, ASHAs forced to buy or borrow smartphones for Covid survey But the problem with the plan is that most ASHA workers come from a poor family background and work with no fixed salary. (Representational)

ASHA worker Malkeet Kaur, from village Chauhan in Amritsar, has started using a smartphone for the first time recently. It’s a handset she has borrowed from her neighbour to complete a task assigned to her by the Punjab Health Department.

The assignment given by Department is to make list of high risk persons, who can then be given health services, in case a need arises and upload it on an app.

ASHAs are required to use an Android app to fill the entries online of high risk patients above age of 30.
Punjab CM had launched ‘House to House Surveillance’ app on mobile on June 15 to collect information about anyone above 30 years of age with symptoms of Covid-19, cough, TB, diabetes, BP, asthma.

An ASHA worker would get Rs 4 per person to update the information on the aap. Further, Rs 5000 per month will be given to each ASHA facilitator for monitoring and assistance of 20 Asha workers to work on this survey.

But the problem with the plan is that most ASHA workers come from a poor family background and work with no fixed salary. Majority among them in the state do not have smartphones.

A widow, Kuldeep Kaur, in village Tarsika has bought a new phone.

“It is my only job and I don’t want lose it. So I decided to buy a phone to complete the assignment. I had never used a mobile phone before in my life,” said Kuldeep Kaur.

Her namesake from Chinjalwaddi, has bought a used smart phone in Rs 3000 with a broken screen. “I knew nothing about smartphones. Someone offered me a used phone in Rs 3000 because its screen was broken. But now I am experiencing problems in using the touch function while making entries.”

Another ASHA, Veer Kaur, has taken loan from a relative to buy new phone. Many ASHA workers have been buying new phones on installments.

“Each ASHA worker can earn between Rs 5000 to 10,000 while working on this assignment. There are around 21,500 ASHA workers in Punjab and almost 15,000 of them don’t own a smartphone. They have been taking phones from their family members or neighbours. Some of them have also bought new phones to just meet the requirements of this aap,” said Parminder Kaur Mann, ASHA Facilitators and Union president, in Amritsar.

“I have bought new phone. Earlier, I had a simple phone. But I was told that it was must to have a smartphone. It is very difficult to use this new phone. The internet pack here also expensive,” said ASHA worker Harminder Kaur.
Mann said that ASHA workers have been forced to buy mobile phones with 4G SIMs by spending Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000 because now their job requires them to have smartphone. “We will not be able to earn enough from this assignment to compensate the spending on smartphone,” she said.

ASHAs allege that even having smartphone is not a big help because aap often crashes while uploading entries.

ASHA worker leader Gurinder Kaur has demanded that each ASHA should be paid Rs 12 per person for 4G mobile phone usage and government must solve the problems in mobile app.

There is another problem, they added. “During the paddy sowing season, it is difficult to find people at home as they remain at work for most part of the day. Also, border area ASHA workers have reported that mobile network is not good enough in border area villages to add the entries online,” said Parminder Kaur.

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