COVID-19 outbreak highlights ASHA workers being underpaid; details

By: |
August 28, 2020 6:42 PM

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, many workers enlisted as part of a 2005 national programme ASHA helped in rural areas across the country.

The panel is scheduled to be briefed by top officials of the government on Wednesday on issues relating to migrant labour force during Covid-19 pandemic.ASHA workers recorded the arrivals, travel histories and managed placement for migrant workers as well as quarantining facilities.

In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, many workers enlisted as part of a 2005 national programme ASHA helped in rural areas across the country. A report by Reuters has highlighted that many workers under the programme have been treated like volunteers and were not covered according to the minimum wage legislation set by the state governments. Despite the workers being paid a hike of 33 per cent on their basic salary along with bonuses from Rs 50 to Rs 600, many labour economists and campaigners believe that ASHA workers remained highly underpaid for their duties. The report said that these workers only earned about half as much as farm workers who have been employed under government job schemes.

Citing examples, the report focused on how health workers under Accredited Social Health Activists – or ASHA workers juggled between villages to villages working to keep the COVID-19 infection at bay, and yet their average monthly wage accounts for around Rs 4,000. Further, around one million all-women ASHA workers have been conducting door-to-door checks in order to trace coronavirus patients apart from their usual duties. Now, they have gone on a strike this month and are demanding their jobs to be recognised, and are paid better along with provision of proper protective gear.

It has been questioned as to why the workers, whose contributions have been praised by the country’s Prime Minister, are still fighting for better wages. The report said that many workers have been on their feet around the clock since March. When India saw migration of workers post nationwide lockdown, it was ASHA workers who recorded the arrivals, travel histories and managed placement for these workers as well as quarantining facilities.

According to the report, payment records for 195 workers in Maharashtra indicated that workers received an average earnings of Rs 4,156 in July, which is just an increase of Rs 60 from February. It is to note that in March, wages were hiked by Rs 1,000 rupees, however, the implementation was not seen. It also underlined that since many workers were involved with COVID-19 duties, they did not get time to carry out other tasks that could help them with bonuses. Apart from Maharashtra, the report said that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh too had an average wage of Rs 4,000 for workers in the month of July.

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