More than 200 ambulance drivers and other trained respondents of Meghalaya GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) have been on an indefinite strike from Monday, September 30, demanding that the government immediately terminate the contract with GVK EMRI. Even though the Meghalaya government, on October 1, promulgated the Meghalaya Essential Services Management Act (ESMA) prohibiting the strike, the field workers continued their protest.
The state government stated through the additional secretary to the Political Department that the promulgation of the Act was in exercise of the powers conferred to the state government by sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Meghalaya Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1980 (No.23 of 1980), Amendment Act 2003, and in the public interest. The notice issued by the government said, “This order comes into force with immediate effect and will remain in force for a period of six months.”
The field workers, protesting under the banner of Meghalaya EMRI Workers’ Union (MEMRIWU) drove their ambulances from their respective bases to the headquarters at Lawmali, Shillong on September 30. They wanted to surrender the keys of the ambulances and other medical gadgets to the management, alleging that it has breached the status quo agreement that was brokered by the state government in July, 2019.
The emergency workers gathered at the EMRI headquarters on Monday, and talked about their poor service conditions and the lack of maintenance of the ambulances. “The state government during the tripartite meeting told the management to fulfill our demands and issues, like enhanced salary package, the shortage of manpower, the admission for leave, the rampant transfer and good motorable condition of the ambulances,” MEMRIWU president R Kharraswai told The Sentinel.
He added, “But the management has not adhered to the agreement.”
He acknowledged that their indefinite strike was going to affect the villages, and the emergency health services in the state will be hit hard, and said that they had no other options left. He said, “We will be back at our services if the management and the government take serious cognisance of our issues and demands.”
The employees alleged that the state government has remained indifferent towards their 36-point charter of demands, and have said that the promulgation of ESMA is to stop the field staff from fighting for their own rights. Kharrawai said, “The state government has turned a deaf ear to various grievances faced by the field staff which include shortage of manpower, shortage of ambulances and in poor condition, salary and others.”
The union has also demanded that an independent or a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry should be instituted to look into the into the functioning of the GVK EMRI in Meghalaya because the state government has sanctioned Rs 1.47 lakh per ambulance per month for maintenance, but the ambulances are in pathetic condition.
MEMRIWU has said that they will continue their protests until the government takes definite steps to ensure that their demands are met, that is, either the contract with GVK is terminated or the management agrees to improve the working conditions for the employees.