The Tasks of the ASHA Workers

Besides giving prenatal and postnatal care to mothers and taking them to the Health Centres for institutional Deliveries as well as providing health care to the infants of these mothers, there are a number of additional tasks that are to be performed by the ASHA workers working under the NRHM.

This additional work does not fetch them any additional income. In a sense, this is some kind of forced or ‘involuntary’ work. Some of these tasks are:

1. Epidemic Control
ASHA workers have to undertake H1N1/Bird Flu/AIDS awareness campaigns, as well as relief work in affected areas; for this they are not entitled to extra remuneration. In States like U.P. and Gujarat they have had to conduct surveys to identify people suffering from Swine Flu.

2. Family Planning
ASHA workers have to campaign for family planning methods and even distribute contraceptives in rural areas.

3. Immunization
They are forced to carry out immunization programmes as well as administer polio drops.

4. Administering ORS
ASHA Workers are made to do house-to-house surveys to administer ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) to children suffering from diarrhea and a performance-based incentive of RS.1 per child is given.

5. Work During Natural Disasters
In States like Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, the ASHA workers were having to do disaster relief work under the guidance of NDRFD (Natural Disaster Response Force) and the Indian Army. They were given no extra incentive for this.
Overworked and Underpaid The ASHA workers have to rush expectant mothers to nearby hospitals at short notice. They have to spend from their own purse for transportation and the honorarium is sent to their bank accounts after considerable delays. For antenatal check-ups of expectant mothers, they receive a petty honorarium of just Rs. 300, whereas they have to often make several visits in the later stages, or if there are pregnancy-related complications.
These para-workers are paid a pittance in terms of honorarium, i.e., just Rs.1000, on an average. For this they have to have a Class 8 certificate and have to undergo special training, during which period they are not paid anything. They are given cheap mobile phones and receive orders through SMS; they are kept track of all the time. After a lot of protest, the Mamata Banerjee Government of West Bengal increased the monthly honorarium from Rs.1,000 to Rs.1300. The Left Front constituents have started organizing the ASHA workers in different states and have demanded an honorarium of at least Rs. 10,000 per month although interestingly they had never increased it during their own rule in W.B. and Kerala; nor are they planning an increase in the State of Tripura where they are in power.

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