Karnataka health workers call off agitation

Over 15,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) from across Karnataka, who had been protesting since Thursday, called off their agitation late on Friday evening after the state government agreed to meet their demand for higher wages.

“We have called off our protest as the state’s Health Minister (K.R. Ramesh Kumar) has agreed to give each ASHA Rs 3,500 a month from the state coffers,” said Rama T.C., a member of the All India United Trade Union Centre (AIUTUC), a body to which the Karnataka State Samyukta ASHA Workers’ Association is affiliated.

ASHAs are trained female community health activists under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) of the National Health Mission (NHM), so as to provide a connect between the community and the public health system.

The women are trained by the government to provide information to people in rural areas about health, sanitation, nutrition, conduct ante-natal and post-natal checkups, and providing medical assistance to women during their deliveries, etc.

“This amount from the state will be alongside the payment the workers would be receiving from the central government by way of performance-based incentives,” she said.

“The state government has also agreed to set up a corpus fund, through which the women can be helped in the event of any death happening in their family, etc,” Rama added.

Through a sit-in demonstration at Freedom Park here since Thursday morning, thousands of ASHAs from the state demanded that their jobs be regularised and they be given a fixed pay of Rs 6,000 a month.

“The state has not agreed to the amount we had demanded, but earlier ASHAs did not receive even Rs 1,500 from the state. So they are happy with the raise,” Rama said.

“Considering the amount of work our women put in each month, attending to delivery calls even at unearthly hours, there has been no proper payment system. Some haven’t received their payment for over three months,” D. Nagalakshmi, the Secretary of Karnataka State ASHA Workers’ Association told IANS earlier.

In rural areas, there is one ASHA for every 1,000 people. There are a total of about 37,000 ASHAs in Karnataka.

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