India Coronavirus Dispatch: 600,000 frontline health workers go on strike

Topics Delhi | MGNREGA | Coronavirus

At Covid-19 forefront, ASHA women go on strike; seek better pay, protection
From the frontline: The country relies heavily on a group known as Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), an all-female group that has helped immensely in the fight against polio and tuberculosis. ASHA workers are the crucial link between government health policy and the people. During the pandemic, they’ve been playing the role of contact tracers. However, India’s army of health workers has been grossly underpaid and harassed. According to testimonies, they are paid Rs 2,000 a month and are not given appropriate protective gear. Some have succumbed to the virus. Now, 600,000 of the one-million strong group have called a two-day strike against abysmal working conditions. What does this mean for an already overwhelmed public health system? Read more here.

Where NREGS failed: In Odisha’s covid-19 hotspot, Ganjam, NREGS is no longer popular. Despite the district’s high migrant influx, the scheme has not quite taken off. The primary reason for this being that NREGS supervisors and coordinators have themselves tested positive. Besides, many of the returnees are skilled workers who are not interested in unskilled work and find the wages extremely low. The number of workers enrolled under the scheme has been seeing a consistent downward trend since the migrant influx first began. Read more here.

Nagaland’s new normal: Students in Nagaland’s Zunheboto district have been trekking miles and trudging up hills to be able to answer their quarterly exams. The reason for this unusual exam centre is equally odd: it’s the only spot in the area with network connectivity. “If we don’t send the kids to the jungle for exams then it’s our loss only. We are doing this for their future… For now, to have a network tower is a must in the village,” say the parents. With schools closed and cases on the rise, this seems to be a new normal. Read more here.

In numbers

Fatal delays: In Bengaluru, over 60 per cent of the fatalities are in cases where the patients sought treatment three days after first experiencing Covid-19 symptoms, a study has shown. Medical experts in the state are now urging high-risk patients to reach out for medical assistance at the first sign of trouble. In July, nearly 65 per cent of the deaths occurred within 24 hours of hospitalisation or even before the patient could reach the health centre. This trend holds true across hospitals in the city. Read more here.

Vacant beds: In Delhi, following a dip in admissions, nine out of 10 beds are now vacant in the city’s Covid-only seven state-run hospitals. Delhi government hospitals have now communicated to top officials to gradually re-open these hospitals to non-Covid patients. Besides, the pressure has eased at two of the city’s biggest government hospitals. At AIIMS’ trauma centre, meanwhile, more than half the beds are vacant. The institute now plans to restart some non-Covid trauma services. Read more here.


Ensuring equity: This column calls for a global vaccine distribution policy to be put into place. While the distribution of a vaccine depends on many factors, ranging from economic to demographic, the most important aspect that needs to be looked into right now is a policy that allows equitable distribution. Not all countries are in the vaccine race and if the virus persists in any corner of the world, it will lead to another wave. But this gives rise to a tough question: ‘What is an equitable principle that treats all stakeholders fairly?’. Read more here.


Potter woes: Artisans continue to face the brunt of a shrinking economy. The coronavirus-induced lockdowns were a bodyblow to these communities which are traditionally underrepresented and financially insecure. One such example is Dharavi’s Kumbharwada, one of Mumbai’s oldest potter communities. It was one of Dharavi’s most prosperous areas before the pandemic hit. Potters who would make over 1,000 clay vessels a day are now churning out only over 400 as sales came to a grinding halt and the trade is in tatters. “I make clay saucers to serve firni and rabdi, which are very popular during Ramazan. But this year I could not sell anything during because of the lockdown,” says one potter. Watch the video here.

Long read

Trouble down under: While Kerala has done better than most states, there are signs of trouble creeping up now. The state’s health department estimates over 75,000 people will be infected in the next two months. Besides, the virus has been spreading to coastal regions in the state. The state administration has placed the blame squarely on negligence among the people. However, experts now say the state has failed to ensure institutional quarantine despite its claims of better public infrastructure. Lockdowns will spell economic doom as the state has witnessed a huge fall in revenue owing to a halt in tourism. Some people have been warning the state’s health infrastructure may buckle under the pressure of a new surge. Read more here.

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