Report by Mazdoor Ekta Committee correspondent
Since 8 August 2023, ASHA workers of Haryana have been on strike demanding minimum wage. The ASHA Workers union is leading this struggle.
The agitating ASHA workers are organising morchas, taking out demonstrations, holding dharnas, at district headquarters, tehsils and cities all over Haryana. They have submitted a memorandum of their demands to the Chief Minister, other ministers and MLAs.
There has been no increase in the honorarium for ASHA workers since 2018. In the meantime, prices of all essentials have more than doubled and their workload has increased three times over. Besides this, the government is imposing new tasks on ASHA workers each day to be carried out online. No health facilities are provided for these ASHA workers in health centers and district hospitals. It is for these reasons that around 20,000 ASHA workers are on strike.
Different employee organisations of Haryana including the Crèche Workers Union, Building Construction Workers Union, MNREGA Workers Union, Forest Workers Union, Rural Cleaners Union, Kiln Workers Union and Mid-day Meal Workers Union, and others have wholeheartedly supported the struggles of ASHA workers.
The main demand of the ASHA workers are that they be given the status of government employees and a minimum monthly salary of INR 26,000.
In order to defame the ongoing agitation for the legitimate demands of the ASHA workers, the Health Minister of Haryana made a statement that the ASHA workers of Haryana are already being given the highest allowance in the country. In response, ASHA workers have pointed out that their colleagues in Puducherry, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal are receiving higher wages that are guaranteed.
There are approximately 7,000 villages, colonies and towns in Haryana, in which 20,350 ASHA workers carry out their work. There is one ASHA worker for a population of 1,000. ASHA workers are appointed under the National Health Mission.
ASHA workers are given many responsibilities which include having to administer vaccinations. They help Anganwadi workers to register women and children for ante-natal and post-natal care. Further, the ASHA worker has to refer and take people to the primary health care centre/sub-centre. She also has to assist the Anganwadi workers in the nutrition programs for young girls, distribute contraceptives, prepare women for childbirth and motivate and take them to hospitals (for institutional delivery), provide information on breastfeeding and explain and advocate the correct nutrition and foods to be given to infants. On top of all these responsibilities she has to ensure the registration of all births and deaths in the village.
ASHA workers are expected to fulfil all these responsibilities. But the government is not ready to recognize the ASHA workers as government workers. The government is not even ready to provide assured minimum wages to ASHA workers. Despite so many problems, ASHA workers are still being forced to work for an honorarium of Rs.6000-10,000 per month in many parts of the country. This is the reason why other scheme workers, including ASHA workers in different states of the country, have been fighting since a long time for recognition as government workers.
The ASHA Workers Union has extended their strike till 11th September. Agitating ASHA workers are going to hold a conference in Rohtak on 10th September, where they will review their current campaign and strategize on further steps to be taken. They have invited Sarpanchs, Panchs, representatives of Zila Parishad and Block Committees, to come forward in support of their strike.