September 10, 2023
ASHA Workers Fight against Haryana Government


OVER 20,000 Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers in Haryana have been on strike since August 8. However, the government has not shown any interest in resolving their issues through negotiations.

Be it central or state governments, every day, new tasks are being imposed on ASHA workers in addition to their basic 40 tasks. Pressure is being continuously mounted for performing many new tasks like conducting surveys, including the non-communicable disease (NCD) survey, doing KYC for Ayushman Bharat cards and generating cards, TB patients survey, the survey of the number of drug addicts in the village and the type of drug they consume etc. And the government is getting all this work done by ASHA workers absolutely free of cost, ie, no incentive or payment is made to them for these surveys.
Despite all this, there has been no increase in the honorarium and incentive amounts of ASHA workers by the government in the last five years. When ASHA workers demand salary, the government terms them as ‘volunteers’ and avoids their demand. However, they are pressured to do extra work and are threatened with getting sacked. In this aspect, they are treated as employees! Every day new warnings and threatening letters are being issued to them. The already fixed incentive amounts have also been cut. ASHA workers have been forced to go on strike against this exploitation and harassment. Despite continuous protests since last year, even the departmental officers are not holding negotiations or meetings with the union.


The movement started in a phased manner. Largely attended demonstrations took place at the PHC level in May, at the CHC level in June and at all district headquarters of the state on July 10, along with submitting strike notice.
In preparations for the strike, three zonal jathas were organised, which addressed hundreds of public meetings of ASHAs in 15 districts of the state. The strike, which began on August 8, was almost 100 per cent from the first day itself. There are 20,350 ASHA workers in the state; all except a few dozen workers are on strike.

The striking ASHA workers in the state are staging a dharna at their respective district headquarters. Demonstrations are held in cities daily. Protests are being organised at BJP ministers' and MLAs' residences/ camp offices.

The session of the Haryana legislative assembly was held from August 24 to August 29. To draw attention to their demands and issues, the union called for a march to the legislative assembly on August 28. Earlier, demand letters were given to MLAs and various party chiefs of the ruling party, BJP and opposition parties. But the government, instead of listening and resolving the issues, adopted the method of repression and harassment to sabotage the march.  The union leaders were put under house arrest on the 27th itself. 

Male police personnel were sent to women's homes, and PCRs were parked right in front of their homes.

ASHA leaders Pravesh, Kamlesh, Anita and others who came out of their houses were taken into custody. Police raided houses and offices to arrest CITU and ASHA workers' union state president Surekha and CITU state general secretary Jai Bhagwan. The union leadership and CITU leadership had to go underground on the prior day of the Vidhan Sabha march.

Not only this, the vehicles booked for the rally were impounded. Many women workers were picked up from the roads and kept in police stations, and they were not even provided drinking water. 

ASHA workers were loaded in buses from one place and dropped at far-off deserted places.  Despite this, hundreds of ASHA workers reached the meeting place for the Vidhan Sabha march.

On reaching Panchkula on August 28, they were surrounded by a heavy police force. Union leaders and others were taken into custody.  The ASHAs of the district who were arrested in Panchkula were dropped at Ladwa in the Kurukshetra district in the late evening. After a struggle of 3-4 hours at Ladwa, these workers were sent to their homes at 1 am. 

Similarly, the leaders arrested during the march to the legislative assembly were released after demonstrations at the police headquarters in all the districts of the state till late evening. Due to the repressive actions taken by the government, the health of many ASHA workers has deteriorated, and they had to be admitted in hospitals. Not only this, two ASHA workers lost their lives due to this harassment. Despite this, the BJP government is not holding any talks with the protesting workers.


The BJP government in Haryana is trying to crush all voices of protest. Last year, on February 17, it had done the same. In the state, be it the movement of sarpanches or anganwadi workers and helpers, the roadways employees movement, protests against changes in SC/ ST Act, farmers' movement against agricultural laws or movement of sports girls against sexual exploitation at Jantar Mantar – we have all witnessed the hostile attitude of the government towards protests.

ASHA Workers' Union Haryana has decided to take the movement to the common people and garner their support. For this, a target has been set to take the campaign to 4 lakh houses. While running a campaign in the village from September 4-11, Jan Samvad Jan Ekta panchayats have been called for, and preparations have already started.

The phase of taking out torchlight processions in the villages by ASHAs along with the beneficiaries and holding meetings in support of ASHA workers has just begun. To garner cooperation from the public, ASHA workers have issued an appeal to the public. It has appealed to the masses to strengthen the voice of their protest, stand by their side and support the movement of ASHA workers by helping them in every possible way.  It has been decided to distribute lakhs of copies of this appeal among the general public of Haryana. Social, political organisations, institutions, employees, labour, and farmer organisations have also been requested to support the movement and provide all possible help.

The ASHA workers demand to be made permanent employees, and until then, they should be given a minimum salary of Rs 26,000 and all social security benefits, including pension and gratuity. Their salaries should be linked to the inflation index, and all deductions be restored.

They also demand quality, affordable health care for all. The shortage of doctors and nurses in CHCs and district hospitals should be met through new recruitment. Medicines should be made available, all machines, including ultrasound and X-ray machines, should be installed, and radiographers be appointed.

The ASHA workers were employed under the National Health Mission in 2005 to bridge the gap between  health facilities and the public. They were assigned about 40 tasks related to the health of pregnant women, newborns and children. They performed their duties with utmost sincerity, resulting in bringing down infant deaths from 58 per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 26 in 2023. 

In 2005, there were 167 maternal deaths per one lakh deliveries, which came down to 95 in 2022.  Routine vaccination has increased from 27 per cent in 2005 to more than 90 per cent in 2023.  Institutional delivery has increased from 43 per cent in 2005 to 99 per cent in 2023. This achievement, accomplished due to the excellent work by ASHAs, has also been recognised by the World Health Organisation.  ASHA workers had done excellent work even during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was also praised by the World Health Organisation, and ASHA workers were given the Global Health Leaders Award. In return for these important tasks, the government provides only nominal incentives to ASHA workers.