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Monthly allowance for health workers

Calcutta, Feb. 27: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today announced a monthly allowance of Rs 1,300 each for community health workers, many of whom help in childbirths and vaccination drives.

The cash-strapped state government will have to shell out nearly Rs 100 crore to pay the 42,000 health workers, who are also called Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA).

The government has also decided to recruit 18,000 community health workers.

“I have decided to pay you a fixed salary of Rs 1,300 every month. The Centre says this cannot be done but I am not ready to accept itů. It is meagre, but you did not have any fixed monthly income,” Mamata said at a Netaji Indoor Stadium programme for the health workers.

The health workers, mostly women hired by the government on a temporary basis, will receive the allowances from May.

At the programme, Mamata said: “The financial year starts from April. The money will go to your (health workers’) accounts on the first of every month. The health department will give the money. If the Centre does not pay, I don’t care. The state government will pay. Apart from this fixed amount, you can earn as much as you want by doing your work.”

“I am taking a risk. I don’t know from where I will get the money, but I am going to do this. Somewhere I may have to make some hikes,” she said.

The workers demanded that the amount be raised to Rs 2,000. The chief minister turned it down. “Later,” she told sternly.

The ASHAs were recruited in accordance with the National Rural Health Mission’s plan to have at least one community worker for every 1,000 people in villages. Their task is to tell women and children about safe health practices, educate them on nutrition, basic sanitation and hygiene, help in delivering babies and in the immunisation process.

A community health worker from Murshidabad’s Jiagunj said the wages were decided on the basis of the work they got. “If we take a pregnant woman to the health centre, we get Rs 200. Rates have been fixed for every kind of work,” Julekha Bibi said.

The health workers who attended today’s programme said they did not receive wages every month.

Sources said Mamata had received complaints from health workers during her visits to the districts.