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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. 

Misc News/Press Release

Heavy Rain, Snow in Himachal, Yellow Alert Issued for Nov 15

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Hp met weather prediction nov 2019

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department has predicted rain and snow from 14 to 16 November 2019. While rain at isolated places is predicted in middle and high hills on November 14, the Met has predicted heavy rain in low and middle hills and heavy snowfall in higher hills.

Weather prediction 2019

A yellow alert has been issued for November 15 in five districts -Chamba, Kangra, Kullu, Mandi, and Lahaul-Spiti.

The weather is predicted to be dry thereafter.  

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17 November Declared Paid Holiday for Municipal Council Elections

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MC elections in himachal pradesh 2019

Shimla-The Himachal Pradesh Government has declared 17 November 2019, as paid holiday in the areas of Municipal Council Solan and Nalagarh in district Solan and Rampur in district Shimla, where bye-election is scheduled to be held to fill up the vacant seats.

A Spokesperson of the state government said informed on Wednesday that all government offices, boards, corporations, educational institutions and industrial establishments of the state under Industrial Disputes Act and shops will remain closed on this day in the said areas.

He clarified that special casual leave may be given to those employees who are working in different places in the state but have a right to vote in these Wards on the production of a certificate from the concerned Presiding Officer that the employee has actually cast his/her vote.

 

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RTI Activist Writes to Governor over HPPSC Member Rachana Gupta’s Participation in Politically Dominated Event

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HPPSC Member Rachana Gupta at Global Investor meet

Shimla-The Member of Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission, Rachana Gupta, who has been in controversy over her appointment, is again in news. This time, an RTI activist has written to the Governor of the State, Bandaru Dattatreya, pointing out the presence of Gupta in recently held Global Investor Meet, Dharamshala. A picture of Gupta with the wife of the Chief Minister Jairam Thakur at the event was also attached with the letter.

The activist has termed the event as political dominated in nature where prominent leaders of the party were present.

The activist, Dev Ashish Bhattacharya, in his letter, has asked whether Gupta had obtained any permission from the Chairman, HPPSC, to participate in the said event.

The activist also raised a question whether it was appropriate for a member of HPPSC to participate in any politically dominated meetings or events.

“Suppose the wife of a Chief Secretary is a High Court Judge, then can she justify her participation in a political dominated event by arguing that since her husband participated in that event as a Chief Secretary so she can also participate,”

said the activist in his letter.

He said such participation of an HPPSC member would only erode the sanctity of the Commission in the eyes of the candidates and their parents who take the competitive examinations. He also said that such an act would also lead to erosion of the faith that the candidates have in the HPPSC.

The activist said that already a complaint is pending in the office of the Governor relating to criminal case Gupta was facing at the time of her appointment as HPPSC member. In July 2019, Gupta had to obtain bail from the Joginder Nagar court, the activist said.

Referring to the well-known proximity of Gupta with the family of the Chief Minister, the activist said that she was appointed within a very short span of time right after the Jairam Thakur took over the government. A special vacancy was created for her despite the fact that at the time of her appointment there was no such vacancy.

The activist has requested the Governor to initiate an inquiry into the matter and remove Gupta from the membership of HPPSC “in the interest of justice to the candidates who appear in various competitive examinations being conducted by the institution.”

At the time of her appointment in January 2018, the activist had alleged that the Bhartiya Janata Party allegedly created and filled two seats of the member of the HP Public Service Commission by violating the orders of the Supreme Court regarding the proper procedure to make an appointment on such positions.

In addition, two posts were created when all three posts were already occupied, the activist had alleged.

In July 2019, Gupta had filed a defamation suit against a the activist for allegedly tarnishing her image and reputation by posting wrong posts on Facebook.  She had made claim of Rs 1 crore from Bhatacharya.

 

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