(Times of India) In 2011, Ahmedabad was largely responsible for making Gujarat the state with the highest malaria deaths in the country and the sixth among states and union territories in the number of malaria cases registered. That same year, the state recorded the fourth highest number of dengue cases. A majority of these belonged to Ahmedabad.
One of the main reasons for the sudden rise in malaria and dengue cases in 2011 was a two-week strike by many of AMC's 1,400 contractual link workers who were demanding a small salary hike over their measly honorariums of Rs 1,500 per month and the little money they earned from some extra work!
Today their salaries are fixed at Rs 3,500 per month. These link workers perform most of the important tasks such as conducting door-to-door surveys for mosquitoes, collecting blood smears, distributing malaria-control medicines, and keeping tabs on fever cases and even the health of pregnant women and newborn babies. These link workers visit every home and sometimes travel by bus for their work.
Yet these workers seem to be less valuable than the donkey which transports bricks from one part of a locality to other.
"A donkey fetches Rs 220 for a day's work of transporting bricks in the city. An AMC link worker is paid Rs 116 a day to fight diseases. That's how the AMC treats its foot soldiers,"said Jayshree Makwana, a community health worker with the AMC. She further said that under a new incentive-based payment system, the workers are paid only for the work they do."Our basic Rs 1,500 honorarium has been discontinued. The maximum that we can earn under the new scheme is Rs 3,500 a month. Can you run your house on that money?" Makwana said.The state health department's decision to treat link workers in villages on a par with those in the cities also irks urban link workers."If we do not find a pregnant woman or a malaria patient in our area, we have to hire buses to find one in different areas to earn some money," said Anita Chudasama, a link worker. In rural areas, on the other hand, a link worker just has to attend residents of just one village.