Indian village workers protested their way out of government tracking

in September 28th, 2021
india-ASHA-surveillance

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Indiaโ€™s village healthcare workers have protested and won against an attempt at government mass surveillance. The Indian government first introduced an app called Shield 360 in an effort to improve efficiency for everything from wage processing to patient welfare tracking for the countryโ€™s village healthcare workers. But along with these digital updates quietly came the tracking of workersโ€™ locations, device usage, and even remote access for managers to access or delete content from worker mobile devices.

Who are the village healthcare workers?ย Historically, Indian villagers have been hostile to health providers from outside their communities, which blocked access to basic and preventative care such as immunizations. To increase connection of marginalized communities to the existing public health system, the government launched the ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) program in 2006. Typically women aged 25-45, these ASHAs are residents of the village in which they work, serve as front-line health activists, and have been essential to fighting COVID in the country.

But despite their crucial role, ASHAs have been at odds with the Indian governmentย protesting their frustration since before the pandemic. For example in May, ASHAs suspended work for a day after the government failed to provide them with insurance coverage, safety kits, or salaries as promised last year (ASHAs are paid minimally through a controversial cash incentive structure).

With years of tension, ASHAs believe the surveillance is an attempt by government officials to track down and silence protestersย leaking information on mismanagement. So in June, over 15,000 ASHAs held a multi-location sit-in across 22 districts. The single-day protest worked, and managers now allow workers to delete Shield 360 and have paused further installations. More work is still to be done to ensure all tracking is truly disabled, but ASHAs are celebrating a victory over this dangerous invasion of privacy.

๐ŸŽฌย Take Action

These female ASHA workers have also been on the frontlines of fighting COVID in India despite ignored requests of proper safety equipment.ย Consider signing this petitionย demanding fair pay and masks for ASHAs.

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Sorry, boss. I think I've misplaced my extra safety kit.

Actually, you left it at patient 124's house.

...thanks...?

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