In the US, the firefighters are worshiped as heroes. But in Chandigarh, being a firefighter is the most neglected job.
Besides relatively low salaries, there is surprisingly no life and health insurance coverage for the firefighters. Three UT firefighters have lost their life while performing duty since 2005. But all their families got in the name of post-death benefits are provident fund and monthly pension, which is even comparatively less as compared to employees of other department. “Our employees never pulled back from any firefighting operation. But they work in extreme tension since they are aware of the fact that if something happens to them on duty, there is no financial backup for their family,” said Harjinder Singh, president, fire brigade employees union, UT.
He said, “Due to the nature of our job, employees have given several representations to the administration for introducing life insurance coverage of at least
10 lakh but all in vain as no one is sensitive to our demands.”
“We lost our young worker on Sunday, but we will not let his death go waste. Soon we will revive our struggle and continue it till the time we get all due benefits for firefighters,” he said.
Sources said the issue of providing other duty related financial benefits were also pending with the UT for the past one year.
An employee said the fire department’s proposal on fixed proper risk and emergency allowance, besides electricity and water bill exemptions, was waiting administration’s approval as the file was stuck up in the home department for past four months.
“Despite it being a gover nment job and high-risk involved, a newly recruited firefighter gets 22,000 per month. Can this relatively low salary give motivation to work, especially when firefighters put their life to risk every day and there is no financial support in return,” questioned another fire fighter who was working for the past 24 hours in Sector 17 where a building collapsed on Sunday.
He said since 1978, our pay scale was equal to the clerical staf f, but in 2009, the clerical staff was allotted 3,200 grade p ay, where as there was n o increase in our salary.
“This is pure injustice to us. Compared to other departments, our employees have g reater chance to die on duty and this is how the department treats us,” said a firefighter.
UT fire officer SK Gosain said insurance coverage of the firefighters was indeed required, but the issue was stuck up for past many years in the administrative proceedings. “We will soon take up all issues relating to employees welfare,” he added.
Meanwhile, the UT has more than 200 regular firefighters and lack of equipment is another big problem in the fire department.
Sources said fire stations of Sectors 11, 17 and 38 were most ill equipped. In Sector 17, maintenance of fire tenders was not pursued timely, besides ambulances in Sectors 11 and 38 had gone overage.