Active Bengaluru kept track of the recent protests being led by Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers in Bengaluru. In this episode, ASHA workers Nagalakshmi and Gangambike talk about the challenges that have inspired these protests and where they stand at the moment.
There are close to 41,000 ASHA workers in the state, many of whom have not been paid regular monthly salaries and their rightful incentives, for the past 15 months. Through this protest, the workers are not just asking for a regular income but also an increment in their income, with their honorarium being asked to be set at Rs 12,000 per month. “Holidays and leaves are also important for ASHA workers, of course, and these provisions also need to be fulfilled.”
After record numbers of ASHA workers got on to the streets to raise their voices, 7 of their 12 original demands have been met.
Working as an ASHA worker is littered with challenges. “We are not given the necessary respect while visiting homes; a few people have even let loose their dogs on us! We do not have access to clean restrooms and good drinking water most of the time. It is through the unions that we have made sure that every ASHA worker is provided with ID cards and a pink saree uniform.”
ASHA workers implement an immense amount of survey work and for filling 125 forms, they receive just Rs 100 as payment. “Imagine, the survey stop at every house takes at least 45 minutes! People have work commitments, so we have to adjust to their timings and visit their houses in the evenings if need be. Through all this, we still have our own children to look after back home, we have husbands who come back from work and need us.”
After protesting for a week, the workers refused to go back to work but later received a letter from concerned officers inviting them to discussions.