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‘Think about us’: India’s underpaid women health workers to gov’t | India



Rushing from one home to another in a village in western India, health worker Ashwini Mhaske cannot afford to take a breather.

Working to keep COVID-19 at bay while caring for mothers and babies, Mhaske races between households to meet job targets and earn bonuses for an average monthly wage of 4,000 rupees ($54) that India’s army of rural health workers say is derisory.

Accredited Social Health Activists – or ASHA workers – are the government’s recognised health workers who are usually the first point of contact in rural India, where there is often limited or no direct access to healthcare facilities.

Many of India’s one million all-female ASHA workers – who have conducted door-to-door checks to trace coronavirus patients in addition to their usual duties – went on strike this month to demand job recognition, better pay and proper protective gear.

“Now we work all hours, with no days off,” said 33-year-old Mhaske, who used to do farm work shifts to supplement her ASHA income before the coronavirus pandemic struck India in March.

India’s coronavirus cases crossed the 3.2 million mark this week – it is third in the world behind the United States and Brazil – after a surge in rural areas where two-thirds of its 1.3 billion people live.

With infections spreading further to small towns and remote regions, experts say the epidemic in India is likely to be months away from its peak, putting more strain on an already overburdened healthcare system and struggling ASHA workers.

“All we [ASHA workers] are saying is that the government should think about us,” Mhaske told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Osmanabad in Maharashtra state.

Pay dispute 

Enlisted as part of a 2005 national programme to boost healthcare services across rural India – from maternal care to vaccination drives – ASHA workers are treated like volunteers and not covered by state governments’ minimum wage legislation.

They recently received a 33 percent raise to their basic monthly salary due to the pandemic, and get bonuses for extra tasks, for example, they receive 50 rupees ($0.50) for ensuring five children are immunised and 600 rupees ($8) for taking pregnant women to hospital to give birth.

Yet labour economists and campaigners said ASHA workers were still hugely underpaid for their duties, and earned about half as much as farmworkers employed under government job schemes.

“In the name of community service, they are working without commensurate remuneration or rights,” said KR Shyam Sunder, a professor at the Xavier School of Management in Jharkhand.

“This amounts to indignity or undignified labour … the returns to the society from their work will far outweigh the meagre economic cost in regularising them.”

India’s health ministry has not officially responded to ASHA workers’ demands for a base salary of 10,000 rupees ($136) a month.

“They get task-based incentives and we already have a set of incentives … that would yield 5,000 to 6,000 rupees ($68-$82) a month,” said Vikas Sheel, joint secretary at the health ministry.

Yet payment records reviewed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation of nearly 600 ASHA workers from four states – Maharashtra, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh – revealed average earnings of about 4,000 rupees ($55) for the month of July.

“We have already increased 1,000 rupees ($14) for their COVID-19 duties,” Sheel added. “Right now, that’s it.”

Sheel said individual states had the discretion to boost the earnings of local ASHA workers and some states had done so.

“But there isn’t one clear payment structure for the whole country,” said Ranjana Nirula, convener of the All India Coordination Committee of ASHA Workers, which is a union.

“This is part of unpaid labour of women and is seen as an extension of the work women do at home.”

A health worker wearing a face shield and a protective face mask checks the temperature of a man with an electronic thermometer at a school in Mumbai [Francis Mascarenhas /Reuters]

‘Full control’

Several ASHA workers said they work around the clock and had been on call at all hours since March – when millions of migrant workers returned to their villages from cities post-lockdown.

The health workers recorded every arrival, took travel histories and helped place the labourers into quarantine, all while carrying out their maternal and child healthcare duties.

Leela Devi Rawat, a 30-year-old ASHA worker in Udaipur in northwest Rajasthan state, said she was exhausted due to her new responsibilities yet had no choice but to keep working.

“How do I run my house if I quit? My husband takes up daily wage work but has had no earnings in lockdown,” she said.

Payment records for 195 workers in Maharashtra seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation showed average earnings of 4,156 rupees ($57) in July – an increase of 60 rupees ($0.82) from February despite the 1,000 rupees ($14) wage increase that was implemented in March.

Workers said their coronavirus duties meant they had little time to carry out other tasks that awarded them bonus payments.

“Asha workers have emerged as the backbone of primary healthcare in India,” said physician Abhay Bang, founder of the public health non-profit, Search.

“Over the years, their work has gone from part-time to full-time,” he said, adding that their average workday was at least 12 hours. “You call them community workers, so you don’t give them government wages. But you keep full control over them.”

The Indian government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have hailed the ASHA workers in recent months for their role in containing the epidemic in India.

Yet such praise means little to many ASHA workers as their workdays get longer while their pay remains roughly the same.

“I hope the payment will improve and maybe I will grow professionally,” said Mhaske, who recently enrolled in a computing course to widen her career prospects.

“I hope that someday it will be better.”

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

Source –

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