Silchar: The village health guides of Assam have their own tale of neglect and deprivation. Though the scheme has been effectively running in all other states of the country, Assam is a lone exception.
It is unfortunate for the health guides as well as the common people.
The village health guide scheme was introduced in the State of Assam as stated by Sukhendu Kumar Nath, vice president of the association, in 1982 with a view to providing health care assistance to the common villagers. In all 18,689 health guides have been on field till 1986.
The services of the health guides came in for wide appreciation from the mass rural population as they extended all sorts of help in creating awareness about health and hygiene as well as providing basic and needed facilities and services. For unknown reasons, pointed out Sukhendu Kumar Nath, the scheme was kept on hold. The village health guides came to be hit by this uncalled for decision of the State government as they have not been receiving their monthly honorarium and this continues till date. This has also adversely affected the health guides and their dependents economically and put in severe financial crisis.
M M Hanif Alam, a patron of this scheme, recounted how the health guides have been struggling hard for revival of the scheme and payment of their monthly honorarium. But, all are of no avail. It was only in 2013 that female guides received a negligible amount of their honorarium while their male counterparts were deprived. This deprivation continues, he regretted. The overall scenario related to the unpaid health guides can well be understood from the fact that they along with their dependents have been facing uncertain future, acute economic crisis and a sort of discrimination and deprivation. They cannot get themselves involved in other jobs due to their over age.
Considering the facts, the All Assam Village Health Guide Association has demanded formal notification from the State government for reviving the scheme and reinstatement of all the health guides, release of the entire amount of unpaid honorarium to the male and female guides, introduction of pension or one time gratuity for the guides who have reached the age of superannuation and employment to at least one family member of the retired or deceased health guides. The appeal from the association for the sustenance and survival of health guides has been forwarded to the Prime Minister of India with a copy to the Chief Minister of Assam through the Deputy Commissioner of Cachar on Wednesday.