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108 and 102 ambulance staff on strike again as their demands not met despite agreement

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Shimla: Tired of repeated false assurances and increasing exploitation by the GVK-EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) that runs 108 and 102 emergency services in Himachal Pradesh, the staff of these services on Tuesday evening went on another strike after their talks with the Director of the National Health Mission failed.

The union of the employees has made a call for a protest in which workers from the various districts would take out a silent march from the HP Vidhan Sabha to the Secretariat in Chotta Shimla.

Earlier, the employees had gone on a strike in June this year. The Himachal Pradesh government had imposed Esma (Essential Services Maintenance Act) on the striking employees. The service provider had also terminated about 63 employees to create panic among the others striking. However, instead of threatening them, the termination fueled the anger among the employees.

The employees extended their strike up to 10 days before the government intervened and held a meeting with the officials of the GVK-EMRI and representatives of the striking staff in the presence of labour commissioner and Director, National Health Mission.

The GVK-EMRI had accepted all the demands of the employees along with taking back employees suspended or terminated during the strike. The government, as well as the service provider, were completely on back-foot as the strike took a toll on the health services.

The GVK-EMRI had assured the employees that within one month, all of their demands would be met.

However, on August 7, 2018, the employees found out that none of their demand were met. They again received another assurance. Following it, the employees have now again decided to go on a strike and stage a protest.

Though the Department claims it would ensure making up for the shortage of drivers but patients are likely to take a hit in every district where the ambulances would be off the road due to the strike.

The staff had been reaching the government with its grievance time to time, but the government chose to stand by the side of the company every time.

The employees working for the GVK-EMRI for over last five years have not received any increment despite the fact that they are made to work 12-16 hours a day, which is unlawful,

the head of the union Puran Chand told Himachal Watcher.

The company never paid anything for this overtime, he alleged.

There is no standard policy regarding the salary of the staff. While some employees receive Rs. 6,000 to 8,000, others are being paid 12,000 to 15, 000. The company is paying the salary in an arbitrary manner. Newly employed staff is offered more salary than what is being paid to employees who are serving for past five to eight years,

Puran Chand alleged.

The HP Government had entered into a contract with the GVK under ‘Atal Swasthya Seva’ scheme in 2010 under the regime of then Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.

However, the company has turned into a sort of dictator using its powers to threaten and suppress protesting voices of the workers, Puran Chand said.

An FIR has also been registered against a senior Employee’s Provident Fund Organization Officer and a middleman of GVK company for offering and accepting a bribe. The middleman had paid a bribe of Rs. 80,000 to the officer of the EPF office in exchange for reducing EPF liabilities of the company, the striking staff allege.

The ambulances are in poor condition due to lack of regular maintenance. Some of them are not even in the condition of operating properly. However, these ambulances are still passed without actually providing any maintenance, the striking employees allege.

When the staff tried to highlight this issue regarding maintenance, the company deducted salaries of the staff to discourage them,

he further revealed.

The workers alleged that such deterring actions are taken against anyone who tries to express their dissatisfaction with the arbitrary functioning of the service provider.

The staff has been fighting this battle for their rights for a long time now.

The main demands of the striking staff include:

  • Ending arbitrary functioning of the GVK-EMRI
  • Recognition of 108 staff on par with contract/outsourcing employees of various agencies under Health department
  • Payment of salaries as per the provision
  • Eight hours shift in place of current 12 hours
  • Full deposits in provident fund accounts
  • Payment for overtime including those pending since last five years

The staff has received support from various other organizations as well as oppositions of the ruling government. Sanjay Chauhan, former Mayor of Shimla and a leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist) has also extended a support to the striking employees.

The agreement between company and workers for 12 hours duty is totally illegal and against labour laws. This has been endorsed by the government also. As per law, no worker can be asked to work for more than 8 hours. If the employee work more than 8 hours, he would have to be paid for overtime which is double the wages,

Sanjay said.

These are the basic policies under a neo-liberal regime that outsource services to companies and let workers get exploited and allow companies to extract profit, he added.

We demand that the government should intervene immediately and contract should be scrapped by the government. These workers should be regularised under the Health Department as per the policy of government because most of them have completed 5 years of services,

Sanjay said.

Amid this delay and series of false assurances, the government officials and the service provider might not be affected but the public is suffering due to the strikes. 

Campus Watch

As major achievement, Nauni varsity scientists bag International project on oilseed research

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Nauni varsity scientists bags international project

Solan: Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF), Nauni, was in news last week after Jagriti Thakur, a research scholar at the varsity, won US-based International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) Scholar Award for the year 2018.

This week, in a major achievement, the scientists of Department of Plant Pathology at the UHF, have bagged an International collaborative project on developing cutting-edge technology for inducing biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability.

The University will work with nine leading research organisations of the country besides seven renowned research institutes of United Kingdom in the project. The three-year project has a total budget outlay of more than Rs 7.27 crore as Indian component, which will be distributed to the 10 Indian institutes, which are part of the project. Each Indian institute will work on a different aspect of the project with a researcher working on the same area in the UK.

The project has been sanctioned under the prestigious NEWTON BHABHA Fund UK- India Pulses and Oilseed Research Initiative (PORI). The fund has been created by BBSRC of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, GoI.

BBSRC which is a part of UK Research and Innovation, a body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations and government for promoting research and innovation is also making upto £3.5 million available to support the UK components of this research.

Dr HR Gautam, Professor and Head of Department of Plant Pathology informed that Dr Anil Handa, Professor of Plant Pathology will be the Principal Investigator and coordinator of this project while Dr Rajnish Sharma working in the Department of Biotechnology will act as the Co-Investigator.

He added that this achievement is one of the cherished moments in 55 years history of the department. Dr JN Sharma, UHF Director of Research, said that the University is making continuous efforts to get projects from various funding agencies and engage in collaborative work to strengthen the research capabilities and infrastructure.

India is one of the major producers and consumers of oilseeds crops in the world. The university scientists will work on ‘Genomics-led improvement of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability’ by utilizing state-of-art advanced molecular approaches like CRISPER/Cas9 for mapping the genes conferring resistance to turnip mosaic virus (TuMV).

UHF Nauni Lab

The Plant Virology laboratory of the Department of Plant Pathology

The Plant Virology laboratory of the Department of Plant Pathology is an internationally acclaimed laboratory and has facilities for conducting molecular level research for determining the genetic diversity of TuMV in Northern India and developing a panel of Indian TuMV isolates for evaluating European and Indian sources of resistance.

Besides Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, the University of Delhi, South Campus; NIPGR, New Delhi; NBPGR, New Delhi; NRCPB, New Delhi; IARI, New Delhi; PAU, Ludhiana; CAZRI, Jodhpur; DRMR, Bharatpur and IIT Kharagpur will be a part of the project. The University of York, University of Hertfordshire, University of Warwick, University of Essex, Earlham Institute and Rothamsted Research will be the investigators from the United Kingdom.

While congratulating the scientists, UHF Vice-Chancellor Dr HC Sharma said that the project will go a long way in using the latest techniques in biotechnology for disease management to increase the productivity of oilseed crops. This project will also help train our students in using molecular markers for crop improvement.

Through this collaborative project, efforts are being made to encourage multi-institutional collaborations between UK and Indian researchers to undertake high-quality research aimed at increasing crop productivity, resilience, sustainability and quality of pulses and oilseeds grown for food or feed in India. Pulses and oilseeds are important crops in India.

Pulses are relatively under-used crops in the UK but are a major source of dietary protein in India. Oilseeds are grown in both countries and are a valuable source of oil for a variety of uses, as well as animal feed. This collaborative project aims to develop exploit genomic and bioinformatic resources to aid the development of improved varieties for sustainable crop production.

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MoU to construct Naina Devi-Anandpur Sahib ropeway signed

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Shimla: A Memorandum Of Understanding (MoU) to build ropeway between Shri Naina Devi and Shri Anandpur Sahib was signed by Additional Chief Secretary Tourism Ram Subhag Singh, Himachal Pradesh and Secretary Tourism Punjab Vikas Pratap Singh, in Chandigarh today.

The MOU in the presence of Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his Punjab counterpart Captain Amrinder Singh.

This ropeway will be constructed by Shri Naina Devi and Sri Anandpur Sahib Ji Ropeway Company Pvt Ltd with an estimated cost of Rs. 210 crores. The ropeway would cover a distance of 3.5 km.

A 10-member Board of Directors would be formed, and each government would nominate five members. The Chairman of the Board of Directors would be nominated by the Punjab government and the Managing Director would be appointed by the Himachal government. Both the governments will deposit 50 Lakhs each as an initial investment.

Chief Minister said that the lower terminal of this project would be at Rampur near Shri Anandpur Sahib, the Intermediate station will be at Toba in Himachal and the upper terminal point would be at Shri Naina Devi. The tourism departments of both the states would work as nodal agencies for this work.

The Tourism and Local Bodies Ministers Navjot Singh Sidhu said that inking of MoU by both the Chief Ministers on the auspicious birthday of Sheed-e- Azam Bhagat Singh is a big gift to the mankind.

In 2012-13, the efforts were made to build this ropeway and 14 acres of land was also acquired for this but due to some circumstances, the work could not be completed.

Naina Devi is one of the 52 famous Shakti Peethas of the country and is one of the most prominent religious places for not only the peoples of the country but the entire world. Likewise, Shri Anandpur Sahib is also a prominent international the religious place.

This project would boost the tourism sector in both the states alongwith strengthening the bond between two states besides facilitating the devotees visiting these two religious places.

It was informed that 80 percent pilgrims come to Shri Naina Devi from Punjab and during last one year, 20 Lakh devotees paid their obeisance in this Shakti Peeth.

The Chief Minister informed that for the construction of this impending ropeway, the matter had been taken up with his Punjab counterpart Captain Amarinder Singh on February 26, 2018.

The Chief Minister of Punjab said that with the construction of this ropeway the pilgrims of Punjab would get rid of the difficulty in reaching Shri Naina Devi.

He said that people of both the states would like to see this project completed at earliest and three year’s time frame has been fixed for its completion.

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Himachal suffers Rs. 1479 crore losses in 4 days alone, Centre releases Rs. 122 crore for rehabilitation

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Monsoon losses in Himachal pradesh in 2018

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh has suffered losses of about Rs. 1479 crore and during the last four days alone. Five choppers of Indian Air Force had been pressed into service to evacuate the stranded tourists and local people.

Chief Minister, who chaired a review meeting today, informed that the Centre Government has released Rs. 122 crore as the first instalment for the State for undertaking immediate rehabilitation measures.

himachal cm in meeting

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur during meeting held today

Over one thousand people have been rescued from Lahaul valley out of these 147 have been airlifted and remaining have been evacuated by road.

He said the road would be cleared upto Baralacha by this evening. All the rescued people were being taken for medical examinations. Efforts were being made to restore communication network in Lahaul valley.

He directed the officers to ensure adequate availability of essential commodities in the valley. He said that a team of BSNL would visit Sisu today for the restoration of communication in the area. The Government has assured all possible help to the BSNL in restoration work.

Out of 18 towers of BSNL in the valley, seven were working properly.

It was informed in the meeting that 18000-litre petrol and 27000-litre diesel was made available. LPG and other food items were also in sufficient quantity. It was informed in the meeting that water Supply to Manali has been restored and Lahaul valley was also almost restored.

Till the electricity supply was restored in the valley, efforts would be made to provide solar lamps and lights to the people, it was informed. Small transformers would be airlifted from Kullu to replace damaged transformers.

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