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 Indian Rural Healthcare Workers Struggling for a Coronavirus Pay Increase

The health care workers in rural areas of India visit around 40 households in a single day, from dawn to noon to meet the deadline issued by the government to check on the health of the individuals in their area. Jyoti Pawar is a 40-year-old health care worker in a village Walse, situated in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. She works in scorching heat to get her coronavirus pay increase from the government.

She checks for people with symptoms of Covid-19 while wearing a pink jacket over her dress and a mask made out of cloth. Almost a million ASHA workers (Accredited Social Health Activists) are Indian women in rural areas and their job is to bridge the gap between the public and the health care system. ASHA, which means “hope” in the local language is the biggest community health worker program from all around the world.

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The community health workers of ASHA are considered voluntary and paid by the government and they earn Rs. 2000 or $26.40 monthly. However, in some of the states, these health workers can earn more depending upon the tasks they are assigned which can be not more than Rs. 6000 or $79.25.

The ASHA workers have been striving for years to get payed more and get recognized for their work. The community workers day that their importance has been signified during the coronavirus pandemic but they do not get any health care benefits or insurance since they are considered volunteers by the government of India.

The state secretary of All India United Trade Union Centre, Somashekhar Yadagiri said that these women are not recognized as workers which is the main problem since they provide services all their life for community health but the government is taking advantage of their circumstances.

The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) started the ASHA program in 2005 by which women are selected from different communities who learn family history health-wise over time.

These workers are given the task of conducting surveys at the community level and provide local health services. Under the unusual circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, these workers have been assigned the task of checking up on the symptoms of Covid-19 among individuals, trace their contacts and help them with testing of coronavirus.

They are being given the coronavirus pay increase of Rs. 1000 per month which is equivalent of $13.20 and around 43 cents a day (Rs. 33). In case a worker contracts the workers, she would be given health insurance which covers Rs. 50 lakh or $65,825 but it will not last longer than June of this year.

These workers are continuously trained for their community work but they were given special training for coronavirus over a 2.5-hour video conference training session. The workers were not provided with proper protective equipment and given two pieces of bedsheets to be used as masks as told by Jyoti Pawar.

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A lot of them used their own money to buy hand sanitizers and masks for themselves and some of them are even paying for the fuel since public transport is not available during the coronavirus lockdown.

These workers are working on the frontline and in direct contact with the infected individuals. This also puts their families at risk of contracting the virus while the health care workers are struggling for the coronavirus pay increase during the crisis.

Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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