Struggle for recognition [ASHA Workers]

The ASHA workers of Bihar began to hold village-level meetings first to discuss their problems and form a consensus on issues. Then they met ASHA workers from other villages and decided to organize at the block level. 

Pamphlets with 11 demands formed their Charter of Demands, and these were distributed in different blocks to raise awareness. The Block-level meets converged into District Conventions and then it was unanimously decided that the process should culminate in some action programme at the State level so that the ASHA workers’ Association could have a new identity and serve as a model for other States. Many ASHA workers with different ideological moorings began to join the ASHA Workers’ Organization led by the All-India Progressive Women’s Association. They chanted “Pagar Nahin to Kaam Nahin” (No Wages, No Work) and decided to strike work on one day as a token of protest on Pulse Polio Day.” We have made the Pulse Polio Programme of the Government a success and also achieved 100% immunization in our areas; we have brought down the Maternal Mortality and Infant Mortality rates. Why are we being denied our rights? “Said the ASHA leaders and workers.
Not to be Cowed down, on the night of 20 June, 2015, the ASHA workers began gathering at the Primary Health Centres and Civil Surgeons’ Offices. It was a sight to see so many women health workers thronging for their strike action the next day. On 21st the Pulse Polio Programme and other health services were brought to a total standstill. Seeing the assertion of these ASHA workers, the District Administration, instead of giving them a patient hearing, began to threaten them saying their appointments would be cancelled and new recruits would be taken in. False cases of disruption and vandalism was filed against them in the local thanas, despite the fact that the ASHA workers had only been chanting slogans and asking the Administration to forward their Memorandum with 11 demands to the Central Government. The Bihar Health Department began to collect the names of the striking workers instead, and preparing lists of workers to be retrenched. Letters of retrenchment started being prepared. But instead of retreating or getting divided due to victimization, the workers’ unity became stronger in favor of the one-day strike. Many Civil Surgeons began to send letters to the Government to sort out the matter as soon as possible so that a major crisis could be averted. The pressure worked and the same administration who had said one month back that they had nothing to do with the NRHM, realised that they would have to call the ASHAs for talks and discuss their problems. On 24th July the Bihar ASHA Workers’ Association along with the Bihar State Employees’ Association and All India Central Council of Trade Unions were invited by the Chief Secretary of the Health Department. A seven-member Committee to fix a proper monthly wage for the ASHA workers was set up. Among the other demands conceded were-cycles for all ASHA workers, rest rooms with toilets at the PHCs, disbursement of pending incentives, raising the incentives, which had remained stagnant for the past 10 years, setting up of Committees against Sexual Harassment, EPF facility, Maternity Leave etc. were some of the demands which the Health Secretary conceded. All retrenchments were withdrawn by the
Government and the 11-point Demand Charter was sent to the Central Government.

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