The employees of the Meghalaya GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) 108 ambulance service have started an indefinite hunger strike starting from Tuesday, October 29. The decision to go on a hunger strike was taken due to the state government’s inability to meet their demands even more than a month after they started their protest. More than 200 ambulance drivers and other trained respondents of the EMRI ambulance service have been on an indefinite strike under the banner of Meghalaya EMRI Workers’ Union (MEMRIWU), demanding that the government immediately terminate the contract with GVK EMRI, and take over the emergency services.
President of the MEMRIWU, Roipar Kharraswai, told NewsClick, “More than 180 people are sitting on the hunger strike. Four people were hospitalised on the evening of Wednesday. More protesters are falling sick. We are waiting for assurances for the government, which we have not received even a month of our protest.”
The Meghalaya government had earlier this month issued a pre-termination notice to the GVK EMRI. Meghalaya Health Minister A L Hek had said that if the GVK EMRI failed to perform within two months after issuing the pre-termination notice, further course of action would be taken. The protestors have opposed this decision. Kharraswai said, “In July this year, we had threatened to agitate over non-fulfillment of our demands, but we had called it off after getting assurance that our demands will be fulfilled. Their deadline ended on September 23, but the management did not do anything. Giving them another 60 days to perform does not make any sense.”
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He told NewsClick that the employees of GVK EMRI have been raising their demands and issues like enhanced salary package, the shortage of manpower, the admission for leave, the rampant transfer and unusable condition of ambulances with the management for more than a year now, but the management continued to ignore their problems. He added that the management had not once met the workers to listen to their demands.
He said, “After the management failed to meet the deadline set by the state government in July, we decided to change our demands, since all our previous ones had fallen on deaf ears. We want the government to terminate the contract with the GVK EMRI and take over the ambulance service. The government is playing with the lives of the citizens in the state by letting a private contractor handle this essential service.”
The MEMRIWU have in the last one month repeatedly demanded that the state government start its own emergency cell and accommodate the 108 emergency service employees. The union has also spoken up against the views expressed by the labour and law departments of the state who had made it clear that the problem is an internal matter of the GVK EMRI and its employees, since the government had only signed an agreement with the company.