Striking ASHAs in Bihar Register Big Victory

The 31-day long indefinite strike of ASHA workers in Bihar ended on 12 August with an agreement with the state government for an increase in the monthly payment by Rs. 1500 per month and renaming the payment as Honorarium which so far was called as the ‘reward’ (Paritoshik).

Now ASHAs and ASHA Facilitators in Bihar will get a monthly of 2500 as honorarium which earlier was Rs. 1000 as paritoshik. Although even this increased amount is not enough for a respectable living and is criticised by the striking leaders, still this is a big victory. The dues pending from the times of Covid pandemic will also be paid by the government. The other demands of a nine-point charter will be resolved through bipartite discussions with the state government.

The ASHA Facilitators’ leader Vishwanath Singh termed this gain as victory but at the same he expressed his disappointment with the government for not giving the Rs. 10000 as honorarium which was the demand. ASHA leader Sudha Suman said that another important demand of pension and retirement benefits is being taken by the government for consideration as a matter of principle and this will be taken up in a future course.

Shashi Yadav, leader of ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch, termed the renaming of payments to Honorarium a big victory which boosted morale of ASHA workers. She said that the negotiations will continue for other demands like providing full uniform and other pending payments etc.

Nearly one lakh ASHA workers in Bihar went on an indefinite strike on 12 July for their long pending demands. These demands were also a part of the manifesto of the Mahagathbandhan but the latter kept evading from fulfilling till this strike. The agreement was reached after a couple of rounds of failed negotiations with the administration. Shashi Yadav, President of Bihar Rajya ASHA Karyakarta Sangh (Gope), Rambali Prasad, Honorary President of Employees’ Federation (Gope), Ranvijay Kumar, State Secretary AICCTU, and Vishwanath Singh, Mira Sinha and Sudha Suman respectively Joint General Secretary, President and General Secretary of ASHA and ASHA Facilitators union (CITU) took part in negotiations.

Rambali Prasad said that this is definitely an achievement for the ASHA workers in Bihar but the main challenge lies in Delhi and next step will be to build up the movement to force the Modi government for the recognition as government employees to ASHA workers in all the states. This is a most genuine demand which will end the exploitation of ASHA workers who are not even recognised as workers by the government. He also said that the incentive amounts being given for various types of works were decided in 2005 under the national health mission and those rates need to be revised and increased by at least 300% in view of the inflation after 17 years. It was also agreed in the negotiations that a proposal and recommendation letter by the health Minister of Bihar will be sent to the central government with these demands. Nearly one million ASHA workers in India are highly underpaid.

The cases lodged against ASHA workers during the strike will be withdrawn.