To respond to the COVID healthcare services in rural areas, the Odisha government has disbursed Rs 10,000 one-time financial assistance to each ASHA worker in the state. The money can be used to buy masks, sanitisers, soaps, face shields. More details here.
Aparna Sarkar, an ASHA worker from rural Odisha, wearing face shield provided by the state government. Photo: By arrangement
Odisha’s frontline health workers, the ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activists), no longer have to spend from their own pocket to buy masks and sanitiser while carrying out their duties during the COVID19 pandemic.
The state government, through an order, has directed disbursal of one-time payment of Rs 10,000 to each of the ASHAs in the state. As per reports, over 47,000 ASHAs in the eastern state will benefit from this order. And many have already received this money and are relieved as they had to work under extremely difficult circumstances in the second wave of the pandemic without proper safety gear.
“With the money given to us, we have bought masks, face shields, thermometers, gloves, and sanitisers for ourselves,” Aparna Sarkar, an ASHA worker from Malkangiri district of Odisha, told Gaon Connection. The 42-year-old ASHA is a resident of Khairapali village and has twice tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I do not buy masks with my money now. The government has given us Rs 10,000 for this purpose,” Sarkar added.
Last month on May 17, the Odisha government directed the district magistrates across the state to provide Rs 10,000 each as financial assistance to ASHA workers for buying essentials for effective management of COVID and non-COVID healthcare services.
A letter in this regard was issued by the state’s Health and Family Welfare Department. “As per the announcement made by the Chief Minister, Odisha on May 17, 2021, it has been decided to provide one-time assistance of Rs 10,000 each to ASHA workers under Swasthya Sahaya (State Budget) to enable them to undertake various activities for effective management of Covid and facilitating non-Covid essential healthcare services at the community level both in rural areas and urban slums,” read the letter.
The ASHA workers can utilise the assistance amount on purchasing mask, sanitiser, soaps, gloves, face shield, thermal scanner, helmet, bi-cycle (if not purchased earlier or damaged), umbrella, torch, chappal, water bottle carry bag, mini battery operated mike, conveyance (repairing of cycle).
For the past few months, Gaon Connection has been consistently reporting on how over a million ASHA workers in rural India who are at the forefront of the country’s response to the COVID pandemic’s second wave have not been provided with even the most basic safety gear such as masks and sanitiser.
Safety gear aside, this year even in the raging second wave, this army of frontline workers has not received the COVID19 duty incentive of Rs 1,000 a month that was announced by the central government last year.
Sarkar said that how ASHAs in rural Odisha were also not provided with proper safety gears in the second wave of the pandemic. Only two weeks back, the state government provided over Rs 10,000 each to ASHA workers to buy safety gears. Meanwhile, three days ago, she tested positive for COVID19. Last year also she had contracted the disease.
Sarkar also complained that she has not received Rs 1,000 incentive as part of the COVID duty for April and May months this year. Similar voices have emerged from other states too. In Karnataka, ASHAs had to go on a strike for the release of their pending honorariums.
Three days back, the Right to Food Campaign, a network of organisations and individuals working on food rights in the state, wrote to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik demanding release of pending wages of ASHAs.