PM Narendra Modi praises tribal health workers tireless fight against malaria

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PM Narendra Modi spoke about selfless service of Jamunamani in fighting malaria in a remote village of Balasore dist in his Mann Ki Baat.Not many knew where Tenda is, let alone Jamunamani Singh, wife of a daily wager. Not before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ was aired.

The monthly radio programme of the Prime Minister not only put the non-descript Balasore village on national headlines but also made the 28-year-old woman the face of thousands of ASHA ‘karmis’ who work tirelessly to change the health profile of remote villages of India.

Jamuna has been fighting against malaria and water-borne diseases like diarrhoea through spreading awareness for the last five years in the villages of Tenda and Sialghati, her native village in Nilagiri block. Her resolve not to allow a single malaria-related death found echo in Modi’s words.

“We have a network of ASHA workers in our country. Neither I nor you would have heard or talked about ASHA workers. We had conferred Padma Bhusan on Bill and Melinda Gates last year for their contribution to social work through their foundation. The duo heaps praise on ASHA karmis for their hard work and dedication. One such ASHA worker serves in a small village of Odisha malaria-infested region. Jamunamani Singh has resolved not to allow a single malaria related death in the village. I honour all Asha workers through Jamunamani,” said the Prime Minister.

“With her full dedication and extraordinary efforts, Jamuna made the people in her village fight malaria. She spread awareness about precautions and helped the entire village during tough times,” the PM added. Jamuna, a Class-IX dropout, took the training as an ASHA in 2010. And she has not stopped on tracks ever since. With a missionary zeal, the 28-year-old woman has been able to bring transformation by changing the mindset of people who were depending on superstitious acts like sorcery/witchcraft to treat such patients.

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“Earlier, people here did not believe that those were symptoms of diseases. They considered it ill effects of bad spirit and preferred to visit sorcerers. I interacted with them and made them understand. So far, I have got 35 malaria positive patients treated and all are out of danger,” she said.

Jamuna learnt about the PM’s speech from the media. While the news has been the most memorable of her life, the feeling is yet to sink in. She credits the success of her efforts to her father Shyam Sundar Singh and husband Debendra Singh, a daily wager. “She got the job in 2008 and went through training in 2010. Since then, I insisted she worked for the people and create awareness among the tribal populace. She has made me proud,” said her father.

She is now posted in Tenda and gets `2,000 as salary if she can look after two expecting mothers in a month or else she would get `700 a month. Last year, the district administration had felicitated her at the district level convention of ASHA workers.

Asmaa Mubita is a Kenyan journalist of international repute with over fifteen years of experience in broadcast journalism. Asmaa Mubita began his journalism career at the Kenyan state broadcaster (KBC) and later worked at the KTN owned by the Standard Group and Citizen Television, the flagship brand of Royal Media Services. These exploits together with his reporting experience with the Voice of America, CNN and BBC have been rewarded with local and global recognition.