Synopsis: Government should strive to formalise the work of community workers such as Anganwadi, ASHA and National Health Mission workers to make them accessible for various social security benefits such as safety, insurance, risk allowance and fixed wages etc.
- In India, there are about a lakh ASHA worker, 1.3 million Anganwadi workers and another 1.2 million Anganwadi helpers. (Community workers)
- At present, community workers are classified as “honorary workers” and are denied of minimum wages, leave and other conditions that is available to formal workers.
- Even in the best paid states, this honorarium is not even close to the government-mandated minimum wages offered to workers doing comparable jobs.
- Also, the state by preferring to call them as “volunteers “denies the opportunity to recognise their crucial work as care service providers.
- This led to the two-day nationwide strike by Anganwadi, ASHA and National Health Mission workers demanding safety, insurance, risk allowance and fixed wages during the pandemic
What is the importance of community workers to society?
- Firstly, during the COVID-19 the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) and Anganwadi workers, women “volunteers” functioned as the frontline warriors in the battle against the pandemic.
- Second, these community workers serve as the connecting link between the community and the state machinery. This was very much visible when there was uncertainty and fear of the virus.
- Third, the services of community workers are essential to facilitate localised approaches to problems as they have robust contacts at the grass roots.
What is the way forward?
- Firstly, there is an urgent need to recognise Community workers as workers. It can be done by Implementing the recommendation of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour to formalise the work of community workers.
- Second, Recognition of care work in the public sphere could also help in settling the issue of gendered and unequal division of house work and unpaid care burden.
It is high time that the state recognises the contributions of these women and accept them as workers. The recognition of ASHA and Anganwadi volunteers as workers will be a tribute to their contribution during the pandemic and also it gives a fresh start towards the structural understanding of women’s labour and their status in the labour market leading to Gender sensitive policy making