On strike since August, ASHA workers stopped en route to CM’s house

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ASHA workers during a protest near in New Delhi's Civil Lines on Friday.

ASHA workers during a protest near in New Delhi’s Civil Lines on Friday. , Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Hundreds of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers, who have been on an indefinite strike since August 28 over adverse working conditions, were on Friday stopped by the police on their way to hold a protest near Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence.

The women — who receive incentive-based remuneration for their volunteer work — have been demanding a fixed minimum wage, as well as social security and basic benefits. The ASHA workers said they are being overworked and getting no respect or returns in their job.

The protesters announced they will stage a demonstration outside Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj’s residence on September 19. Asked about the ASHA workers’ demands and allegations, no response was issued by the Delhi government.

Following the workers’ protests at Jantar Mantar in August 2020, the government had promised them ₹3,000 per month as fixed income.

However, Geeta, 48, an ASHA worker since 2016, said they get the fixed income only after completing 12 tasks related to their volunteer duties each month. “If we don’t complete these tasks, we get only ₹500.”

“We may be able to make ₹7,000-8000 through incentives. But that is not enough sustain a household, considering the skyrocketing prices of groceries,” said Pushpa Devi, 45, an ASHA worker since 2008.

“We work for 24 hours for the benefit of people but there is nobody for us, no government listens to us, no one cares about our lives,” she added.

Some protesters told NEInfo that each worker assists at least 100 women each year and conducts surveys of over 400 houses individually in the span of 10-15 days.

“We have no fixed timings for our duties. We can be called at any time in the day when needed. I have reported for duty even at 2 am because women across the city need us, but the authorities do not care,” said Kavita, 44, another ASHA worker.

Sonu, president of the ASHA workers’ union, said, “On July 19, we had given a letter to Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj. We sent notices to the Lieutenant-Governor, Chief Minister and other officials, but received no response from anyone through the months, which forced us to protest.”

“We have five important demands from the Government, including giving us official posts and a fixed salary, fixing a retirement age with a fixed pension, health benefits and constituting a committee with ASHA representatives,” she added.

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