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‘She’d say to me – padh likh kar kuch ban jao, I’m here for everything else’

Employed as an ASHA worker at Vasudevpura, her native village in Kalka, for the past several years, Kiran sustained her family of five on a meager amount of Rs 4,000.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Panchkula |
June 4, 2021 3:17:01 am
ASHA worker Kiran Singh was the sole breadwinner after her husband lost his job to Covid. (Express)

Among several healthcare workers in the district who contracted Covid-19, was ASHA worker Kiran Singh (42) who succumbed to the infection on May 9, two days after testing positive.

Her sudden death has been devastating for her family who was financially dependent on her. Employed as an ASHA worker at Vasudevpura, her native village in Kalka, for the past several years, Kiran sustained her family of five on a meager amount of Rs 4,000.

“My father was rendered jobless last year when the pandemic struck. I wanted my mother to stop working as it required her to talk directly to infected people without any protective gear, but we had no money. We sustained only on her salary and a small pension my grandmother gets for my grandfather’s retirement from the army,” said Simran (20), who is currently pursuing graduation from Kalka College.

Accredited Social Health Activists have been working to identify cases at the root while conducting door-to-door surveys and keeping tabs on infection spread in containment zones. Acting as an extension of healthcare facilities, ASHA workers have been at the receiving end of an insufficient infrastructure. As many as 305 such workers in Panchkula have been working incessantly in the face of a raging pandemic sans any incentive, healthcare insurance, protective gear and with salaries far less than that of a daily wager.

“She had been conducting surveys since last year in Vasudevpura. She conducted three surveys in April itself and was starting on another in May when she developed Covid symptoms,” recounted Simran.

On May 4, Simran noticed her mother coughing. By May 7, Kiran had breathlessness and underwent a RAT at a PHC, which declared her positive. “Our world came crashing down. There was high probability of it happening, but it was still a shock. We still had hope,” said Simran, adding, “She was referred to civil hospital, where she got a bed and oxygen on priority, but what could have been done when fate itself wasn’t on her side.”

Later everyone in the family, except Simran, also tested positive for the virus. “I guess I was spared to carry out her cremation,” she said.

In April 2020, the Haryana government had announced that it would double the salary of all healthcare officials and workers tackling the Covid-19 outbreak in the state. However ASHA workers were left out.

“We do not know if there is any healthcare policy for ASHA workers or any kind of monetary help. We have not even received her salary for the past month since all systems were taken online, but due to some mistake her salary was credited into a wrong bank account,” said Simran.

Left with her no option, Simran said she will now have to take up a job to support her family. “My father is jobless and sick. My brother is still in school, it is only I who might be able to get some work. Even when mumma was the only one working, I would often suggest that I should start working to support her but she always refused. She would say padh likh kar kuch ban jao, I am here for everything else…but she is not here anymore,” sobbed Simran.

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