Non-payment to health workers could derail polio drive in Uttar Pradesh


Lucknow : Simmering discontent among thousands of basic health workers over non-payment of dues is likely to derail the November pulse polio round in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state that has the highest incidence of the disease.

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Basic health workers serving as vaccinators and supervisors, who are entitled to a daily allowance of Rs.75 and Rs.150 respectively, have not received any payment for the September and October rounds, according to the UP Basic Health Workers Association (UPBHWA).

They are also seeking a raise of Rs.25 and Rs.50 in daily allowances.

Teams of vaccinators and supervisors are required to go from house to house to immunise children, often working long hours over seven or eight days of the polio programme every month in scorching heat and humid conditions.

Significantly, until 2008, such allowances were disbursed to them either in advance of the pulse polio round or on the second or third day of the programme as an incentive to fulfil targets.

But payment for this August round materialised much later. From September on, daily allowances remain unpaid to the polio teams all over the state, according to UPBHWA sources.

Reportedly, vaccinators’ daily allowances are even less than the minimum wages fixed for unskilled labour at Rs.100 per day under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

S.D. Sharma, a UPBHWA office-bearer, told IANS from Meerut that several representations by the association to the principal secretary, health and family welfare, and the minister concerned about unpaid allowances have failed to elicit any response.

Sharma alleged that a large part of the funds is being siphoned off by district and primary health centre officials even as polio teams working under harsh conditions remain unpaid.

Sources at the National Polio Surveillance Project unit here said the matter had already been brought to the notice of Raja Ram Bharti, the director general of health.

Bharti said the state unit of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which funds polio, leprosy and tuberculosis programmes, has been formally requested to release money for pending allowances.

He said the money should have been released on time. Such delays, he admitted, would only hamper the steady progress made by these time-bound programmes.

S.K. Singh, NRHM general manager (administration) for Uttar Pradesh, refused to comment.

Polio, which is passed on through the faecal-oral route, affects children up to five years of age. It causes paralysis of the limbs and can be fatal in severe cases.

In India 498 polio cases were reported till Oct 23 this year. The highest 397 cases of polio were reported from parts of Uttar Pradesh till Oct 23, officials said.

Bihar comes second with 90, followed by Delhi with four cases, Uttarakhand and Punjab with three each and Rajasthan with one.

The national polio eradication projects are being funded by Rotary International, besides the World Bank, Unicef, the USAID and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.