An ASHA—accredited social health activist—is a community-health worker, instituted by the union ministry of health and family welfare as a part of India's National Rural Health Mission. The ASHAs were primarily meant to help rural and semi-urban communities gain access to health-related services. According to the health ministry's recent data, there are at least 10,22,265 ASHAs in the country. During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been tasked with the arduous work of combating the disease through a wide range of interventions.
Over the past few weeks, we spoke to several ASHAs across the national capital region. Throughout the region, the ASHAs unanimously said that their earnings are paltry and hardly fair compensation for the scope of services they provide. On 8 August 2021, the Dilli ASHA Kamgar Union issued a press release after a regional conference, to register “their protest against their exploitation at the hands” of the central and state governments. The union has put across a list of demands that range from salary hikes, to compensation for workers who succumbed to COVID-19 while on duty, to basics such as restrooms at their workplaces, paid maternity leaves, gender sensitisation cells to tackle sexual harassment at the workplace, travel allowances, and the right to form unions.
This reporting was supported by a grant from the Thakur Family Foundation. Thakur Family Foundation has not exercised any editorial control over the contents of this reportage.