More than 70,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) went on strike Tuesday seeking wage hike, better safety measures for Covid-19 surveys among other long-pending demands.
ASHAs have not only refused to report for Covid work but also decided to stop working on 72 other health programmes under the public health department till their demands are fulfilled.
Since a year, the ASHAs have been engaged in door-to-door surveys to look for symptomatic Covid cases, contact tracing and arrange for treatment of patients.
MA Patil, from Maharashtra Rajya ASHA Gatpravatak Karamchari Kruti Samiti, said he spoke with state health minister Rajesh Tope Tuesday.
“The minister has asked us to meet him Wednesday. Our strike will continue until all our demands are met,” Patil said.
One of the major demands of ASHAs is Rs 500 per day remuneration for working eight hours a day and for additional Covid work. “Currently, most hardly earn Rs 5,000 per month,” Patil said.
The state government said it is willing to negotiate the terms put forth by the female-dominated workforce.
ASHAs have also demanded more safety measures — personal protective equipment if they have to come in close contact with patients, masks, sanitisers, and a bed reservation in hospital for them and their family members if they contract Covid-19.
With the second wave largely impacting rural areas, ASHAs faced a dearth in bed availability for treatment. Their workload also increased with cases spiking in villages.
Maharashtra, so far, has recorded deaths of at least 17 ASHAs due to the pandemic.
Government’s neglect unfortunate: Fadnavis
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis has urged the state government to accord the highest priority to fulfil the demands of ASHAs. “At the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, these ASHAs have shown extraordinary courage to serve the people in rural areas. They are the foot soldiers reaching out to people in remote areas. It is the responsibility of the state government to look after them.
They should get higher remuneration and provided better working facilities,” Fadnavis said while calling the government’s “neglect” towards these health workers “unfortunate”. State BJP vice-president Madhav Bhandari said, “The government had promised Rs 500 per day incentive to ASHAs. It is shocking that when it came to keeping the promise the government backtracked.”