Lucknow: About 2,000 state health department employees in Uttar Pradesh are gearing up to intensify their agitation against a new order by the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party government to hold mandatory “performance” and “medical” screening of staff aged 50 years and above. The agitated employees feel this is a ploy to force people to take retirement.
Chief Minister Adityanath has issued directives to director (administration), Health and Medical Services, Pooja Pandey, and the departments concerned to complete the screening test process by October 31 and submit the list of those who fail to clear by the first week of November.
"The screening process will be conducted to analyse the performance of the staff based on their attendance, physical fitness, and efficiency in using technological devices, like computers. The authorities have clarified that those who do not pass the bar of performance set by the review committee, will have to accept compulsory retirement," a class 4 grade health employee told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity.
The order stated that a screening committee will be organised in order to review the performances of class 3 and class 4 healthcare employees of the clerical cadre. The committee will comprise four members and it will start reviewing the performance of employees based on several aspects. Eventually, it will submit a report to the government.
The order has not gone down well with the employees, with the president of State Employees Joint Council, Uttar Pradesh , Atul Mishra, saying that such attempts were aimed at harassing employees. "It will not be tolerated," he said, adding that an emergency meeting was held in Lucknow on Monday to discuss the order and decide the future course of action.
Meanwhile, the State Employees Joint Council has threatened to go on strike if the state government goes ahead with the exercise to “force out” senior government employees.
“Instead of respecting their experience, the government is out to terminate their services on flimsy grounds,” Mishra told NewsClick, adding that the government’s decision had put the jobs of nearly 2,000 employees at stake.
"All class 3 and class 4 employees are frontline warriors who have been playing crucial roles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their role and responsibility in the CMO’s (Chief Medical Officer) office in every district entails monitoring and make reports for the CMO, which helped government to tackle coronavirus. They are being removed at a time when they are needed most,” he said.
Meanwhile, a statement was also issued by the Employees Joint Council which said that senior staff and its leaders were in dialogue in every district to decide the roadmap for protests against the government’s decision across the state on October 14.
“It’s an attempt to gag our voice and quell our movement for better service conditions. If we are forced to take retirement during the pandemic, it will hamper health services of the state,” alleged a class 3 employee who has also raised concerns against the new order.
The state health employees have other demands as well, which will be raised during demonstration on October 14.
"Some of the other demands are fresh recruitment against vacant posts within three months, disbursal of all pending dearness allowances, Rs 50 lakh compensation to family members of employees who died in fight against the pandemic, and disbursal of bonus to all categories of employees before Diwali."
Reacting on the government's new order, C.S. Verma, President of public health outfit, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), Uttar Pradesh, said such a decision during the COVID crisis is highly objectionable.
"Fifty years is no age to retire people, knowing that over 60% posts of health workers are vacant in Uttar Pradesh. Even during the pandemic, 50% of doctors and health workers are suffering from coroanvirus and only the rest are doing their jobs," said Verma, adding that instead of fulfilling the vacant posts and hiring health workers, the government is forcing people to retire, which will further strain healthcare in the state.
Questioning the Adityanath government's parameters on fitness and performance, Verma said: "The government cannot only judge an employee on basis of his/her performance, as in almost every hospital in Uttar Pradesh, the technological devices are either very old or not working. In this case, how can an employee be held responsible?"
The Chief Minister had ordered a similar exercise last year in May-June to screen IAS/IPS officers having crossed 50 years of age. The exercise was ostensibly aimed at giving voluntary retirement to those who were found to be “corrupt or non-performing.”
However, none of them were forced to retire despite a list being submitted to the government. The Uttar Pradesh IAS Association had also raised strong objections against the government adopting such a practice in contravention of the rules set by the central Department of Personnel and Training.