ASHA workers in Haryana received some relief with the announcement of an increase of Rs 2,100 in their monthly stipend after a sustained struggle of over two months. This increase takes their monthly income to Rs 6,100. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar approved the increase during a meeting with ASHA representatives on 19th October and promised that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare would send letters to ASHA workers regarding the increase. He also announced a retirement benefit of Rs 2 lakh for ASHA workers.
Around 20,000 ASHA workers had been on strike since 8th August across Haryana to press for their long-standing demands, including a minimum monthly salary of ₹26,000, government employee status, health benefits as well as retirement and social security benefits. During this more than 70-day period, they have organised agitations outside different district headquarters, candle marches, as well as door-to-door campaigns to press for their demands. In the course of this militant struggle they have militantly faced brutal attacks by the police during their demonstration in front of the state legislature in Chandigarh, detention and inhuman harassment of their leaders.
On Tuesday, 17th October, the union had given a call for a 24 hours dharna outside the residences of Haryana Ministers on the next day, to protest the State government’s failure to address their long-standing demands. The ASHA workers had already announced a further extension of their strike till 20th October in the event of the Chief Minister breaking his promise to meet with them.
ASHA workers are one of the mainstays of the public health system. They carry out multi-tasks in acting as a bridge connecting communities with facilities such as primary health centres, sub-centres and district hospitals for services relating to pre-natal and ante-natal care, immunisation, nutrition, etc. They are called upon any time of day or night to attend to emergency situations of pregnant women. They played a stellar role during the COVID pandemic, exposing themselves to infection even as they were called upon to attend to their duties. Despite all this, there has been no increase in the allowance of Asha workers in the state for the past five years while their work has increased manifold times.
The increment that has been announced falls far short of the minimum wages of ₹26,000 justly demanded by the ASHA workers. They deserve to be appointed as permanent state government staff and not treated as “volunteers” with payment of an incentive, as they are mandated to carry out their duties regularly. Experience shows that their services are invaluable to the community and necessary for implementation of the many government programs instituted by the state and central governments.