Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 19:
Thousands of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers today took out a massive rally from Master Canteen Square here to Lower PMG and staged a demonstration in front of the Odisha Assembly protesting alleged neglect and apathy by the government.
“ASHA workers from every nook and corner of the state are present here today. They have been facing a number of issues since past 10 years even though their contribution in bringing down child mortality rate or maternal mortality rate is invaluable. They are not getting enough benefits to do justice to their job. The few benefits they used to get are being withdrawn these days,” said the convener of the Odisha ASHA Workers Union.
“We demand a monthly remuneration of Rs 15,000 a month and cycle repair fee of Rs 2000 a year instead of the existing Rs 200. We also demand mobile usage fee of Rs 300 a month,” said a protester.
“What we get is nothing when compared to what we do. The government doesn’t even consider us workers. We will fight for our rights. The government doesn’t listen to us and we have no better choice,” said another.
The ASHA workers are local women trained to act as health educators and promoters in their communities. The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), which started the project in 2005, describes them as health activists in the community who will create awareness on health and its social determinants and mobilize the community towards local health planning and increased utilization and accountability of existing health services.
Their tasks include motivating women to give birth in hospitals, bringing children to immunization clinics, encouraging family planning such as surgical sterilization, treating basic illness and injury with first aid, keeping demographic records, and improving village sanitation.
Although ASHAs are considered volunteers, they receive outcome-based remuneration and financial compensation for training days. For example, if an ASHA facilitates an institutional delivery, she receives Rs. 600 and the mother receives Rs. 1400. ASHAs also receive Rs. 150 for each child completing an immunization session and Rs. 150 for each individual who undergoes family planning.