ASHA workers are the backbone of India's healthcare system. In absence of a robust medical infrastructure, India's ASHA workers work on the ground spreading awareness about health, immunizations and mother and child care. During the pandemic, ASHAs have been burdened with a lot of extra work viz.
- Door to door surveys
- Educating people on COVID-19
- Taking temperature of COVID suspects
- Helping COVID patients reach hospitals
However, for all this extra work ASHAs have neither been paid extra nor have they been provided with sufficent protection like masks, gloves, PPE kits, sanitisers etc. In most of the cases, they had to buy their own masks or were given disposable masks that lasted a few days. During the first wave of COVID-19 in India in 2020, ASHA workers from West Bengal were paid Rs. 1000 over their usual wages. However, during the second wave, which infected more people and claimed more lives, ASHAs had to work harder than the first wave but were not paid anything extra.
ASHA worker Bula Pal, while speaking to our Community Correspondent Avijit Adhikary says, "We are working without PPE kits and are going out and working with the community. If we get infected, the government will cut our incentives," Bula also wants that the retirement age for ASHAs be raised from the current 60 years to 65 years as this is the only source of income for her and a lot of other families. Many daily wage labourers have lost their jobs or are working at a fraction of their wages. In such a scenario, it is important to protect the livelihood of such vulnerable communities.
ASHA workers of India are working in inhumane conditions during a global health emergency.
Good hearted citizens are running a school for street kids of Kolkata.