The Punjab government has terminated the services of around 1,200 veterinary pharmacists and Class-4 employees working in the rural development department on contractual basis.
Their services were terminated on November 30. The development came in the wake of a recent decision of transferring 582 veterinary doctors, who were working in the rural development department, to the animal husbandry department.
These veterinary pharmacists and Class-4 employees were attached to the rural veterinary doctors. However, after the vets were transferred to the animal husbandry department, the government failed to make a policy for these employees.
The decision has left the employees in shock; it has also raised a question mark on the functioning of rural veterinary dispensaries as well. Reacting to the move, Dr Navdeep Singh Khinda, president of Rural Veterinary Officers’ Association, Punjab, said it is not only injustice to these employees, but the question remains that neither the government has recruited fresh staff nor has it made alternative arrangements. “We treat animals, it is not possible to handle an animal without the help of a pharmacist and a Class-4 employee,” he said. He said their services were essential and without them the entire animal health care in rural Punjab would be badly hit.
These pharmacists were being paid Rs 7,000 per month.
Kuldeep Singh Brar, president, Rural Veterinary Pharmacist Union, Punjab, said they, along with Class-4 employees, would start a statewide protest.
Dr Aslam Parvez, president, Rural Medical Services Association, said they had also refused to merge with the health department as they knew the government would fire the contractual staff working with them.
Following a long agitation, in June 2013, Jaswinder Singh, a 35-year-old rural pharmacist, had committed suicide by hanging himself in the dispensary at a Bathinda village, where he was posted. In the suicide note, he had blamed the state government alleging that they were not regularised despite repeated promises.
In Punjab, a separate cadre of rural doctors, veterinary doctors and ETT (elementary teachers’ training)-qualified teachers was created under the panchayats and rural development department in 2006, in which around 14,000 ETT teachers, 1,200 rural medical officers and 580 each of veterinary officers, veterinary pharmacists and class-4 employees were hired.
When contacted, animal husbandry director Dr Harjinderjit Singh Sandha said it was the rural development department that had terminated their services. However, when asked how the department would run the veterinary dispensaries without the staff, he said they had sent a proposal to the government to continue their services.
Despite repeated attempts, minister for rural development Sikandar Singh Maluka was not available for comment.