Accuses Government for utterly neglecting them
Srinagar,June 25: While maintaining the physical distancing norms and observing health advisories, ASHA Workers Union Kashmir Thursday held protests in several districts of Jammu & Kashmir as part of a nation-wide call for demands day demanding Health Care for All and Safety for Health Care Workers. The protesters were wearing protective masks, carrying play-cards and shouting slogans in favour of their demands.
While terming ASHA workers role, who essentially act as backbone of the health structure in rural areas, as indispensable, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami Thursday accused the Government for utterly neglecting them.
These women warriors are fighting Covid-19 at the frontline but have been left without hope by the Government. In the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic these Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) are engaged in tasks such as conducting health surveys of every household in the areas assigned to them, besides routine vaccinations and health-related works.
These workers act as a bridge between the government and people due to a human resource shortage in the health system and are working in these challenging times. Due to the dynamics associated with their job, they are playing multiple roles – of health care facilitators, health activists and service providers – putting their lives at risk.
In stark contrast to the risks associated in their job, ASHA workers are being paid a paltry remuneration of Rs 1000 per month for coronavirus related work. These workers have to deal with an increased workload, where instead of working 2-3 hour per day, they were now spending 4-5 hours in the field. Apart from spreading awareness about the coronavirus and conducting related surveys, the work included visiting houses, looking for Covid cases and keeping track of immunisation, family planning, nutrition etc.
Since they are the ones entrusted with conducting community surveillance, it would not be wrong to presume that due to fear, mistrust and poor communication during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the mobile nature of the work, ASHA workers face increased resistance from communities.
ASHAs work in rough terrains of rural areas tirelessly and selflessly, despite all the difficulties they are confronted with. But the Government has totally neglected the women working as ASHAs, although it had started the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) with much fanfare.
The Government must provide safety gear for all frontline workers, especially those in the health sector; PPEs for those who are engaged in containment areas and red/containment zones. There is an urgent need for frequent, random and free Covid-19 tests of all frontline workers besides Rs fifty lakh insurance cover to those covering deaths while on duty and coverage of treatment for Covid-19 for the entire family.
An additional incentive of Rs.25,000 per month must be given for all the contract and scheme workers engaged in Covid -19 duty and compensation of minimum Rs five lakhs for all those who got infected while on duty.
The Government must withdraw proposals for privatization of public health infrastructure and services, enact legislation for right to universal healthcare, make NHM a permanent health programme for the government, with universal application and adequate financial allocation and recognise ASHA workers and all NHM workers as permanent workers, pay minimum wages and ensure social security and pension as per recommendations of the 45th and 46th ILC.