Although the strike by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) that entered the ninth day on Saturday has hit contact tracing and other COVID-19 coordination work across the State, apart from mother and child health tracking and immunisation follow-up activities, the State Health Department claimed that work had not been affected as teams of junior health assistants, anganwadi workers, Stree Shakti members and booth-level volunteers have taken over.

Demanding a fixed honorarium of ₹12,000 and adequate personal protection equipment, ASHAs in the State stopped work from July 10.

PPE kits

The main grouse of the frontline workers, who are the first point of contact between patients and hospitals, especially in rural areas, is that they are not being given PPE kits and hence are at risk of contracting infection while on field.

Moreover, what they get now is ₹4,000 fixed honorarium from the State and another ₹2,000 from the Centre. “Although we have also been carrying out our regular duties of health surveys pertaining to immunisation and mother and child tracking, our performance-based incentives are not being paid regularly. It is difficult to make ends meet with such a meagre pay,” said D. Nagalakshmi, State Secretary of Karnataka Rajya Samyukta ASHA Karyakarteyara Sangha.

“Despite several appeals to the authorities, our demands are not being considered. When some States are giving fixed honorarium to ASHAs, why is our appeal not being considered?” she asked.

Centre’s refusal

However, Prabhu Dev B. Gowda, State Nodal Officer for ASHA programme, claimed that work had not been hit as anganwadi workers, junior health assistants, and booth-level volunteers had been roped in.

“We have raised their issue with the Centre. But the Centre has clearly refused to accept their demand as they have been enrolled as health activists. Their demand cannot be considered as the Centre has put in place a performance-based incentive payment mode across the country,” he said.

“A fixed honorarium of ₹10,000 is being paid to ASHAs only in Telangana but that is against rules and the Centre has not approved it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister B. Sriramulu has appealed to ASHAs to withdraw the strike. “Let us discuss and resolve the issues. Give us some time,” he reportedly told the health activists.

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