India's frontline coronavirus warriors - ASHA workers - are up in protests in Delhi and Haryana. While 20,000 ASHA workers of Haryana have been on strike since August 7, 6,000 workers in Delhi have been on strike since July 21. They have two demands - better safety gears and proper wages.
The Delhi ASHA workers who protested on Sunday at Jantar Mantar are facing a police case for violating social distancing norms.
26-year-old Priya Ranjan works for upto 8-9 hours every day conducting door to door surveys and visiting COVID-19 patients who are on home quarantine. She lives in a slum in Delhi's Geeta Colony. Her biggest fear is bringing the deadly disease back home to her children aged 6 and 3. In Delhi, 150 ASHA workers have been infected with coronavirus so far.
Priya Ranjan says she is scared to go to containment zones without PPE kits.
"When I go to containment zones and I don't get a PPE kit and I am scared. I want that the government should give us a PPE kit. When I check the pulse of home quarantine patients with an oxymeter, the fear is that I will get the virus and it may come to my house. As soon as I come home I tell my kids to stay away from me and not to touch me at all. I take a bath and take all precautions and anytime that I feel I have a slight fever or cough I sleep away from my kids," Ms Ranjan says.
In Haryana's Ballabhgarh, 48-year-old Hemlata Goyal has to borrow from relatives to make ends meet. She lost her husband 5 years ago and is now the sole bread-earner of the family. ASHA workers get only Rs 3,000 as fixed pay per month. With the addition of rare incentives it goes up to a maximum of Rs 5,000-6,000.
"Financial issues are huge. I am the sole bread earner of my family. My son is 23-years-old but he has just started his own work and barely gets anything. I have to pay Rs 5,000 for rent also and have to manage household expenses and save for my son's future education. I take support from my maternal home," Ms Goyal says.
ASHA workers of both Haryana and Delhi have sent their proposals to state governments demanding PPE kits and increase in pay up to Rs 10,000 per month to but are yet to get a response.