ASHA Workers Hold Massive Protest

Thousands of ASHAs and ASHA Facilitators held a militant protest in Patna on 21 March to reiterate their demand of 21000 Rs. honorarium and other demands. ASHAs have given an ultimatum to the government for a state wide strike in the month of April if their demands are not met. The Nitish government has scheduled a meeting with them on 23 March for discussion on their charter. 

The demonstration was addressed by CPIML central committee member and AICCTU leader Shashi Yadav. CPIML MLAs Satyadev Ram, Mahboob Alam and Mahanand Singh also addressed the ASHA workers. 

The ASHAs form the backbone of rural health infrastructure, whose role and importance during the Covid crisis was hailed by the WHO. Ironically, they are not even being recognised as ‘workers’ and made deprived of all rights of workers and employees. The ASHA union has also been demanding their recognition as workers and appropriate remuneration. They are forced to work as ‘activists’ and be paid a meagre amount as the ‘reward’. This design has been rejected by all workers’ unions in the country but the governments continue to exploit their toil for almost free of cost! ASHA leaders condemned the Modi government for not even mentioning them in the current budget despite long pending demands. They also criticised the Nitish government for not implementing the Agreement made with them earlier. Shashi Yadav said that the Bihar government has not taken any step in this direction hence this protest was held as a reminder. Further action will have to be more intense if demands are not met soon, because ASHA workers are becoming restless and angry for their continuous neglect. They said Dy. CM Tejaswi Yadav also looks after Health portfolio but he has not taken any step to fulfil the promises he himself had made with ASHA workers and their Union. 

The protest was held under the banners of Bihar Karmachari Mahasangh (Gope) and Bihar Rajya ASHA Karyakarta Sangh and led by Shashi Yadav, Vidyapati Pandey, Kavita Kumari, Sunaina, Shabnam, and many others. Their main demands include 21000 monthly honorarium in place of 1000 being awarded to them; they be declared as the regular employees of the government under the health department; to provide pension and other retirement benefits, and to settle all pending dues pending since the time of the pandemic. 

CPIML MLAs in Bihar have also raised these issues inside the Assembly and demanded immediate steps to be taken up. Interestingly, Bihar ASHAs get only Rs. 1000 as honorarium while it is much higher in many other states including Kerala, Tripura, AP, Karnataka, Telangana, Rajasthan and West Bengal!