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Ambulance Federation and opposition parties extend support to striking 108 staff in Himachal

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Shimla: The strike of the staff of 108 and 102 emergency services in Himachal Pradesh has entered its 7th day despite termination of about 63 striking employees by imposing of Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA).

This staff includes ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who provide pre-hospital care to patients.

The staff have been protesting at the State Secretariat in Chotta Shimla since 25 June over their complain of exploitation by the private company GVK -Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI).

They approached the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and had submitted a memorandum of their demands. However, so far the staff only received ESMA and termination in return.

Now, Jeewan Rakshak Bhartiya Ambulance Karamchari Federation also jumped in to support the striking staff in Himachal. Bikramjeet Singh Saini, the president of the Federation, has warned of a strike in all North-Indian States including Punjab, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh, Delhi, UP, and Rajasthan on 11 July if the demands of the employees were not met.

We have already submitted a memorandum to Union Health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda at his New Delhi residence on June 21 demanding to bring the ambulance employees in all the states under the purview of NHM,

Saini told PTI.

It would mean that the emergency services can fall on their face in North Indian states, causing huge inconvenience to the public. Further, Saini has warned that if the government still did not yield, a country-wide strike will follow the July 11 event.

Now, the opposition parties Congress and CPI (M) have also come out in support of the striking staff.

The GVK- EMRI company is exploiting the staff since the day the agreement was signed with the State government for the operation of the emergency services. The government has introduced a condition of 12 hours service per day, which is a complete violation of the labour laws, said Sanjay Chauhan, leader of CPI(M) and former Mayor of Shimla.

The corruption and exploitation are clearly visible in the view of the recent scam by the GVK company in Himachal that was unearthed by the Central Bureau of Investigation,

said Sanjay.

An FIR has lodged an FIR against a senior Employee’s Provident Fund Organization Officer and a middleman of GVK company for offering and accepting a bribe.

The middleman has paid a bribe of Rs. 80,000 to the officer of the EPF office in exchange for reducing EPF liabilities of the company. Taking notice of the tempering with the EPF of the employees, the state government should act immediately to terminate the contract signed with the company and bring the staff under the purview of the NHM, he added.

Congress has also termed it a complete failure on the part of the government to ignore the grievance of the striking employees.

Instead of inviting the striking staff for talks and accepting the genuine demands of the staff, the government has imposed ESMA to terrorize the staff, which is a highly oppressive step,

said Congress Spokesperson.

He said the government is lying to avert criticism for its failure to intervene and end the strike.

The public is facing huge inconvenience and forced to bear expenses of hiring private vehicles due to the partial operation of 108 and 102 services.

The government says it has roped in the staff of the Health Department and Homegaurd to drive the ambulances. Drivers from neighbouring state Uttarakhand were also roped in.

While the government says about 192 of the total 108 ambulances are on road, the head of the 108 workers’ union Puran Chand rubbished the claim by saying that several ambulances were already unfit, therefore, it is a lie that 192 vehicles are on road.

There are total 126 ambulances under 102 emergency services for the pregnant women, and the government claims over 60 of them are still serving.

Demands of the Staff

The company is not paying more than Rs.5,000 to 10,000 as a salary while they staff is made to work for 12 hours per day, said the head of the union Puran Chand. Sometimes, the staff is undertaking 24 hours shifts too but there is no provision of additional payment for overtime, he added.

Further, the staff is demanding cancellation of the MoU signed between the HP Government and GVK EMRI for the operation of the emergency services. The staff also demand to bring their service under the purview of National Health Mission (NHM), like it is done in Haryana.

By bringing it under the government, the working hours of the staff should be fixed at eight hours per day. The employees expect that this step would put check on the exploitation of the employees by the private company.

The employees are both shocked and scared after the company terminated 63 employees under the cover of ESMA.

But we will continue our strike despite these terminations till our demand of bringing the 108 ambulances service under the purview of the National Health Mission (NHM) is met

, said Puran Chand.

Feature Photo: Dalbeer Singh Negi, DNA

Misc News/Press Release

CM Jairam Thakur Tests Positive for COVID-19, Quarantined

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HImachal Pradesh CM Tests Positive for COVID-19

Shimla-Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Jairam Thakur, have tested positive for COVID-19 and has been quarantined at his official residence. The report was confirmed by the Chief Minister through a tweet in which he informed that he was under quarantine at his residence after coming into contact with a COVID-19 positive person. On the appearance of symptoms, he got himself tested and the report was found to be positive, he informed.

According to the initial report, the Chief Minister had come in contact with some COVID-19 positive persons in Manali. MLA of Banjar, Surinder Shourie, who was positive for COVID-19 had participated in the event organized on the occasion of the inauguration of Rohtang Tunnel, had also tested positive. Shourie had spent the entire day with the Chief Minister, reports said.

His private secretary had also tested positive, and there are chances that the Chief Minister might have contracted the infection from him. However, there is no certainty regarding the contact who infected the Chief Minister.

Other than Chief Minister, three Cabinet ministers – Urban Development Minister Suresh Bharadwaj, Power Minister Sukh Ram Chaudhary, Jalshakti Minister Mahender Singh- have tested positive so far.  Over ten MLAs have already tested positive and some of them have recovered too.

Meanwhile, despite community spread, the testing and tracing seem to have fallen and the fatality rate has witnessed a steep rise. Till 12 pm today, the COVID-19 death tally for the state was 245, and the total number of cases registered was 17414. But these are official statistics and these numbers are likely to be much higher. 

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Himachal: COVID-19 Kills 59 in 9 Days, Govt Still Clueless About Actual Number of Cases

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Himachal PRadesh Jairam Thakur

Shimla-COVID-19 continue to wreak havoc in Himachal Pradesh as the death tally spirals upward rapidly. Currently, 240 people have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Fifty nine of these deaths have been reported during the last nine days of October month, which is quite alarming. But contrary to that, the attitude of the state government, as well as, the public is becoming more casual. The SOPs issued by the government are hardly being followed anywhere. The fact that with the community spread, the cases of COVID-19 are falling in the official information released by the state Health Department.

On October 9, the Department traced only 199 cases but reported seven deaths. The total number of active cases was cited to be 2856. The deceased included three females and four males aged between 49 -75 years. View details of the deceased in the below-given table:

Shimla-covid-19 deaths in himachal pradesh

The total number of cases, as per the official statistics, had reached 16977 till yesterday evening (9 PM). But these are official statistics and the real number is likely to be much higher due to a community spread. Similarly, the actual number of COVID-19 deaths could be higher than the official statistics. Despite it, the state government is reluctant to release any projection regarding the real numbers. No statements have been issued regarding the current situation and strategy to combat the rising fatality rate. Rather, the state appears to be refraining from bringing up the matter.

The oppositions, HP Congress and CPI (M), are targeting the government over its failure to combat the spread of COVID-19. However, this opposition is quite feeble and hasn’t resulted in any reforms in the attitude of the government.

In a statement to media, Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a senior CPI (M) leader, said that the rise in fatalities is the result of the government’s lackadaisical attitude. The suicide committed by a positive patient at the DDU COVID-19 hospital is evidence of it, he said. He said this approach has endangered health lives of ministers, officials, and the staff at their offices. Further, he said, health staff, paramedical staff, and police staff are getting infected, and even losing lives due to the government’s unpreparedness.  The government had even compromised the safety of the Prime Minister and Education Minister by violating norms set regarding COVID-19, he said.

HP Congress chief, Kuldeep Rathor also expressed shock over the presence of COVID-19 positive MLA of Banjar, Surender Shourie, in the event organized for the PM. He alleged that by violating all norms, the MLA concealed information regarding his COVID-19 positive status and did not quarantine himself, which reflects the state government’s attitude toward management of the corona pandemic. He had demanded registration of an FIR against Shourie and action against erring officials.

Sanjay Chauhan, further said that the government did not prepare itself to combat the pandemic the way it was expected to. The people of the state had followed the lockdown and sacrificed their livelihood with a hope that the government would prepare itself during this period to combat the spread and to strengthen the health infrastructure and services. But instead, the government indulged itself in making people clap and beat ‘thalis’.  The Chief Minister adopted and preached unscientific practices like performing a ‘havan’.  Despite a steep rise in fatalities, the government is still not serious about the situation, he said. 

He said the CPI (M) demands that the government starts working on war footing to prepare a strategy by involving health experts, strengthening the health services by recruiting doctors, para-medical and other staff, and constitute a task force to deal with the situation. The government should work diligently on following the norms set for prevention from COVID-19, he added.  

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Shocker for Himachal as Ex-CBI Chief & Governor Ashwani Kumar Found Dead at His Shimla Residence

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Himachal IPS Officer Ashwani Kumar found deat in shimla

Shimla-Ashwani Kumar – 1973 IPS officer from Himachal Pradesh cadre who had served as the Director-General of HP Police (2006-2008) and CBI chief (August 2008 to November 2010), and was later appointed the Governor of Nagaland in 2013-was found dead at his residence in Shimla on Wednesday evening. The news came as a shocker as Kumar was considered as one of India’s finest and honest officers.

Superintendent of Police, Shimla, Mohit Chawala, in statement to news agencies, confirmed the report. According to the initial report, he reportedly hanged himself and ended his life. However, no formal statement was issued regarding the suicide. According to the police, a suicide note was also recovered from the spot. However, the note was yet to be verified.

Kumar was a well known name as he had dealt with famous cases including that of Arushi Talwar murder and fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which current Home Minister Amit Shah was arrested in 2010.

He was one of the first appointees made to resign from the post of Governor, Nagaland, as soon as the current ruling party came into power in 2014. He also remained Governor of Manipur for a short period of time. After his retirement, Kumar was serving as the Vice-Chancellor of a private university in Shimla.

The officials who have served under Aswani Kumar have expressed shock over his demise in such a manner. 

Director-General of Police, Sanjay Kundu, and a team of medical staff was rushed to the spot. More details are awaited as the district police have not issued any formal statement regarding the incident.

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