Hundreds of people affected after 102 and 108 ambulance services shut down
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Guwahati: Hundreds of people affected after 102 and 108 ambulance services shut down

Saumya Mishra | September 15, 2018 17:42 hrs

GUWAHATI: The operations of 102 and 108 emergency ambulance services in the city have been temporarily called off since September 10 by the GVK-EMRI, the company which manages the 102 and 108 ambulance services in the state. This has affected the emergency services in the city.  
   
GVK-EMRI officials told G Plus that the decision was taken after the striking workers assaulted top officials of the Hyderabad-based company at a negotiation meeting held in Guwahati recently.  
   
“We had called the drivers, technicians and other striking workers for a meeting for negotiation, but a consensus could not be reached and at the end of the meeting they assaulted the senior officials of our company who had come to Guwahati from Hyderabad,” informed an official of the company.

Fearing the safety of their workers, authorities decided to temporarily completely call off the services of the 102 and 108 ambulances following the meeting with the striking workers.

Close to 3,000 staff of the 108 and 102 ambulance services of the state went on an indefinite strike from September 4 affecting medical emergency services across the city as well as the state.

All the field staff, drivers, medical technicians as well as the call takers of the Emergency Management and Research Institute (GVK-EMRI) have called a strike on account of their various demands.
 
Some of their major demands include an increment in their salary, leave encashment, reducing their shift duty from 12 hours to 8 hours and implementation of the rules of the labour law.

Immediately after the workers called the strike, the GVK-EMRI had arranged for Adarani vehicles in addition to some ambulances provided by the government to carry out the emergency operations. However, they too, were called off after the assault on officials.

The tussle between the management and the employees has continued for 10 days now, affecting people across the city and state who were reliant on 102 and 108 ambulance services. 


From tonsured heads to arrests, the protest sees it all 

In a unique form of demonstration, close to 150 agitating workers, who have been protesting outside the GVK-EMRI’s office in Lokhra over the past week, tonsured their heads in protest against the non-fulfilment of their demands. 

Additionally, a few workers were also arrested in the city, for assaulting company officials.
 
In order to minimise the impact of the strike, GVK-EMRI had started conducting fresh recruitments during the initial days of the strike. However, they decided to stop the recruitment process after the protestors confronted and assaulted the new joinees as well.   

The company authorities said that two of their demands including reduction of their duty hours from 12 to 8 hours and implementation of service rules have already been discussed with the labour commissioner and the talks are ongoing. 
 
Further, officials informed that the staff members were already given leave encashment in their last salary and they were also offered increment with an arrear for the months of July, August and September which will be paid along with the salary for the month of September.

On the other hand, the agitating employees of the GVK-EMRI said they had not received any wage revisions and that they had to work for 12 hours every day. They added that one of their main grievances included non-implementation of the service rules.

“We have approached the labour department as well as the National Health Mission, but still no attention was paid to our demands,” informed an employee and union member. 

Currently, the striking workers are having talks with the state government, the results of which are awaited, informed sources. 

A total of 695 ambulances were operating under GVK-EMRI in the state. Out of these, 380 were running under 108 ambulance service while 315 were operational under the 102 service, informed officials.
 
Talking about the government’s preparedness during this period when the 102 and 108 ambulances have completely stopped plying, Ganesh Saikia, Joint Director Health, Kamrup (Metro), told G Plus that currently there are 16 vehicles from the ‘Adarani’ ambulance service which are being used to cater to emergency cases.

“In addition to this, we have some basic older ambulances which were purchased around 10 years ago by the state government, so we are utilising their services,” said Saikia.  
 
He added that in some dire cases, if need be, they can also request private hospitals and clinics. 

“There are close to 68 private hospitals and nursing homes all over the district. Out of these, at least 40-45 of them would be having ambulance vehicles of their own. They can also support us in times of need,” added Saikia.

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