A mitanin– which means “female friend” in the local dialect– is a community health volunteer assigned to each village under the Chhattisgarh government’s health programme.

Surekha Dhivar (41) has not missed work for a single day in almost a year. A mitanin working in Raipur, she went door-to-door to scan over 200 houses in her area for nearly three months, checking on vulnerable groups for Covid-like symptoms. However, despite fulfilling multiple roles in the fight against the pandemic, Dhivar is among more than 70,000 mitanins across the state who are yet to receive the full payment of the promised Covid bonus, besides irregular disbursement of task-based incentives.

A mitanin – which means “female friend” in the local dialect – is a community health volunteer assigned to each village under the Chhattisgarh government’s health programme.

In Chhattisgarh, the National Health Mission, in April, promised Rs 1,000 as additional incentive but the mitanins were only paid for two months. According to sources, the money to be paid to a mitanin comes from both state and Central share.https://c9a044c7b0ea31cdb4f97b628341d6c8.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

In Dantewada’s Toyalanka, besides checking up on children, pregnant mothers and the elderly, Bindu Sodhi (45) also had to keep a vigil at quarantine centers, while conducting door-to-door scanning in semi-urban areas and taking people with symptoms for tests as needed. And now, with the government rolling out the Covid vaccination programme, Sodhi and other mitanins are also accompanying the elderly to the vaccination centers — often far away and at their own cost.

However, unlike other vaccinations which find a mention in the claim form submitted by mitanins as tasks on which they are incentivised, the Covid-19 inoculation is not listed.

“Just because I am not going to get money for it, I can’t turn people down,” Dhivar said. But her family of four is faring poorly, she said. “I have been managing somehow. The periodic money of Rs 3,400 would come by the 10th of every month. Not only have we not gotten the Rs 1,000 Covid bonus promised for all the months of Covid-related work, I haven’t been paid even for February,” she said.

Sodhi said, “In April, we were told that we would get Rs 1000 extra for Covid-19 duties. We got paid Rs 2,000 in September and that was it.”

The Additional Secretary and Mission Director of the National Health Mission released a letter in March last year, stating that “additional incentives for ASHAs and ASHA facilitator have been approved for three months from April to June”. Another letter by the mission director in April that year stated that “additional incentives may be paid to ASHAs for Covid-related work, from the period of their engagement in this work”.

While the letter stated the stipulated period from January 1, 2020, in Chhattisgarh, the government decided to pay for only three months, April through June. Even though payments for two months have been released in most cases, mitanins and rights activists believe they deserve more. “It’s not that the work ended in June. We have worked for the entire year and even now, in some way or the other to keep the pandemic at bay,” Sodhi said.

The mitanins wrote a memorandum to the health minister and Chief Minister in November. “We don’t want the coconut they give us on the Mitanin Diwas. We want money promised to us. The Congress government promised in their manifesto a minimum payment of Rs 5,000, we are not getting anywhere close to that,” Dhivar said.Mumbai News

While Chhattisgarh NHM Mission Director Priyanka Shukla did not respond to queries, Health Minister T S Singh Deo said, “In Emergency Covid-19 Response Plan, we got approval for three months, that is why we have made payment for two months and procedure for payment of third month is under process… The mitanins are one of the several grassroots workers who have been working relentlessly throughout the Covid-19 situation. The Central government needs to ensure that funds are allocated for the Covid warriors.”