June 15, 2021 1:12:22 am
MORE THAN 72,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) will go on strike across Maharashtra on Tuesday to demand better pay for Covid-19 work. The ASHAs have refused to continue with Covid work unless their monetary incentive is increased.
ASHA workers form the bulwark of the healthcare system in rural areas, servicing at least 72 health programmes. For a year, they have been conducting surveys to screen symptomatic Covid cases. “We are paid little and we work eight hours a day. Government is paying Rs 33 per day for Covid surveys,” said Nashik-based ASHA worker Maya Bholap.
Apart from Covid-related work, their duties include prenatal and postnatal care, immunisation drives for children, population-based screening for disease surveillance among others.
Vinod Zodge from All India Trade Union Congress said they had demanded Rs 500 per day for Covid work. The entire workforce will go on a day’s strike on Tuesday and has decided to stop doing Covid duty from now.
Last month, the state government asked ASHAs to conduct RT-PCR and rapid antigen testing. After strong opposition from ASHAs, who said they neither knew the technical skill nor had personal protective equipment (PPE), the state government withdrew the directive. Multipurpose health workers and auxiliary nurse midwives have now been tasked to conduct Covid tests.
ASHA workers said their regular health programmes took eight hours every day, and that the additional Covid work took up more time. “We are not provided PPE, sanitisers were given last year. We need more safety measures,” Bholap said.
The ASHA workforce has demanded that beds must be reserved for them and their families if they contract Covid-19 and need hospitalisation. Unions have also demanded free treatment.
Across Maharashtra, at least 570 ASHA workers have been infected with Covid-19. M A Patil from Maharashtra Rajya ASHA Gatpravatak Karamchari Kruti Samiti said the demands by ASHAs had been pending for a long time. “We understand how important their job is and they want to help villages fight Covid-19. But they are overworked and underpaid,” Patil said.
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