ASHA Workers’ Strike in Bihar

Bihar ASHAs completed four weeks of their indefinite strike on 9 August with the resolve to carry on their struggle till the demands are met by the Mahagathbandhan government in the state. On 3 August a rally was organised in Patna participated by tens of thousands of ASHAs from all over the state to press for their nine-point charter of demands.

The rally ‘Mahajutan’ (huge gathering) organised by ASHA Sanyukt Sangharsh Manch followed by two failed rounds of talks with the government. This was also addressed by leaders of left parties and many MLAs Mahboob Alam, Satyadev Ram, Gopal Ravidas, Rambali Singh Yadav, Amarjit Kushwaha of CPIML and Ajay Kumar and Satyendra Yadav of CPIM. AIPWA general secretary Mina Tiwari, Saroj Chaube, ASHA leaders Shashi Yadav, Malati Devi, Sunita Bharati, Chandrakala and ASHA Facilitator Sangh leader Vishwanath Singh also addressed the rally.

ASHAs assembled in large numbers expressed anguish over the government’s denial of giving them even minimum acceptable honorarium which was a promise made in the Mahagathbandhan manifesto. Shashi Yadav reminded Tejaswi Yadav who has the Health portfolio of his promise of giving honorarium in place of ‘reward’ and increasing the amount of the same. She asked the Dy CM to honour his promise.

The Bihar government has denied pension benefits to ASHAs while this is being provided in many other states.

The ASHA workers in states like Kerala, Karnataka, AP, MP, Odisha and  Rajasthan get much better monetary benefits, but not in Bihar.

ASHA Facilitator leader Vishwanath Singh said that despite state repression being faced by striking workers the strike has been very peaceful and disciplined. The ASHAs are braving extreme heat and many fell ill, this is quite unfortunate on the part of Bihar government that the latter is not even willing to listen to the genuine woes of its people. The government owes the pending wages amount for 18 months but it is saying that only one month’s pending amount will be paid. The government is not ready to talk about more important demands but we are determined and won’t be misled by the administrative propaganda and threats.

The MLAs and other leaders present expressed solidarity with the struggle and promised to raise the issue before the government and in the state assembly.

Rambali Prasad, president of Bihar state employees’ federation (Gope group) criticised the state government for being insensitive towards the hard labour done by these women workers and asked the government to accept the demands. AICCTU leader Ranvijay Kumar, Premchand Sinha and many others addressed the rallyists.

The Demands:

1. (A) The remuneration being given to ASHA workers and facilitators as ‘reward’ must be renamed as ‘Honorarium’ and the amount be increased from Rs. 1000 to Rs. 10,000 per month.
(B) The pending dues of the same for the period April 2019 to November 2020 should be paid immediately.

2. The dues pending for the period before the online portal should be paid in full.

3. (A) The pending payments must be done via a transparent and uniform process.
    (B) The practice of corruption and taking bribes be curbed in payment of ASHAs.

4. ASHA and ASHA facilitators should be paid a pandemic allowance of Rs. 10,000 for working during the times of Covid-19.

5. (A) ASHAs should be provided with a full dress including blouse, petticoat, woollen coat etc. instead of a Sari.
    (B) There should be a uniform for the Facilitators to be provided on governmental expense.
    (C) Facilitators should be paid conveyance allowance for all days of the month at a rate of Rs. 500 per day.

6. (A) The state government should send a proposal for increasing the reward/honorarium amount rates for various works which have not increased for years.
    (B) ASHA workers and ASHA Facilitators should be recognised as government employees.

7. For all ASHAs and ASHA facilitators who died during Covid pandemic (reported and unreported both) their families should be paid compensation of Rs 4 Lakhs declared by the state and Rs. 50 Lakhs as per the central insurance scheme.

8. ASHA workers and ASHA Facilitators should be given social security benefits and pension benefits, till this demand is accepted they should be paid Rs. 10 lakh as one time retirement package.

9. The Agreement made with ASHA workers and ASHA Facilitators in January 2019 must be implemented in full and cases lodged against ASHA workers and ASHA Facilitators should be withdrawn.

Thousands Rallied in Patna