ASHA Workers’ Historic Strike in Bihar

The ASHA and ASHA Facilitators in Bihar are on an indefinite strike since 12 July for their long pending and unfulfilled demands. The main demands include recognition of their work as workers or employees and increase in wages which should not be termed as ‘reward’, to Rs. 10000 per month. They are also demanding disbursal of pending amount of Rs. 1000 per month from April 2019 to November 2020.

The strike is continuing for more than a week now in almost all PHCs, CHCs and Referral Hospitals. The ASHA workers are not attending to work in around 400 primary health centres across all the districts of Bihar.

The strike is called by ASHA Samyukt Sangharsh Manch with ASHA unions affiliated with AICCTU and CITU having a leading role. The strike response is overwhelming with many non unionised ASHA workers striking their work making this strike historic. Many governmental schemes like vaccinations, and maternity and child care work is being affected with the strike. The striking ASHAs and ASHA Facilitators are undeterred in face of various types of intimidation and threats by the concerned health and administrative officials. The ASHA workers’ leader Shashi Yadav has condemned the state government’s ignoring and threatening manoeuvres.

CPIML Bihar State Secretary Kunal has demanded from the Mahagathbandhan government of Bihar to start negotiations with the ASHA workers who are on an indefinite statewide strike for the last 11 days. The party has condemned the intimidatory and repressive tactics of the state administration with respect to the striking ASHA workers.

The strike notices were served in all the hospitals one month in advance along with a demand charter which is as follows:

The main demands include:

  1. The state government provides Rs. 1000 per month as ‘reward’ to ASHA which is quite insulting and must be renamed as ‘regular monthly honorarium’ and this amount must be increased to Rs. 10,000 per month.
  2. Even this Rs. 1000 per month has not been disbursed during the period April 2019 to November 2020. This should immediately be paid without delay.
  3. The wage payment pending before the same was started through online payment mechanism should be paid.
  4. The payment process must be immediate with uniformity and full transparency.
  5. The prevalent corruption and commission/bribes must be stopped in the payment of ASHA workers.
  6. They should be provided full dress instead of a single Saree, that must include blouses, petticoats and woollen jackets etc.
  7. The ASHA Facilitators should also be provided with full dress at state expenses.
  8. The ASHA Facilitators be paid SVC (travelling expenses) for a full month at the rate of minimum Rs. 500 per day.
  9. The rates of awards/honorarium were decided many years ago and they have not been revised for various works the ASHAs have to perform besides their regular work. These rates should also be revised.
  10. ASHAs and Facilitators be regularised and given status of state government employees.
  11. Those who lost lives during working amidst the pandemic must be provided with Rs. 4 Lakhs from state cess and Rs. 50 lakhs from the central insurance scheme as compensation.
  12. ASHAs and Facilitators be included in all social welfare schemes like pensions etc. Till then they must be given a retirement package at Rs. 10 Lakhs.
  13. The government must honour its agreement with ASHA union made in January 2019 and implement it immediately.

The ASHA workers’ unions have demanded action against the hospital incharge in Bihta Dr. Krish Kumar for misbehaving with the ASHAs on strike.

The president of Bihar Rajya ASHA Karyakarta Sangh (Gope) Shashi Yadav informed that the second and third days of the strike witnessed increased participation with many ASHAs in distant areas joining in the strike. Almost one lakh ASHA workers and ASHA Facilitators are now on strike with rural health services completely halted. She criticised the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar for remaining unresponsive to the strike notice and the demands of ASHAs. She also condemned the administration for misbehaving and threatening strikers. She asked to implement the government's own promises made during the Budget session of the Bihar Assembly and start negotiations immediately with the ASHAs on their nine major demands.

On 17 July, the sixth day of strike, ASHAs’ took to streets with strengthened resolve braving the increased threats and intimidation of hospital admins. Although these six days they did not interfere with the Emergency work as well as the cases of delivery and childbirth. The strike is peaceful and democratic. An ASHA worker from Siwan, Saraswati Devi, died while sitting on the protest dharna. Her condition suddenly deteriorated and she could not be saved. The striking ASHAs in all centres paid her tribute and resolved to carry forward her unfinished mission of justice for ASHA workers throughout the country.


ASHA Workers’ Historic Strike