Updated: May 2, 2020 4:45:05 pm
The Bombay High Court Nagpur bench said that Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers are at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 and directed the Centre and state government to ensure the proposed payment of Rs. 200 per day as the current remuneration of Rs. 1,000 per month is ‘hardly sufficient’ for their survival.
On Thursday, a single-judge bench of Justice Manish Pitale heard through video conference various pleas, including an application by Employees Union of Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) which claimed that ASHA workers, who are at the forefront of the war against Covid-19, are in a pathetic condition and appropriate remuneration is not being paid to them and protection gears like PPE are not provided. The plea also claimed that refreshments, water and tea are not being provided to them regularly.
Advocate S M Puranik representing NMC told the court that apart from Rs. 1,000 per month, an extra Rs. 1,500 is being paid to ASHA workers and a proposal has been sent to the Centre for payment of Rs. 200 per day under Project Implementation Plan (PIP). The daily allowance will be paid as soon as funds are released by the Centre, Puranik said.
Moreover, Puranik told the court that NMC was suffering from a financial crisis and it was difficult to make further payments to the ASHA workers without Centre’s help.
Assistant Solicitor General Ulhas Aurangabadkar submitted that he will take instructions from the Centre regarding proposal of payment of Rs. 200 per day to the ASHA workers.
After hearing submissions, Justice Pitale noted in the order, “This court finds that the ASHA workers, who are at the forefront of the war against Covid-19 and who are performing special duties, including door-to-door survey of houses during such crisis, are being treated in a most unfortunate manner by the Corporation.”
The court said that even if an additional Rs. 1,500 is paid to them along with Rs 1,000 per month remuneration, ‘it is hardly sufficient for survival of such workers’.
Justice Pitale noted, “It is distressing that those at the forefront of the war against Covid-19 are meted out with such treatment by the public authorities including the Corporation.”
The court directed the Centre to immediately decide proposal moved by the NMC and said, “It is made clear that if the Centre fails to take any decision and if the NMC claims that it does not have financial capacity to make payment of Rs. 200 per day by next hearing, this court will consider passing a specific order directing payment of Rs. 200 per day from the date of proposal.”
Directing authorities to file response to the plea, the bench said, “The Central Government, State and NMC are expected to take necessary steps to ensure proposed payment so that such warriors on the forefront of the war against Covid-19 are not left high and dry.”
HC on whether Maharashtra Govt wants to adopt Kerala Model
Moreover, Justice Pitale sought reply from the Maharashtra government on whether it would be adopting strategies used by Kerala, which has managed to control the coronavirus outbreak. The court was dealing with pleas seeking the state to adopt Kerala model and update its strategy to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Government pleader S Y Deopujari said it will consider all suggestions while updating its strategy in the war against Covid-19. He said that the state is inspecting the situation on a daily basis and strategies are being devised and implemented with regular updates.
Justice Pitale appreciated state government’s efforts and noted, “The work done so far makes it evident that efforts are being made by the state authorities to deal with the alarming situation created by the Covid-19 crisis.”
Seeking response from the state government, the bench noted, “There is no doubt that in such a crisis, which is faced by humanity once in few centuries, authorities are required to take extreme measures. In such situation, it is all the more important for them to take into consideration suggestions given by citizens, voluntary organizations and authorities for improving the strategy of dealing with such a crisis.”
The court added, “Authorities are expected to constantly update their strategy for dealing with the COVID-2019 crisis and while on one hand the powers exercised by the Authorities in such crisis become all pervasive, the Authorities are also accountable to the citizens for dealing with such a crisis.”
The high court will hear pleas seeking relief during pandemic next on May 5.
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