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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. 

Misc News/Press Release

Now Report Traffic Violations on WhatsApp Numbers or Facebook: Kullu Police

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Kullu police whatsapp numbers

Kullu-After 45 people lost their lives and 37 were injured in one of the most tragic road accidents in Himachal Pradesh, the District Police, Kullu, has today issued a notification requesting common people to help curbing traffic rule violations. Referring to the bus accident in Kullu’s Banjar sub-division on Thursday, the police said,

It came to notice that the bus was overcrowded to the maximum extent. Such accidents can be avoided if all of us remain vigilant and follow traffic rules.

The police has issued two WhatsApp numbers (8219681600, 8219681601) where anyone can report traffic rule violations like overloading. Complaints can also be made on district police’s Facebook page. The complainant will have to mention specific details like place, time, vehicle registration number along with a photograph. The identity of the informer will not be disclosed to protect them from any harassment or harm, the notification said.

However, it appears that police in other districts is still waiting for similar accidents before they could take similar initiative to encourage people to bring traffic violations to their attention. Such steps should have been taken long ago. Sadly, it took the sacrifice of 45 lives to woke up the police.

The State Police need to issue directions to all Superintendents of Police to issue such numbers and act on complaints made by common people on social media. It helps the police to enhance their reach and deter traffic rule violations.

However, the people questioned how it would solve the problem relating to shortage of bus services in rural areas. The main cause of overloading is the shortage of bus services. The public is left with no option but to board on over-crowded buses because there is a long gap between services to their respective destinations. The State government and district administration are required to intervene here to sort this problem out. The strictness of police alone can’t solve issues like overloading.

As a ray of hope, the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur yesterday took notice of this issue and said that authorities should identify the crowded stations in the state, which require more transport vehicles. To cope up with the issue of overcrowding in the buses, more permits should be issued to mini buses, maxi cabs and trax etc., he had added.

It’s to be seen how swiftly the authorities act on these directions. Meanwhile, the public is requested to co-operate and avoid boarding in overcrowded buses and to indulge in violation of other traffic rules.

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Misc News/Press Release

After Kullu Bus Accident, CM Jairam Speaks of New Plans to Prevent Such Tragedies

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Chief Minister Jairam's statement over Kullu bus accident

Kullu-As usual, statements with assurances to take strict measures to check loss of lives in road accidents are being given by the state government after Thursday’s tragic ‘Kullu bus accident.’

This time, the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has claimed that a special campaign will be launched to identify and rectify the black spots on roads of the state to minimize the road accidents and the new roads would be passed after the approval by the road safety auditors.

He held a meeting of senior officers of the state government held here today.

He said that the earlier procedure of identifying the black spots would be done away and new mechanism to identify and rectify the black spots would be implemented so that the same could be improved instead of waiting for any untoward incident for it. He said that special focus would be laid on improving rural roads having greater traffic frequency.

Special awareness campaign would be launched to sensitize the people regarding over speed, rash driving, drunken driving and use of mobile phones while driving. People would be encouraged to register complaints against the erring drivers. He said that it has been found that 93 percent of accidents occur due to human errors, thus special emphasis would be laid on making driving test more stringent.

Jai Ram Thakur said that all the transport vehicles including taxis would have to display name with the photograph of the driver prominently in the vehicles so that the commuters could know that the driver is well trained and authorized to drive the vehicle.

He said that the condition of transport vehicles would be ensured properly and laxity in this regard would not be tolerated at any cost. He said that automatic testing of the condition of the vehicle would also be done for ensuring that only vehicles with good conditions are on the road. The driver licenses for heavy vehicles would be issued only after ensuring proper test of the drivers. He said that a mechanism such as installing biometric system in driving schools will be adopted so that it could be ensured that the trainee actually undergo training for a specific period. He said that efforts would also be made to provide automatic driving test facilities in all the districts of the State.

Jai Ram Thakur said the authorities should also ensure that there is no overloading in transport vehicles. He said that strict action would be taken against the violators. All the school buses would be regularly monitored and school management would be sensitized about the safety guidelines which is the ultimate objective of the government for the safety of the commuters.

The Chief Minister said that authorities should identify the crowded stations in the state, which require more transport vehicles. He said that to cope up with the issue of overcrowding in the buses, more permits should be issued to mini buses, maxi cabs and trax etc.

Earlier today, Jai Ram Thakur also visited the regional hospital Kullu to enquire the well being of the injured persons of the bus accident.

He said that 39 dead bodies were brought to Kullu hospital on Thursday evening for postmortem and except for three unidentified dead. The remaining bodies were handed over to their family members. As many as 37 injured were referred to Kullu after first aid at Banjar hospital out of which five persons including a tourist died.
He said that seriously injured eight persons were referred to PGIMER, Chandigarh on Thursday evening only whereas three more persons were referred during the midnight.

The district administration has arranged employees to assist the injured referred to Chandigarh. Besides, the doctors of PGIMER, Chandigarh have also been requested for providing treatment to the injured on priority.

The Kullu district administration distributed Rs. 10.35 lakh as immediate relief to the family members of the deceased and injured persons on Thursday night, he informed.

A magisterial enquiry has been ordered to find out the reasons for this bus accident and the enquiry committee headed by ADM, Kullu would submit its report shortly, he said.

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Kullu Bus Accident: Death Toll Reaches 44, About 35 Injured, Several Critical

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Deaths in Kullu Bus Accident in 2019


SKullu-
The bus accident in Banjar sub-division of Kullu district has entered the list of biggest tragedies in Himachal Pradesh. Per the last information received, the death toll has reached 44, and over 30 injured are undergoing treatment at Banjar Civil Hospital, Kullu Hospital, and Hosptial in Mandi’s Nerchowk.

Several injured are in critical condition and have been referred to PGI, Chandigarh. The district administration fears a possible rise in the death toll considering the critical condition of the injured.

All deceased are said to hail from about 20 villages in Kullu and Mandi.

The accident has again exposed the State government’s hollow promises to take measures to reduce road accidents. There is still no check on vehicle maintenance and overloading, leave alone appropriately placing crash barriers on cliff-side of the roads.
Causes of Kullu Bus Accident in 2019

This 42-seater bus was carrying over 75 passengers, there were passengers on the roof as well, eye-witnesses confirm. The bus had left for Gada Gushaini from Banjar on Thursday evening at about 3:45 PM. The bus had not covered more than two kms when it plunged into a 500 feet deep gorge near ‘Bheot mod’ and landed in a Khada fter scraping the mountain face.
Banjar Bus Accident in Pictures

As per a Hindi Daily, the driver was untrained and was perhaps driving a bus for the first time.

Locals, who travelled in this bus daily, told another Hindi Daily that the bus was in poor condition and often developed technical snags. According to the Daily, the driver experienced a problem in shifting gears when the bus approached the ‘Bheot mod’ and began to move backwards uncontrolled before skidding off the road.

The Superintendent of Police, Kullu, Shalini Agnihotri said, the exact cause of the accident could only be ascertained after a proper probe.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, who visited the hospital to meet the injured said,

The road at the spot was not in bad condition. Prima facie it looks like a case of overloading. A meeting was held today to ensure that such incidents don’t happen in future

The driver is reported to have jumped off the bus. A Daily said the driver survived and fled the spot. However, official confirmation was awaited. Hearing the sound of the accident, the locals from nearby Bhumar village rushed to the spot. As per eyewitnesses, the bodies were scattered all over the steep mountain.

Moreover, the condition of crash-barriers install was quite poor. The single-row crash barriers were not installed properly and held no chance of stopping the bus from skidding off the road.

Pictures of Kullu Bus Accident in 2019
The bus was shredded into pieces and its parts were mangled all over the hill and the stream at the bottom of the gorge. The locals had a tough-time descending the steep hill. With the help of ropes, the bodies and injured were extricated and brought up to the road. Further, the locals formed human chains to carry the injured across gushing water of the stream.

Death toll in kullu bus accident

The accident is not the first of its kind. There have been several such accidents in the past in Himachal Pradesh. On April 9, 2018, 27 people including 24 children were killed in a school bus accident in Nurpur in Kangra district. In April 2017, 45 people had died when an overloaded bus had plunged into a gorge near Nerwa in Shimla district. In 2016, 17 had died when a bus fell into Beas river in Mandi district, 25 in Rampur in 2017, 31 in July 2015 when a bus fell into the Parvati in Kullu. Before that, May 2013, 42 people were killed as a private bus plunged into Beas river.

In 2019 alone, 430 people have died in 1,168 road accidents in Himachal Pradesh by May 31. Between 2009 and 2018, over 11,000 people had died in nearly 31,000 different road accidents in the state.

Every time an accident happens, probes are ordered and government issues statements taking vows to fix black spots and implement violation of traffic rules like overloading and rash driving strictly. Further, assurances are provided to take strict action against all government officials and those responsible for the accident. After a few months, the usual business continues as the government officials go back into deep slumber. No action is ever taken against government officials responsible for negligence.

It’s no different this time too, the chief minister has ordered a Magisterial probe while the state transport minister Govind Singh Thakur has made similar promises. How and what actions will be taken remains to be seen.

It’s seen over the year that no audits are conducted to assess the need for additional bus services. The rural areas face a huge problem due to the lack of sufficient bus services, which is also responsible for overloading. There are limited buses and people are left with no choice but to board on overloaded buses to reach their destinations.

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The Regional Transport Office also has a role in such accidents because poorly maintained buses are passed easily. The Public Works Department has all the time to build a corrupt nexus with private contractors, but not to care to install much-needed crash barriers. The district administration and police hardly find time to run regular inspections to see if there is a paucity of bus services or buses are being overloaded.

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