Diwali comes early for ASHA, Anganwadi workers: Modi announces pay hike

By Prarthana Mitra

Over a video conference with representatives of the social health sector on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a significant hike in the minimum wages, honorariums and incentives for accredited social health activists (ASHAs), Anganwadi (child care centre) workers and auxilliary nurse midwives (ANMs).

The sector employs around 24 lakh workers, mostly women, who facilitate health care and sanitation services for millions of impoverished women and children, especially in rural India. There are around 14 lakh anganwadis around the country with over 10 crore beneficiaries including pregnant women, lactating mothers and infants.

The central government, in hiking the monthly honorarium for ASHAs from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000, is not only acknowledging the contributions of these activists, but also ensuring that compensation for their service is commensurate to the desired quality of development in the rural sector.

All ASHA workers will also receive further benefits under various social security schemes along with Rs 2-lakh free life and health insurance cover under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Prime Minister Suraksha Bima Yojana. Over the video bridge interaction, Modi also mentioned their role in treating anaemia-related disorders among women, the reduction rate of which stands at 1%.

Apart from this, Anganwadi workers who earned Rs. 2,200 and Rs. 3,000 so far will be remunerated with Rs. 4,500 and Rs. 3,500 respectively, from October 1. The monthly honorarium of Anganwadi helpers will go up from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500. The Prime Minister also announced providing software and additional infrastructure for measuring the height, weight and physical development of a child.

The move to increase incentives for ASHA, ANM and Anganwadi workers has been welcomed by BJP president Amit Shah, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi, and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), a trade union affiliated to RSS.  Shah tweeted, “Congratulate Narendra Modi on the historic decision doubling of the honorarium for Asha workers and unprecedented hike in honorarium for anganwadi workers coupled with Rs 2 lakh worth of protection.”

“The honorarium of anganwadi workers and anganwadi helpers is being increased by 1½ times from the existing amount. This will boost their morale and help improve the delivery of services by the frontline workers and help to achieve the goal of Poshan Abhiyan,” Gandhi was reported as having said.

“This historic decision by Prime Minister will benefit about 27 lakh Anganwadi and 12 lakh ASHA workers across the country. Our heartiest congratulations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this,” said Virjesh Upadhyay, General Secretary of BMS, adding that it had been agitating for this demand since November 2014. This incentivisation stands to affect a large number of women who will be voting in the upcoming polls and who are beneficiaries of several government welfare programmes.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius