The Madhya Pradesh health department has initiated the process to invoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to force contractual health employees to end their strike. The contractual employees have been on strike since February 29, demanding regularisation of their services.
Their agitation has affected the health services in different parts of the state, including the polio immunisation drive which was scheduled for Tuesday.
National Health Mission (NHM) mission director Jayshree Kiyawat told HT that the file to impose ESMA has been moved. “The final call on it will be taken by the chief minister,” she said.
The employees were served a notice on March 11, which warned that the state would initiate process for one-sided action against them, including termination of their services, if they failed to join their duties by March 14. Kiyawat said chief medical and health officers (CMHOs) have been directed to serve notices to the employees who hadn’t rejoined their duties.
Kiyawat said there are over 18,000 contractual employees in the state and it was not possible to regularise the employment of such a large number. “We don’t have so many sanctioned posts,” she said.
Principal secretary health Gauri Singh told HT that health services cannot be held ransom and said nearly 10,000 auxiliary nursing midwives (ANMs) will resume duties from Wednesday. “Today, nearly 1,000 employees joined their duties. If the rest of the employees don’t join their duties, their services will be automatically terminated after March 31,” she said.
“We have withdrawn the financial powers of contractual employees and given them to other regular health staff members so that various transactions in the health department are not affected,” she added.
Singh said the health department had to make alternate arrangements for Tuesday’s polio immunisation drive by hiring the services of 804 trained vaccinators. “We are doing a mop-up vaccination drive on Wednesday and one more day in the coming week to compensate for the losses,” she said.
Meanwhile Samvidha Swasthya Karamchari Sangh state president Saurabh Singh Chauhan told HT that the contractual employees will continue to agitate till their demands are accepted. He said that if the state government contemplated ESMA and considers health services as essential services, they should regularise the jobs of contractual employees. “When it comes to imposing ESMA, they think of us as employees. But when it comes to regularisation, they don’t care,” he said.