Asha workers have been continuously protesting since the time the YSRCP government came into power. Asha workers are the community health workers who play a crucial role in delivering health services to the citizens. They have been instrumental in reducing the infant mortality rate, educating the mother about safe pregnancy, safe delivery, immunization, care of the younger children, and acting as a bridge between the healthcare system and people.
Their services became all the more crucial in the current pandemic. They are instrumental in the control of COVID -19 in the state by monitoring the patients on daily basis and providing them primary care. On average, every ASHA worker is taking care of 3500 – 4000 people in rural areas and 2500 people in urban areas.
While the ASHA workers are risking their lives to provide services to the people, the government is neglecting them by not providing safety kits. Because of this, 1000 workers contracted the virus, while 20 succumbed to death.
Currently, the ASHA workers are facing the problem of an increase in the workload where they are made to work for longer hours. They are not even getting any benefit under PMGKY (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana) for healthcare workers, the additional monthly benefit of Rs. 1000 for the period of January 2020 to June 2020 under India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Package for healthcare workers.
These problems are not new to these workers as they have been suffering for the last two years. Initially, they protested demanding an increase in the salary as promised in the manifesto. Even though their salary has increased they are now burdened with more work. The increased workload is making it difficult for them to manage the household and the jobs simultaneously.
Currently, there are protesting to change the retirement policy. The state government made it mandatory for the ASHA workers to be retired at the age of 60 years without any retirement benefits. These workers have worked voluntarily without any salary for several years are being forced to retire without any post-retirement benefits. There was no such rule for retirement under N. Chandrababu Naidu’s rule, the TDP government permitted these workers to retire with benefits and one of the family members is given the post.
Moreover, as the income limit for BPL is Rs.1,20,000 most of the ASHA workers even though they are the only working persons in the home and in some cases widowed are excluded from the list of beneficiaries of several schemes citing the BPL limit rule. Many of the ASHA workers do not possess a house of their own and stay in rented houses. Despite that, their incomes have made them ineligible for the housing scheme as they are receiving Rs.1,20,000 per annum.
Adding to their woes, they are being forced to buy smartphones to register, fill the survey data online. Their exposure to COVID-19 patients has made them victims of social stigmatization so much so that many have been thrown out of their rental houses. Despite all these problems, the YSRCP government is turning a deaf ear to their problems.