The first budget of the Congress government has brought good news to the 35,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in the State. It has proposed an equal amount of performance-based incentive that they are now getting from the Centre.

State health officials said the move would cost around Rs. 12 crore to the exchequer. The Karnataka State Samyukta ASHA Workers’ Association has welcomed the move. They had been demanding fixed monthly wages and regularisation of services for long.

These activists are community health workers in the World Bank-sponsored National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) being implemented by the Union government across the country. As per NRHM guidelines, ASHAs are supposed to receive performance-based incentives for promoting universal immunisation, referral and escort services for Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) and other healthcare programmes.

Association general secretary D. Nagalakshmi said even the increased payments would not meet the needs of a worker. “Although they work no less than nurses and other paramedical staff, their remuneration is very poor. From May 2010, the government cut our incentive from Rs. 650 to Rs. 200 for every RCH case reported and this has brought down our earnings by more than half,” she said.

Moreover, many of them have not been paid since March because of the delay in release of grants by the Centre. “We recently met Health Minister U.T. Khader and to apprise him of our problems,” she added.