Q: During the past several months, you have been involved with pandemic-related work. Can you give a brief overview of what your pandemic and non-pandemic duties were?
ASHA: During COVID-19, we had to manage a lot of things at once. We had to perform routine immunisation and take care of pregnant women along with doing door-to-door surveys. The population of our village is 800 and I was single-handedly managing everything.
I had to monitor people who came into the village from outside. They were asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days after getting themselves checked.
For the last three months now I have been on strike with other ASHA workers. I am at home, I don’t go to my centre or do any kind of work. We are demanding better monthly payment from the government and we are determined to not join work until the government fulfills our demands.
Q: What has motivated you to come to work and carry out your activities during the pandemic?
ASHA: This is our work, so we have to do it. My family members also help and encourage me. They take care of the household responsibilities and ask me to do the office work.
I am not very educated, I never thought of coming into this profession. My husband submitted my form for the ASHA position and then I received a call letter for training. Now I have been working here for the last 12 years.
My monthly salary is Rs. 2,700. However, since I am not going to work right now, my salary has been on hold for the last three months. I have also received Rs. 3,000 for COVID-19 work from the government.
Before this pandemic hit us, somehow I was satisfied with my salary. But now, after COVID-19, the work pressure has mounted. I strongly feel that we should be paid more. The prices of essential goods have also increased amid the pandemic.
Q: Have you faced challenges in carrying out your work?
ASHA: I have always been scared of getting infected with the virus because everyone is staying home and we are going out. I have been scared of infecting my family members too.
Transportation was the biggest challenge. I had to walk 2-3 kms every day for surveys. I also had to visit the Panchayat Office to keep them in loop. Nothing was provided by the government for transportation. How can we expect them to provide when they did not even provide masks and sanitisers?
This interview was conducted as a part of a research study funded by the Azim Premji University under the COVID-19 Research Funding Programme 2020. The study delves into the experiences of frontline workers in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was conducted with an ASHA in Jaipur, Rajasthan on 15 January 2021 in Hindi, and has been translated.
Source: Deccan Herald