Since assuming the post of Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh following this year’s Legislative Assembly election in the state, Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy has made healthcare a priority. One action he has taken is a hike in the wages of the state’s community health workers.
Accredited social health activists (ASHAs) staff India’s healthcare system in staggering numbers. There are approximately 800,000 such health workers in India, helping to plug the gap of medical professionals in a country with barely twenty qualified health workers for every 10,000 people.
Often, however, their contribution to India’s public health system goes underrecognised. Monthly pay tends to be languish around Rs 2,000.
The Union Budget this year included a fifty percent increase in ASHAs’ pay, following on from a similar pledge made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. However, the workers themselves were dissatisfied – particularly owing to the absence of a fixed monthly salary.
The announcement by Reddy takes ASHAs’ pay to Rs 10,000. This represents pay increase for the ASHAs of more than 300 percent from their current monthly rate of Rs 300.
It comes alongside other healthcare reforms proposed by the Chief Minister, including healthcare cover for the treatment of certain conditions paid by the state government and the establishment of a committee to overhaul services in government hospitals. Reddy said “this is the priority department and I will directly supervise [its] performance.”
In other states, ASHAs are using the news from Andhra Pradesh to demand similar improvements to their conditions. This includes Maharashtra, where workers are protesting for an increase in pay from the current honorarium of Rs 2,000. In January this year, ASHAs protested their working conditions – being underpaid and overworked. The news from Andhra Pradesh lends them further encouragement to demand necessary improvements – and places the onus on other state governments to take action accordingly.