The 35,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) in the State have threatened to boycott work from October 25 if the State Health Department does not fulfil their demands.

The health workers are upset because the State government has not paid them the promised matching performance-based incentives announced in the budget. Apart from this, the government suddenly stopped paying them the monthly conveyance allowance of Rs. 200. These are just two of their several demands.

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

“We are planning to meet the Chief Minister by October 15 and apprise him of our grievances and demands. If we do not get a favourable response from him, we are planning to boycott work from October 25,” said D. Nagalakshmi, State president of the Karnataka Rajya Samyukta ASHA Karyakarteyara Sangha. Ms. Nagalakshmi added that the government had reduced the incentive given to the health workers from Rs. 650 to Rs. 200 for every RCH case reported from May 2010. And even that meagre payment was not being made regularly.

“We have to pay bribe at various levels to get the incentives,” she alleged.

NRHM Mission Director Suresh K. Mohammed said the travel allowance was stopped according to the directions of the Union government. “Although it was being paid till now, the Centre has not approved it for this year in the project implementation plan. However, the State government’s matching performance-based incentive will be paid soon,” he said.