Thirty-four-year-old ASHA worker Ranju Devi made a bold move by choosing a career over her family when she decided to get enrolled in the course of auxiliary nursing midwifery (ANM) in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura district.
It wasn’t easy for Ranju to leave her three children back at home and move to a new district, at least 600 kilometres away from her hometown.
Coming from an impoverished background, she is confident that there is nothing as an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) she does not know of. “Bahut kaam kiya hai maine… sab kaam achhe se aata hai…14 saal jo ho gaye kaam karte hue (I have worked a lot…I can do anything…Because I have been working for 14 years),” she told News18.com in an interaction at the state government-run ANM training centre.
Ranju wants to study further to be “someone” holding a “respectable position” in society and “earning more” for her family.
Hailing from UP’s Basti district, she is staying in a hostel in Mathura. “I have three children aged 4, 6, and 9. But I have given their responsibility to my mother and sister. I have decided to become an Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM) and earn better so that I can shape the future of my children in a better way.”
Ranju is one of the many women who have got selected for the ANM courses rolled out by Yogi Adityanath’s government where the state has revived 35 colleges for ANM training after a long gap of 39 years.
The majority of these centres had seen their last regular batch in 1989. But now, all centres have been renovated and training for the latest batch (2022 to 2024) has begun.
“35 centres have been reopened across 34 districts such as Agra, Mathura, Aligarh, Ayodhya, Sultanpur, Bareilly, and Pilibhit,” Amit Mohan Prasad, former additional chief secretary, medical and health, told News18.com, one day before he was given charge of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Prasad, who led the implementation of the scheme in the state, explained how the project has been executed. “All the buildings in different districts were in bad shape and the morale of the leftover staff was at the lowest. We renovated each building, brought in extra staff, completed the admission process and started a new batch after 33 years on this 10th of August.”
With such colleges coming up, providing courses free of cost may give an opportunity to girls and women to upgrade their education and earn better apart from increasing the cadre of ANMs to assist healthcare workers.
While ASHA workers earn a monthly income of around Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000, the salary of ANMs — under the permanent roles granted after the completion of ANM courses from the government centres — is around Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000. On a contractual basis in the private sector, it hovers around Rs 20,000.
Digitally connected, AC classrooms, computer & skill labs
These colleges have started training the batch of 50 students at each centre. With a total of 1,750 seats available, 1500 seats have been taken so far and the remaining are expected to get full in the upcoming second list.
The course curriculum has been designed similar to the already existing one where students will undergo 18 months of theoretical classes and training followed by 6 months of practical internship.
News18.com visited the newly renovated ANM training centre in UP’s Mathura where the centre’s last batch passed in 2009.
From air-conditioned, smart classrooms to the spacious hostel, computer labs and practical training laboratories – the training centre is placed adjacent to the office of the chief medical officer of Mathura district.
“Out of the batch of 50 students, 37 have joined so far and classes have already started. More students are expected to join in the coming days,” Ajay Kumar Verma, chief medical officer (CMO) of Mathura, said.
“We have made smart classrooms where tech support is provided to ensure interactive learning. Smartboards and projectors have been put in place to provide a better learning experience apart from providing a separate computer laboratory,” Verma said while adding that ease of working on computers holds utmost priority for ANMs now as all of the government schemes require uploading and maintenance of data online.
Out of 37 students, 5 were ASHA workers and the majority of them came to join the course from far-off districts.
One of the benefits, as per the state government officials, of restarting the scheme is to motivate young girls to become midwives at no cost except for food. “Private ANM schools charge anywhere between Rs 1.5 to 2 lakhs for this course which the poor families can not afford. In these government training schools, poor and meritorious girls will get free professional training,” Prasad explained.
The scheme has the potential to become an example of “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao”, Prasad said, “as these ANMs will make their families proud by becoming healthcare workers and earn an extra income. Also, these ANMs would play an essential role in fighting the misconception against the birth of a girl child.”
Better earning opportunities
ANMs are employed at the health sub-centres and they are not voluntary workers like ASHAs. They are professionally skilled and trained to conduct multiple roles.
ANMs have been given a broad set of responsibilities, including the support of Anganwadi and ASHA workers. The ANMs will help run multiple health programmes successfully at district levels such as maternal and child care, family planning projects, iron supplementation projects, promotion of healthy behaviours and mobilisation of the community for improved water and sanitation, immunisation drives, and other special health activities.
While ASHA workers are given performance-based incentives that focus on facilitating institutional deliveries, immunisation, provision of basic medicines (including oral contraceptives), and referral of patients to the sub-centre, the ANMs are paid a government salary.
“Zyada paise milenge, zyada izzat hogi, isliye padhai kar ke mujhe ANM banna hai (I will get more money, I will get more respect, so I want to study further and become an ANM),” Ranju said while hoping to attain the goal which was visible in her moist eyes.
The other colleges have been started in districts including Bijnor, Moradabad, Rampur, Pratapgarh, Majjafarpur, Saharanpur, Jaunpur, Varanasi Baragaon, Shahjahanpur, Banda Mahoba, Gorakhpur, and Jhansi.
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