‘Giving with one hand, taking away with the other’

The denial of the benefits of various government schemes to ASHAs and Anganwadi workers led to a widespread resentment among the staff in the district. “It would have been better had we been just homemakers,” is the common refrain now among a vast majority of them.

The presence of two premier health entities, the Institute for Pregnant Women, and the Children’s Hospital, each with a 300-bed capacity, has turned Chittoor district into a hub of activity for ASHAs. Compared to a decade ago, the health activists say that their work load has almost tripled.

“Just because my salary has been increased, I have lost the benefit of Amma Vodi for my 10th class boy and Cheyutha as well. Worst, my husband, aged 65, too has lost his old age pension, because I am getting a salary. This is like giving with one hand, and taking away our happiness with the other hand. How can I run the family?” wonders a 53-year-old Anganwadi teacher at Narayanavanam, on the verge of tears.

A health supervisor at a primary health centre in the eastern mandals tries to sum up the predicament of the ASHAs: “Most ASHA workers are disillusioned and lack interest in pursuing their assignments. They were overjoyed when their salaries were enhanced. But after realising that they had lost many benefits they were enjoying earlier, they have become disappointed. They feel gram volunteers are better placed than them. We might likely see many of them quitting.”

Meanwhile, the district authorities of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and the Medical and Health Department clarified that there was neither any delay in payment of salaries nor are there any pending payments to the supplementary staff of both wings.

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