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WHO bats for ASHA, calls them India’s ‘Global Health Leaders’

Union leaders argue true respect for ASHAs would entail payment of proper wages and job permanency

Sabrangindia 26 May 2022

ASHA workers
Image: Tumpa Mondal/Xinhua/Alamy


The World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 23, 2022 awarded India’s Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers with the ‘Global Health Leaders’ title. However, while masses including Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praises, unions asked when the Government of India will similarly award the workers with basic rights.

“ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) are the more than one million female volunteers in India, honored for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary health care services, as shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the WHO.

The global organisation acknowledged how ASHAs provide:

  • maternal care and immunization for children against vaccine-preventable diseases

  • community health care

  • treatment for hypertension and tuberculosis

  • and core areas of health promotion for nutrition, sanitation, and healthy living.

 

 

Many people including PM Modi celebrated this news and congratulated ASHAs for this title. In a tweet, he said that ASHAs are at the forefront of ensuring a healthy India. Their dedication and determination is admirable.

 

 

Similarly, unions like the All India ASHA Workers Federation affiliated to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) too thanked WHO for rightly conferring the award. However, AITUC Secretary Vahida Nizam pointed out the supreme irony that despite such praise ASHAs still are not recognized as workers in India.

“No wages except the paltry sum of ₹ 2,000 per month and the meager incentives is all that they get. For decades, ASHAs’ demand for regularisation of their services and defined minimum wages has fallen on deaf ears,” said Nizam.

The union said that besides recognising leadership, contribution to global health advancement and commitment to regional health, this award vouchsafes the permanent nature of ASHA’s contributions. As such, the union government should announce an equivalent return of compliment to the workers, said leaders. The Federation demanded regularisation of ASHAs with ₹ 18,000 per month salary.

“We hope that greetings of admiration translate into reality of rendering justice to these ASHA workers. This is long overdue,” said Nizam.

Similarly, Delhi ASHA Workers Union General Secretary Shweta Raj thanked WHO for respecting “India's hopes” and asked when the central and Delhi governments intend to honour these hopes. Like Nizam, she said that the real meaning of respecting ASHAs is indicated by giving due rights.

“ASHAs served the public by playing on their lives during the last Covid-19 wave. But in return, neither do they get proper salary nor have they been given the status of government employees. Even ASHAs are mistreated every day from dispensaries to hospitals,” said Raj.

Regarding Modi’s tweet, she said that until the governments give the workers their rights, the congratulatory remarks remain as pure rhetoric. The union demanded respectable salary, government employee status for ASHAs and an immediate stoppage to misbehaviour suffered by the women.

Related:

No payment received for six months: UP Anganwadi workers

Just gratuity not enough: Anganwadi workers

CTUs celebrate success of General strike

UP: No payment for MDM cooks on election duty?

WHO bats for ASHA, calls them India’s ‘Global Health Leaders’

Union leaders argue true respect for ASHAs would entail payment of proper wages and job permanency

ASHA workers
Image: Tumpa Mondal/Xinhua/Alamy


The World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 23, 2022 awarded India’s Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers with the ‘Global Health Leaders’ title. However, while masses including Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praises, unions asked when the Government of India will similarly award the workers with basic rights.

“ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) are the more than one million female volunteers in India, honored for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary health care services, as shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the WHO.

The global organisation acknowledged how ASHAs provide:

  • maternal care and immunization for children against vaccine-preventable diseases

  • community health care

  • treatment for hypertension and tuberculosis

  • and core areas of health promotion for nutrition, sanitation, and healthy living.

 

 

Many people including PM Modi celebrated this news and congratulated ASHAs for this title. In a tweet, he said that ASHAs are at the forefront of ensuring a healthy India. Their dedication and determination is admirable.

 

 

Similarly, unions like the All India ASHA Workers Federation affiliated to All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) too thanked WHO for rightly conferring the award. However, AITUC Secretary Vahida Nizam pointed out the supreme irony that despite such praise ASHAs still are not recognized as workers in India.

“No wages except the paltry sum of ₹ 2,000 per month and the meager incentives is all that they get. For decades, ASHAs’ demand for regularisation of their services and defined minimum wages has fallen on deaf ears,” said Nizam.

The union said that besides recognising leadership, contribution to global health advancement and commitment to regional health, this award vouchsafes the permanent nature of ASHA’s contributions. As such, the union government should announce an equivalent return of compliment to the workers, said leaders. The Federation demanded regularisation of ASHAs with ₹ 18,000 per month salary.

“We hope that greetings of admiration translate into reality of rendering justice to these ASHA workers. This is long overdue,” said Nizam.

Similarly, Delhi ASHA Workers Union General Secretary Shweta Raj thanked WHO for respecting “India's hopes” and asked when the central and Delhi governments intend to honour these hopes. Like Nizam, she said that the real meaning of respecting ASHAs is indicated by giving due rights.

“ASHAs served the public by playing on their lives during the last Covid-19 wave. But in return, neither do they get proper salary nor have they been given the status of government employees. Even ASHAs are mistreated every day from dispensaries to hospitals,” said Raj.

Regarding Modi’s tweet, she said that until the governments give the workers their rights, the congratulatory remarks remain as pure rhetoric. The union demanded respectable salary, government employee status for ASHAs and an immediate stoppage to misbehaviour suffered by the women.

Related:

No payment received for six months: UP Anganwadi workers

Just gratuity not enough: Anganwadi workers

CTUs celebrate success of General strike

UP: No payment for MDM cooks on election duty?

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