With polls just around six months away, intending candidates and political parties are now going all out to woo the voters with a visible intensification in public oriented works and announcing a variety of sops. Most of the activities they have taken up are common in nature like distribution of essential household items, programmes for mass Covid-19 vaccination, helping the farmers with agricultural requirements like seeds, fertilisers, diesels to run engines, dredging of irrigation canals, blacktopping roadways etc. A few of them are passionate decisions which will invariably help in canvasing for votes though the inspiration behind is more of a humane origin rather than for any objective fallout. One poll related announcement that will belong to the second category was that of Wangkheimayum ongbi Sumati, an intending candidate from Lamshang Assembly Constituency and spouse of Wangkheimayum Brajabidhu the representative from the constituency who passed away from Covid-19 recently, during a reception held at Lamdeng a few days back. At the function Sumati had pledged to utilise the pension she will be receiving on account of her husband to pay a monthly amount of Rs 1000 each to ASHA workers in the constituency. The gesture had a personal touch and is notably noble but it should also be hailed for the fact that the recognition of the important role played by ASHA workers in the battle against Covid-19 was highlighted in the public. She had said she lost her husband to Covid-19 but the ASHA workers have been actively involved as frontline warriors during the pandemic without any proper stipend or extra bonus. The amount may seem meagre to even average salaried professional but its value will be immense to the ASHA workers whose contributions as a frontline worker during the outbreak have been widely accepted but have not been proportionately compensated.
Even though the Centre and state governments are unable to raise the core incentives of ASHA workers, that did stop them from praising the significant responsibilities they have taken up and their productivity as well. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among those leaders who have recognised the unique circumstances under which they had to function and appreciated the way they successfully handled their workloads. A few days back he praised ASHA workers from Kullu in Himachal Pradesh for helping the vaccine drive, the team’s model of dialogue and collaboration using traditional methods and travelling long distances to carry out the vaccination. According to ASHA workers the prime minister had proposed the doubling of their incentives couple of years back. But their monthly incentives are still very low. In addition, despite the vast amount of work and carrying out their day to day work without any duty hours they have to do they do not have any job security. After the pandemic broke out, there was spurt in demand for medical professionals, helping hands and volunteers arose. In the trying circumstances, the ASHA workers came to the rescue of the nation. They were standout warriors fulfilling all the assignments given to them including door to door enquiry and even working in hospitals like situation. It was a pity they have not been commensurate in proportion to their service and even threatened to be sacked for any form of resistance, logical or not. It is time for the society to stand up for them in recognition of their valuable works for our safety. While they wait for their deserving incentives and if possible regular salaries from the government side, we should take care of alleviating their economic condition in our little ways. The ASHA workers were promised Rs 1000 per month as Covid-19 bonus which lifted their spirits as they are not greedy and easy to be satisfied. However, they have informed that the allocation of the amount had been stopped. What W Sumati had done by adopting ASHA workers in her constituency is a clear illustration that it is within our means to cheer their spirits. There are only 4009 ASHA workers in Manipur which comes to around less than 70 of them per Assembly constituency. At least, for the period of the pandemic if not for longer periods, if the local MLAs (or other intending candidates) adopt the ASHA workers and provide similar monetary assistances, which assuredly will be light to the pockets too, it will be enough to cheer them up.