ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Current Situation of ASHA Workers

Permanently Temporary

Despite their stellar role during the COVID-19 pandemic, ASHA workers face neglect and discrimination by a callous government that draws upon the free labour of women. It is therefore not surprising that the ASHA workers’ unions are today one of the most militant organisations of women and form a substantial part of the trade union movement in the country.

It is indeed ironical that as the country is being engulfed in the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the most important sections of health workers who have been at the forefront of the battle against the virus remain as vulnerable and neglected as they were at the beginning of the pandemic two years ago. Over 10 lakh rural and urban “ASHA” (accredited social health activists) workers whose role in the pandemic has been acknowledged from all quarters, locally and internationally, continue to be sidelined. Their demand for the recognition of their work in their role as community health workers is deliberately pushed aside by a state system that appears to be thriving on the free labour of women workers, be it in the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the Midday Meal Scheme or the National Health Mission. It is therefore not surprising that ASHA workers are now on a warpath, continuously organising several protest programmes in different states even as the pandemic rages around them, because they continue to face an indifferent administration and a callous government that does not care to remunerate them properly for their labour.

The pandemic is far from over, and nobody can hazard a guess about when it will eventually phase out. The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005 continue to be in operation and are being invoked to justify all kinds of government decisions as well as restrict public behaviour. Yet, in September 2021, the government in all its wisdom chose to withdraw the meagre COVID-19 risk allowance of `1,000 that was announced as a compensation for ASHA workers.1 It was restored, albeit for another six months (up to March 2022) only when they protested about it on Human Rights Day on 10 December 2021.2

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Updated On : 26th Feb, 2022
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