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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. 

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With 78 Deaths Himachal Reports Highest Covid Fatalities in a Day Till Date

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Shimla-Himachal reported the highest deaths due to coronavirus in the last 24 hours on Tuesday as 78 patients succumbed to severe symptoms of the infection. As of now, the official death toll stands at 2,447. The number of active Covid cases in the state reached 34,888 as 2,892 new cases of infection reported in the last 24 hours.

 With 23 deaths, the Hamirpur district reported the highest number of fatalities on Tuesday. In the Kangra district, 14 patients lost their lives, while ten patients were reported dead in Solan district. Out of 78 patients who succumbed to coronavirus on Tuesday, 55 had no comorbidities. Out of 15,700 Covid tests conducted across the state on Tuesday, results of 3,539 remain awaited.

View the District-wise Details of all COVID-19 Deaths for May 17, 2021 (Till 7 pm) Below:

Amid the high fatality, the state government asked district administrations to explore all available means of transportation on Tuesday.  Besides ambulances, the state government has asked local administrations to sought vehicles available with Army, Paramilitary, ESI, Hydroelectric projects, and more to facilitate the movement of Covid-19 confirmed or suspected patients to hospitals.

All the ambulances in the twelve districts of the state are being mapped onto emergency number 108 for ease of transport services, the government said. Those patients who are currently at home may dial 108 for mobilization of the ambulance.

Many children have lost their parents amidst the deadly second wave of coronavirus. According to official data, seven children in Himachal have lost their parents due to Covid-19. Addressing this issue on Tuesday, the state government announced that it would ensure care and protection of orphan children. Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that the state government would provide financial aid, of Rs 2500 to each child every month. The state government has also issued directions to field officers to initiate immediate action for placing the children under foster care. 

View the District-wise Details of all COVID-19 Cases for May 18 2021 (Till 7 pm) Below:

COVID CASES IN HIMACHAL ON MAY 18

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Covid Orphans Seven Children in Himachal So Far, To be Placed Under Foster Care

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Shimla-The Corona pandemic has not only adversely affected the economy but has also devastated families. The deadly second wave has orphaned several children in Himachal Pradesh. There are instances where the children lost both their parents and left in the lurch. In other cases, life has become hard for children with a single parent, especially those coming from economically weaker backgrounds. Such children are forced to confront not only hardships, but they are also traumatized.

According to the official data, as of now seven children in the State have been orphaned due to Covid-19 and all these children were living with their kith and kin.

The Government said it had approached their guardians but they have refused to send the children to the Child Care Institutions. Therefore, the directions have been issued to the field officers to initiate action for placing them under foster care and provide Rs. 2500 per child per month up to the age of 18 years to the foster parents/children.

The state government also said that those children who are enrolled in Child Care Institutions and are temporarily restored to their families due to closure of schools amid the Covid pandemic would be provided Rs. 2000 per month to enable them to continue their online education. Presently 598 children were being benefitted under this Scheme, the state government claimed.

Further, the children up to the age of 18 years who either have lost their parents or are suffering from Covid would be provided shelter and care in Child Care Institutions.

The employees working in these institutions have been declared as frontline workers for purpose of vaccination.

Under the Mother Teresa Asahay Matri Sambal Yojna, financial assistance of Rs. 6000 per child per annum was being provided to widows for maintenance of two children up to the age of 18 years. Families whose annual income does not exceed Rs. 35000 were being covered under this Scheme, the government informed.

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Weather Alert in Himachal, Heavy Rainfall and Hailstorm Predicted for Two Days

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Shimla-With the onset of Western Disturbances in northern India, the Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department, Shimla, has issued a yellow alert for May 18th, 19th and 20th in the plain/low hills and middle hills. For higher hills, a yellow alert has been issued for May 19th and 20th with predictions of heavy rain in most areas and chances of snow in some parts.

The meteorological department has issued a yellow alert for Una, Bilaspur, Kangra, Hamirpur, Kullu, Mandi, Shimla, Solan, Sirmaur, and Kinnaur. In some areas of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur, the higher hill areas can receive snowfall.

The minimum temperature recorded in Shimla on Tuesday was 16.3 degree Celsius, 15.3 in Sunder Nagar, 12.1 in Bhuntar, 7.1 in Kalpa, 16.0 in Dharamshala, 20.8 in Una, 19.5 in Nahan, 3.0 in Kelang, 18.0 in Palampur, 16.0 in Solan, 10.0 in Manali, 19.0 in Kangra, 15.0 in Mandi, 16.8 in Bilaspur, 17.2 in Hamirpur, 14.0 in Chamba, 17.0 in Dalhousie and 14.4 degree Celsius in Kufri.

The maximum temperature recorded on Monday in Una was 40.4 degree Celsius. The maximum temperature in Bilaspur was 39.5, 38.8 in Hamirpur, 35.4 in Kangra, 35.0 in Nahan, 34.4 in Sunder Nagar, 34.3 in Chamba, 33.1 in Bhuntar, 31.6 in Solan, 27.4 in Dharamshala, 26.6 in Shimla, 22.0 in Kalpa, 21.3 in Dalhousie and 17.2 degree Celsius in Kelang.

As defined by the Met department, low hills/plains cover Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Parts of District of Kangra (Nurpur, Jwala and Dehra), Solan (Nalagarh, Baddi, Arki and Kunihar), and Sirmaur (Nahan and Ponta Sahib.

Middle hills cover Shimla, mandi, Kullu, some parts of Chamba (Sihunta, Chowari and Chamba), and most parts of Solan and Sirmaur district.

Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur, Chamba, Upper parts of Kullu and Mandi falls in the higher hills.

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