Workers under the National Health Mission (NHM) in Haryana began a two-day statewide strike on 5 December. All contractual NHM workers, from doctors to class-4 employees are participating in the strike. They include medical officers, pharmacists, lab technicians, clerks, data entry operators, and auxiliary nurse midwives (ANM), among others.
Their primary demand is regularisation in their jobs—most NHM workers in the state have been hired on a contractual basis. Until they get regularised they are demanding a hike in their salaries to bring them at par with the regular health workers, under the slogan of “equal work, equal pay”.
There are workers appointed on around 150 designations under NHM in Haryana, with total employees numbering more than 12,500. The NHM includes both the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) as well as National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).
The NHM employees have been demanding regularisation and have been in talks with the ruling BJP government in Haryana since 2015. They have held a number of protests over their demands.
Permanent jobs would entail higher pay, job security and service rules to govern their work. At present, there are no service rules in place for contractual NHM employees.
There are also major discrepancies in the salaries that the workers receive, which is already meagre. For example, a professionally qualified data entry operator is paid Rs 9,900, and according to a news report, while one nurse is paid Rs 10,300, another for the same job could be paid over Rs 18,000.
They are also demanding that contractual workers whose contracts were terminated be reinstated.
“The government has been giving us assurances for more than a year now, but to no avail,” said Suresh Uchana, deputy general secretary of the Multi-Purpose Health Employees Association (which represents the Multi-Purpose Health Workers under NHM) and secretary of the Sarva Karamchari Sangh (which represents all regular and contractual government workers in Haryana).
“Last year in September, we went on a 13-day strike and state health minister Anil Vij assured us that the process of regularisation would begin as soon as possible. And until then, all contractual workers’ salary would be hiked to make it equal to regular workers,” Uchana told Newsclick.
“But it did not happen. In fact, workers’ pay was cut for the period they had participated in the strike, and some workers were even suspended.”
The NHM workers had also planned a statewide strike on October 25 and 26 this year, but the state government once again came forward with promises to meet their demands.
“This October, we called off the strike after chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar gave us his word that the process of regularisation would begin within 20 days from when he talked to us. Again, no progress has been made,” said Uchana.
“We will continue with our agitation until our demands are met. We can also go on an indefinite strike and gherao the CM’s office if the government does not pay heed to us.”