‘This Work is Exhausting’

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: My work mostly involves going to people’s houses and conducting surveys. I also have to keep a check on people who are coming into the village from outside, quarantine them, make them aware about COVID-19, and ensure that they don’t have any issues related to food because these people are usually quarantined in a building outside the village.

I am also doing routine immunisation, which stopped for a month in the beginning of the pandemic. At that time, we were only immunising for emergency cases, but immunisations resumed around April or May 2020. Since then I have been juggling both pandemic and non-pandemic work.

I also have another set of tasks related to COVID-19 vaccination. I have to survey people who are above the age of 50 years and take their Aadhar Card information. This information will be used to administer vaccines to the elderly population.

Q: What has motivated you to come to work and carry out your activities during the pandemic?

ASHA: My family has been very supportive, and that is my biggest motivation. My husband encourages me to work harder every day. He also helps me with my work.

I am a patriot. If my country is going through something bad, something within tells me that despite the challenges, it is my duty to serve. This has also been a huge motivating factor.

One major letdown is the salary. It’s difficult to meet my monthly household expenses, and I hardly save anything. For COVID-19 work, I received only around Rs. 3,000-4000 in total, which is low for the kind of work I have done.

Q: Have you faced challenges in carrying out your work?

ASHA: One of the biggest challenges was that the area under me was huge so I had to walk for at least 3 kms every day to do my surveys. If I took public transport, I had to pay from my own pocket. There was no reimbursement.

This one time, I was going for survey work, and some men started passing comments at me. They were saying bad things about my work as a frontline worker and were also passing judgements on my character. It was late in the evening and I was really scared, so I reached out to the police for help. They were helpful and they handled this situation for me by talking to those men.

Another challenge is that this work is exhausting. I have had to work in the Primary Health Centre (PHC) till 9-10 PM. I have also done late-night surveys. I leave home at 8 AM, and so I get very tired by the end of the day.

People are scared of the virus and of testing positive, so they are hesitant to even get checked. This is a huge challenge and risks the lives of many.

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 Kangra, Himachal Pradesh on 12 January 2021 in Hindi, and has been translated.

Source: Deccan Herald

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