Since July 12, thousands of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) have been on indefinite strike, demanding that the state government provide higher wages, government employee status, a pension as a part of their retirement package, and the disbursal of pending payments from April 2019 to November 2020.
On Thursday, August 3, as many as 90,000 ASHAs staged a protest in the capital of India’s Bihar State, Patna. Thousands gathered at the Gardanibagh in Patna and held a sit-in near the Bihar State Assembly premises. The workers have threatened to intensify their mobilization in the coming days if the authorities fail to address their demands.
ASHAs have been demanding a regular monthly wage of INR 10,000 ($120) instead of the current ‘reward’ of INR 1,000 ($12) a month, as well as pensions.
ASHAs are trained female health workers who perform a range of tasks, from community health planning to referral and accompaniment services for reproductive and child health, dissemination of information on issues which impact health like sanitation and nutrition, preventive care and treatment, and prenatal and postnatal care in terms of immunization and counseling. These health activists, first introduced under the National Rural Health Mission, are selected from within the village community and act as key intermediaries between them and the public health system.