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‘Dial 108’ ambulances remain off road in Punjab as staff on strike

The employees are demanding eight-hour duty instead of the existing 12, and rollback of termination and transfer orders of employees who protested in 2014 against the company.

punjab Updated: Jul 12, 2018 15:31 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh/Amritsar
Dial 108’,Dial 108’ ambulances,Punjab ambulance
Employees protest against the company that runs the government ambulance project, outside the civil hospital in Amritsar on Wednesday.(Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Patients across the state suffered as most of the ambulances under the government-run ‘Dial 108’ scheme remained off the road due to a 12-hour strike by its employees on Wednesday. As many as 1,160 employees (drivers and emergency medical technicians of EMTs) of the service were on strike from 8am to 8pm against the private company Ziqitza Healthcare Limited (GHL) which operates the ambulance, over long duty hours.

The employees are demanding eight-hour duty instead of the existing 12, and rollback of termination and transfer orders of employees who protested in 2014 against the company. “We have also not been issued increment for five years and our salary arrives with delay. It’s July 11 today, and we haven’t received our salaries yet,” said Bikramjeet Singh Saini, national president of Jeewan Rakshak Bhartiya Ambulance Karamchari Federation.

There are 240 such ambulances in Punjab, of which 236 remained off the road as four ambulances were deployed by the company for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Malout (Muktsar).

“We are getting only Rs 8,000 per month and are forced to do 12-hour duty, that too when we are living far from our home towns. We placed our genuine demands before senior officers of the state health department several times, but in vain as the company running has been given a free hand to exploit us,” said Saini.

Saini claimed that the federation is meeting with National Health Mission (NHM) state director Varun Roojam to press for their demands. “If our demands are not met, we will go on an indefinite strike and stop all ambulance services in north India,” he threatened.

Project head of the service, S Mukherjee, however, claimed that only around 40 ambulances were off the road due to the strike. “Till 2 pm, we refused 60 emergency cases due to non-availability of ambulances,” he said, but refused to give figures of attended patients. He said it is not possible for the company to accept the demands. “We will recruit new staff if the current staff continues with its stubborn behaviour. They will have to do 12-hour duty as one ambulance attends only 2-3 patients daily. We are giving them increments and their salary has also been released on Wednesday,” he said.

Health minister Brahm Mohindra, when contacted, said the government has “hardly any role” as the issue is between the employees and the company. “I appeal to the staff to sort out their issues with the company amicably without disturbing the ambulance services,” he said.

First Published: Jul 12, 2018 15:31 IST