People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 49

December 08, 2013




Haryana ASHA Workers Protest Illtreatment


ON November 30, 2013, thousands of ASHA workers from all over the state of Haryana organised a rally in Rohtak and marched towards the chief minister’s residence. They came with the banner of the ASHA Workers Union Haryana, which is affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). They were protesting against the injustice and second rate treatment meted out to them by the chief minister in Gohana rally on November 10, 2013.


(ASHA stands for Accredited Social Health Activist, a scheme of community health workers started by the ministry of health of the union government, under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), in 2005.)


One may note that at the said Gohana rally, the Haryana chief minister had declared some cash benefits and increase in wages and honorarium for almost all the categories of scheme workers and others, but he did not say a single word for the ASHA workers. This was despite the fact that he had assured their union earlier of some increase in their emoluments.


As it is, the ASHA workers form an important part of the National Rural Health Mission and play an important role in bringing down the infant mortality rate by ensuring institutional deliveries, ensuring the vaccination of children, providing all services of family planning, and reducing the incidence of anaemia in women and children. They also help in preparing malaria slides, giving DOTS to TB patients and conducting in all kinds of surveys of the health department. In return, they however get nothing more than a pittance.


Ranjana Nirula, national coordinator of the ASHA Workers Union and all-India treasure of the CITU, addressed the rally. She said that our fight is not just for a meagre increase in our incentive amount but for establishing our identity as workers also. She said that the central government and the state government, in the name of voluntary work, were exploiting the ASHA women and do not pay them even the minimum wages. She said that the ASHA workers shall have to fight for their rights at the state as well as the central level simultaneously.


Jagmati Sangwan, general secretary of All India Democratic Women’s Association, extended her organisation’s support to all the demands of the ASHA workers. She said that the Haryana government was unleashing false propaganda, through the media, of empowering the women and of being number one state in the country. The reality is that more than 80 percent of women in Haryana are anaemic and that the rate of crime against women is continuously increasing here. The sex ratio is already alarmingly low in Haryana. The government is exploiting women of the ASHA, midday meal workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers and the mother groups of Anganwadi centres who cook food, by declaring these women as volunteers, paying them only nominal sums and thus denying them the minimum wages of even unskilled workers. She said all the exploited women would have to fight against the government’s policies.


Roshni and Ms Surekha, respectively the president and general secretary of ASHA Workers Union Haryana, while addressing the rally, said the ASHA workers perform vital duties in the National Rural Health Mission but are totally ignored by the government and they have been left to fend for themselves. They are paid nominal incentives in a piecemeal manner. The union has been fighting for their cause since long but the government is not caring for their miseries. The chief minister had held a meeting with the union on July 17, 2012, in which he had assured that he would accept the ASHA workers’ demands. However, nothing has been done so far. Rather the incentive of Rs 350 has also been withdrawn. Moreover, not a single demand was accepted in his address in the rally at Gohana on November 10. Since then, ASHA workers have staged protest actions at the residence of all the ministers and Congress MLAs in Haryana. Though everybody of them agreed about the genuineness of our demands, nothing has come out till now. They said the Rohtak rally of November 30 was in protest against the injustice and ignorant attitude of the chief minister.


Satvir Singh, general secretary of the CITU’s Haryana state unit, also lent support to the demands of ASHA workers. He said it was unanimously agreed in the recently held Indian Labour Conference in May 2013 that, along with other scheme workers, the ASHA workers should also be given Rs 10,000 as monthly wage and also that social securities be provided to them. However, after that, no action has been taken as yet. So all the ASHA workers, along with all scheme workers as well as regular workers and employees will take an active part in the Parliament March on December 12 called for by the central trade unions and central and state governmnt employees’ federations.


Dharambir Phogat (president, Sarv Karamchari Sangh), Santosh Rawal (general secretary of Anganwadi Workers and Helpers Union), Sabita (state convener of Working Women’s Coordination Committee and vice president of the SKS) and Saroj (state president of the Mid-Day Meal Workers Union) also addressed the rally.


After the rally, all the ASHA workers marched towards the chief minister’s residence but were stopped at the barricades by the police. There they staged a protest action vigorously, demanding that they must be allowed to further march to the chief minister’s residence. Officials of the district administration then came to the spot and on the demand of the protesting ASHA workers the deputy commissioner contacted the chief minister and then a written invitation for a meeting of the union representative with the chief minister at 10.30 a m on December 1 in Delhi was given to the union.