Lucknow: Demanding reinstatement of dismissed around 9,000 workers and better compensation for families of workers who died on duty during the second wave of the pandemic, ambulance workers of 102 (delivery of pregnant women) and 108 (emergency services) and advanced life support system (ALS) under the banner of UP Ambulance Workers Association from across the state reached Lucknow on Friday and staged a protest outside GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) office, which operates two primary emergency ambulance services.
Shouting slogans against the State government and GVK EMRI for not implementing their demands, the protesters also blocked the main road outside the complex, causing inconvenience to commuters. The union representing the ambulance workers is demanding permanent jobs for all the employees 102 and 108.
Many of the protesters were seen camping on the road late at night, with some of them saying they would remain there till they were reinstated.
Meanwhile, heavy deployment of forces was deployed outside the GVK EMRI office in Ashiyana, also security was heightened outside and police trucks were placed to block the road to restrict any movement.
“The police forces were deployed to remove use forcefully from the protest site but we are not going anywhere no matter police use baton charges or any other brutality to evacuate the site. We want our demands to be heard and implemented otherwise we will not move an inch from here,” Hanuman Pandey, president of the ambulance workers’ association in UP told Newsclick, adding that ambulance workers in a large number from across the state reaching state capital Lucknow. “We will decide our further action to lead the protest tomorrow.”.
According to their union, around 9,000 employees were served termination letters in July after the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government reportedly awarded a new tender to Ziqitza Healthcare Limited on May 31, a new firm that has been managing the 104 Helpline service in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
When asked about the reason behind the strike, Pandey told NewsClick, “The government has given the contract to run 108 and 102 ambulances to a new firm Ziqitza. After this, 10,000 employees became unemployed, hired by the GVK EMRI that was previously running the services.”
“We all are working for the government for the last 10 years. We have worked even amid the pandemic. Many of our colleagues were died on duty due to COVID-19 but this is what we are getting in return. We are all experienced, why we are not being hired again by the new firm,” he further said.
The agitating employees have been demanding regularisation of services under
National Health Mission, increase in wages, overtime incentive and Rs 50 lakh insurance claim for the family of colleagues who died of COVID-19. They also demand that if the service provider agency is changed by the government, they should be accommodated in the new company.
The new company clarified that they have been given tender for operating 250 ALS ambulances in the state and the company is not responsible for the operation of 108 and 102 ambulances.
“During the second wave of COVID-19, the government used to talk about showering flower petals on ambulance workers. We were termed as corona warriors for saving thousands by risking our lives but when we are on the brink of poverty due to unemployment, the government is attacking with the cane,” another worker said, adding that if their demands are not met, they will teach a lesson to the ruling government in upcoming assembly elections.
So far, 10,000 ambulance drivers and EMTs from different districts have reached the state capital. The number is likely to increase to 22,000 by Sunday afternoon, the union said.
Meanwhile, Varanasi district president of the Ambulance Drivers' Association, Sunil said, “Ambulance workers worked under life-threatening conditions during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In return, we are being slapped with FIRs and sacked. We are determined to protest until our demands are met. State leadership has given a call to gather for a larger protest in Lucknow. Workers from across the state reaching Lucknow for a larger battle against the adamant government,” he said.