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

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108-ambulance-staff-strike-in-Himachla-Pradesh

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. 

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Misc News/Press Release

Scrub Typhus in Himachal: Death Toll Reaches 8, Over 800 Tested Positive

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Scrub Typhus deaths in himachal Pradesh 2019

Shimla- Scrub Typhus death toll in Himachal Pradesh has reached eight, while 801 have been tested positive so far. One of the deaths were reported on September 21, 2019, at the Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla. A 16-year-old girl, who was taking treatment at the hospital for the past 10 days, reportedly died today.

So far, among the deceased, five belonged to Shimla, two to Mandi and one to Bilaspur district. All of these victims were receiving treatment at the IGMC Shimla.

As per the data released by the HP Health Department on September 18, a total of 801 cases of Scrub Typhus have been reported from the state. The rise in the number of cases is reported to be steep as by September 10, this number was 622. Maximum cases were reported from district Bilaspur (240), followed by Hamirpur (159), Shimla (107), Kangra (96), Mandi (77), Solan (54), Una (11), Chamba (9), and Kinnaur (1).

Amid the alarming rise in Scrub Typhus cases, the public has been advised that all patients, who complain of high fever, body ache and restlessness, should immediately reach the nearest health centre or start taking medicine for Scrub Typhus (doxycycline) as a precautionary measure. 

As per the health experts, if Typhus goes untreated for two to three days, it becomes fatal. The doctors at the IGMC Shimla cited the delay in treatment as the reason for deaths.

Scrub typhus is caused by a bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi. It is spread to people through bites of infected chiggers (larval mites). These mites could be found in grass fields and bushes, which is why people who visit grassy fields to fetch fodder for cattle are more vulnerable to get infected. This is why Scrub Typhus is also known as bush typhus.

Most common symptoms of this disease include fever and chills, headache, body aches, and muscle pain, and appearance of a dark, scab-like region at the site of the chigger bite (also known as eschar).

People with severe illness may develop organ failure and bleeding, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Scrub typhus should be treated with the antibiotic doxycycline. Doxycycline can be used in persons of any age. Antibiotics are most effective if given soon after symptoms begin. People who are treated early with doxycycline usually recover quickly.

 

 

 

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Misc News/Press Release

HP By-Election 2019 Dates Announced, Model Code of Conduct Comes Into Effect

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Hp By-Elections 2019 Dates

Shimla-The dates for the by-elections to two Legislative Assemblies of Himachal Pradesh – Dharamshala and Pachhad- were today announced by the Election Commission of India.  The polling would be held on October 21, 2019, in both constituencies. The counting would be done on 24 October 2019.

After sitting MLAs Kishan Kapoor (Dharamsala) and Suresh Kashyap (Pachaad) were elected to the Lok Sabha, these two seats fell vacant.

With the announcements of the dates for the by-polls, Model Code of Conduct has also come into force in Kangra and Sirmaur districts of Himachal.

The EC said that after taking into consideration various factors like local festivals, electoral rolls, weather conditions etc., the Commission has decided to hold bye-elections to fill two seats in Himachal that lie vacant as per the following schedule

  1. Date of Issue of Gazette Notification 23.09.2019 (MONDAY)
  2. Last Date of Nominations 30.09.2019 (MONDAY)
  3. The date for Scrutiny of Nominations 01.10.2019 (TUESDAY)
  4. Last Date for Withdrawal of candidatures 03.10.2019 (THURSDAY)
  5. Date of Poll 21.10.2019 (MONDAY)
  6. Date of Counting 24.10.2019 (THURSDAY)
  7. Date before which election shall be completed 27.10.2019 (SUNDAY)

The Commission has decided to use EVMs and VVPATs in the by-election in all the polling stations. Adequate numbers of EVMs and VVPATs have been made available and all steps have been taken to ensure that the polls are conducted smoothly with the help of these machines, the EC said.

With this announcement, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and HP Congress are expected to declare their candidates on both seats in next couple of days. While BJP is struggling in selecting candidates due to infighting, Congress has also not zeroed in on any candidates. BJP had sounded the bugle for by-elections prior to Congress and the Chief Minister has even visited both constituencies twice. While BJP would be fighting to maintain its popularity with which it was voted to power in the general assembly elections in 2017, Congress would try to revive the dying spirit of the party.

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Environment

HP PCB Urges Education Deptt to Educate Children About Air, Noise Pollution Caused by Firecrackers Ahead of Diwali

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HP PCB notice on Diwali 2019

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Pollution Control Board, ahead of Diwali festival, has urged the department of education to educate children about the harmful effects of air and noise pollution caused due to bursting of firecrackers and also to encourage them to celebrate pollution-free Diwali.

The board has also urged the people of the State to celebrate this festival of light in an eco-friendly way and say no to firecrackers.

The HP PCB said that to access the impact of the bursting of firecrackers during the forthcoming Diwali festival, it will conduct a special monitoring drive in the state. During this drive, the board will assess the ambient air and noise quality in the State.

HP PCB said that necessary directions have been issued to all the regional officers and laboratory In-Charges of the State Board to conduct extensive ambient air quality monitoring derive with effect from October 20 to November 3, 2019.

Ambient noise monitoring will also be conducted during pre- Diwali October on 21 and on the day of Diwali (October 27).  

During this monitoring drive, apart from general parameters like particular Matters (PM10, PM 2.5), oxides of Sulphur and Nitrogen, Carbon Monoxide and Ammonia some additional parameters like Lead, Nickel, arsenic, Barium, Iron and Strontium will also be monitored, the PCB said.

PCB said that all the Deputy Commissioners and Superintendent of Police have been directed to ensure that no firework of firecrackers should be allowed to burst in the 100 meters vicinity of the silence zone such as hospitals, educational institutions, courts etc. as per the provision of law.

 Sales and use of firecrackers generating noise level exceeding 125 dBA is also prohibited.

Ironically, the Board has no check on various other activities that cause air pollution throughout the year. For example, garbage burning is rampant in the state. While the practice is regular in rural areas and municipal councils, the Municipal Corporation of capital Shimla is also not far behind.

Moreover, there is no check on vehicular emissions as both HP PCB and the State Police refuse to take responsibility for it. The ‘No Honking’ campaign to reduce noise pollution in the state has also failed miserably as no steps were taken to create awareness or to deter people from honking unnecessarily. Considering these facts, it sounds odd that the PCB would actually be striving to check air and noise pollution ahead of Diwali.

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