ASHA workers protest UP

Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow has witnessed continuous protests in recent months--Kisan Panchayat on 22 November, workers' protest for repeal of 4 labour codes, midday meal workers' protests, protest for reinstatement of old pension scheme--and on 13 December ASHA workers gathered in large numbers for their demands. Uttar Pradesh ASHA Workers Union affiliated to AICCTU led the protest and submitted a memorandum with the following demands to the UP Chief Minister: government employee status for ASHAs; Rs 21000 monthly salary; Rs 10 lakhs health insurance; Rs 50 lakhs life insurance; maternity and medical leave.

Addressing the dharna, National Convener of scheme workers Shashi Yadav said that ASHA workers work under various names across the country and are paid varying amounts, which is a flagrant violation of labour laws. ASHAs put their lives on the line and battled against Covid but the government still does not heed their just demands. The Yogi government notorious for fake encounters tried to kill ASHA leader Poonam Pandey in Shahjahanpur. Comrade Shashi Yadav called on ASHAs to teach a befitting lesson to the Yogi government in the forthcoming election.

The dharna was also addressed by AICCTU General Secretary Rajiv Dimri, ASGA Union state convener Sarojini Bisht, ASHA leader Amarjeet Kaur and other leaders. The proceedings were conducted by Anita Mishra and Afroz Alam.

For years, ASHA workers with their hard work and skills have taken every risk to strengthen the foundations of public health and have made India proud on the world stage by controlling the maternal-infant mortality rate in the country. They have put their lives on the line in the control of infectious diseases and have contributed to the defeat of a horrific pandemic like Covid-19 in the country by fighting it from the front even though they were not provided with equipments as ordinary as safety kits. The success in vaccination for which the government is patting itself on the back is due in a large measure to the contribution of ASHAs. But nobody looks to their rights or needs. They are being made to work night and day at a shamefully meagre honorarium and degrading work situations but the governments remain silent on their issues. The ASHAs have now taken the path of struggle to secure their basic rights to make the government listen to their voice.

The demands included:

1. Government employee status for all ASHA workers.

2. Rs 21000 monthly salary for ASHAs.

3. Paid maternity leave and medical leave for ASHAs.

4. Immediate payment of all arrears including Corona allowance, vaccination, Covid survey and other work.

5. Constitute District level Gender Cells against sexual harassment at the workplace.

6. Curb mistreatment of ASHAs at all levels from dispensaries to hospitals.

7. Arrange common rooms for ASHAs at all dispensaries where they can take rest.

8. Fix working hours for ASHAs; stop burdening them with additional work that is not part of their duty.

9. Free medical facilities for families of ASHAS; guarantee Rs 10 lakh health insurance for ASHAs.

10. Ensure Rs 50 lakh life insurance for ASHA workers, who are frontline warriors in the battle against pandemics like Covid.

The dharna was joined by a large number of ASHA workers from across various districts of UP along with many organisations who sent their representatives in solidarity.