One and half months after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced in his budget that the State government would match the performance-based incentives that the 35,000 accredited social health activists (ASHAs) in Karnataka are now getting from the Centre, the scheme is yet to take off.
ASHA workers, who gathered at Town Hall here on Wednesday for a State-level convention organised by ASHA Karyakartara Sangha (CITU), demanded that the scheme be implemented at the earliest. They also wanted the State government to pay them a fixed monthly honorarium instead of incentives.
A memorandum listing their demands was presented to Health Minister U.T. Khader. Responding to the demands, Mr. Khader said the Finance Department had cleared the proposal to pay matching incentives to ASHA workers. “We will soon place it before the Chief Minister and get his approval after which a Government Order will be issued. This is our commitment and we will fulfil it,” he said.
The Minister said a dedicated grievance cell would be set up as part of the Health Department’s 104 helpline. “Complaints regarding any harassment you face at work including the demand for money by doctors and other staff at the primary health centres can be registered with this grievance cell by dialling 104,” he said.
In response to a suggestion from freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy that the government should keep a record of funds granted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the State, Mr. Khader said he would ask officials to prepare a detailed report on WHO funds to the State in the last two years. “The report will have details of how much of it has been used and how much is expected in the next two years. We can even post it on our department’s website,” he said.
Earlier, Mr. Doreswamy urged activists to work for extra hours instead of protesting. “This is the best way to impress upon the government to fulfil your demands,” he said.
Sangha president S. Varalakshmi,
pointed out that the government had cut the activists’ incentive from Rs. 650 to Rs. 200 for every RCH case reported from May 2010, adding that even this meagre payment was irregular.