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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

Govt declares 7-days State Mourning, 2-days public holiday in Himachal

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Atal-Bihari-Vajpayee passes away

Shimla:The Himachal Pradesh Cabinet Ministers, the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, the Governor Acharya Devvrat, and several leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party and oppositions mourned the sad demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93).

He passed away today in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi after a long illness.

The State Government has declared seven days State Mourning. The national flag would remain to fly at half mast.

The State Government has also declared public holidays for 17th and 18th August 2018.

He was born in Gwalior on December 25, 1924, and joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in 1939. was one of the founding members of the BJP.

He Vajpayee was thrice elected the prime minister between 1996 and 1999 and was the only non-Congress prime minister to complete the full term of five years, from 1999 to 2004.

He was also conferred prestigious Bharat Ratan award too.

Nation has today lost a great leader and a noble soul. This loss cannot be compensated. Himachal Pradesh had been a special place for Atal Ji and he always considered it as his own home as he used to come and stay at Prini in Kullu District frequently

, in their condolence message, the Ministers said.

He was a statesman and a visionary leader, whose demise is a great loss to the nation. He said that Shri Vajpayee always considered Himachal Pradesh as his second home and has a house at Prini in Kullu district, 

Chief Minister Jai Ram said in his condolence message.

The Chief Minister also shared an old picture taken with Shri Vajpayee.

Chief Minister said that the idea to construct Rohtang tunnel connecting landlocked hinterland Lahaul valley with rest of the world was conceived in 1998 by Shri Vajpayee and the project was announced by him on June 3, 2000. He said that this project was nearing completion and would be the biggest gift of Shri Vajpayee to the State.

He said that it was National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee that Himachal Pradesh got a special package for industrial development in 2003. He said that this resulted in an industrial investment of thousands of crores of Rupees and employment opportunities to lakhs of the youth of the State.

Jai Ram Thakur said one of the largest educational programs in the world, ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ was launched during his Prime Ministership. The program was a product of strong willpower of this statesman, he added.

Chief Minister said that it was during the tenure of Shri Vajpayee that the Golden Quadrilateral, the lifeline of trade in India came into being. In addition, ‘Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna’ (PMGSY) aimed at linking the 5 lakh villages of India to cities by all-weather roads, which in particular proved a boon to the hilly states like Himachal Pradesh, he added.

Shri Vajpayee was the great son of India in a real sense, who, with his simplicity and humility, ruled the hearts of millions of people. He always believed in value-based politics and always adhered to it. He said that Shri Vajpayee would always be remembered and respected by the people of the country for his simplicity, humanity and benevolence,

the Governor said in his message of condolence.

Further, leaders of the opposition are also paying their respects and praying to the Almighty to grant peace to the departed soul.

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Landslide on Shimla-Dhalli bypass hit apple trucks & traffic plan, road likely to remain closed for 2-3 days

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Mehli-Shimla bypass

Shimla – A huge landslide on Shimla-Dhali bypass road (NH-5) between Mehli and Malyana on Thursday afternoon has come in a time when the apple growers have begun to reap their crops and transport to markets. It is the peak season for the growers. The Shimla-Dhali bypass is like a lifeline for the growers in the upper areas of the district.

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As per the Traffic Police, Shimla, it may take about two to three days to clear the road and open it for traffic again. The landslide also uprooted three to four trees. There were no reports of anything being buried under the debris and rocks.

All vehicles on both sides of the road remained stuck in long jams before they had to turn back to take alternative routes.

This blockage has made another road inaccessible for the trucks – the Mehli-Shoghi bypass, which branches off from the Shimla-Dhali bypass. The Shimla Police had to change the traffic plan according to which the trucks arriving from the upper area of the district would have to take the Dhalli-IGMC-Lakkar Bazaar road during the night hours only.

As per the police, the trucks going towards the upper Shimla area would have to use the bifurcation at Khalini Chowk and take Khalini-Chhota Shimla-Dhalli route during night hours only.

As per the district administration, the work to clear the road is underway, but it might take a couple of days before it could be opened for traffic.

At the same time, the blockage of roads due to landslips at various other places has brought local vehicles as well as trucks carrying apple crop to halt, leading to a distress among the growers. Bad weather could delay the restoration work.

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Lack of emergency in making emergency announcement troubles schoolchildren, parents

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school in shimla remained closed

Shimla: On August 13, 2018, the district administration of Shimla like all other districts decided to keep the schools close owing to a heavy and continuous spell of rain. It continued raining on Sunday night and till early morning it had caused several landslides and uprooting of trees. The roads were blocked all over the city including the circular road.

As it was still raining on Monday morning, it was announced that the schools were to be kept closed for the day.

However, by the time this announcement was made, the majority of school students had already reached the school or on their way to school. The cabs had returned after dropping children at their respective schools.

It was still raining heavily when the schools sent children back home.

We had taken our seats in our classroom when the teacher told us that the school was to remain closed for the day,

said a student of a reputed private school while he was returning to the home on feet.

I received an SMS regarding the announcement when my children had already left for the school. The school said they had sent them back, but they did not reach home. There is no mean to communicate with them, and I fear they might have got stuck somewhere due to traffic jams,

said a mother of two while waiting for her children at a shop in Tutikandi.

The schoolteachers, when inquired about the same said they were also unaware of the announcement and had reached the school by the time this announcement reached them.

There were several other parents who were waiting for the safe return of their respective children. They believed, the schools should not have sent children back in heavy rain if they had arrived at school.

The campus would have been a safer place when it was raining heavy and roads were already blocked at several places,

said another woman while she inquired classmates of her son.

I had returned after dropping children at the school. I begin to receive calls from the parents to go back and bring the children back as the schools were closed. The Khalini-Shimla road was already closed due to a fallen tree, and even I was stuck in traffic,

said a cab driver.

It appears the State Government need to evolved faster and insured ways to reach the public via official announcements in times of emergencies like bad weather and natural disasters. Had this announcement reached an hour ago, which was possible as it had been raining heavily all night, the children and parents would not have faced such huge inconvenience.

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