Thousands of ambulance drivers assembled at the Eco Park in Lucknow today to protest against their employment conditions, which they allege are unfair. Meanwhile, several district admins have roped in new drivers, but the situation is far from normal.
It is day four of the ‘indefinite’ strike by ambulance drivers in Uttar Pradesh that has crippled health services across the state as patients and their families struggle to reach health centres. Attempts by officials to defuse the healthcare crisis has resulted in district administrations scrambling for drivers to get the emergency ambulance services functional in the state. However, the stalemate between the state government and the protesting drivers continues.
Today thousands of ambulance drivers assembled at the Eco Park in the state capital Lucknow to protest against their employment conditions, which they allege are unfair.
“We are requesting the government to pay heed to our concerns. We are protesting against the two companies (GVK, Ziqitsa) who are exploiting the labour of ambulance drivers like us,” Sharad Yadav, the media incharge of the protesting association named Jeevandayani Swasthya Vibhag, told Gaon Connection at the protest site.
Also, the association’s Varanasi head Deepak Singh Chauhan informed Gaon Connection that he, along with 100 other ambulance drivers, has reached Lucknow from Varanasi to protest against “unfair working conditions”.
“We demand the government to remove all charges against our association leaders. We will protest until our demands are met,” Chauhan said. “… it’s a government eyewash that ambulances have returned to normalcy. The district administrations have managed to get untrained drivers to run ambulances somehow,” he added.
Meanwhile, yesterday, the state government reportedly dismissed 570 ambulance drivers for putting the lives of patients needing emergency health facilities at risk.
While thousands of ambulance drivers continue to protest, district officials claim the situation was under control. The chief medical officer (CMO) of Sitapur district, Madhu Gairola, informed Gaon Connection that 93 ambulances were operational in the district.
“The ambulances are back to work. There is no shortage of ambulances in Sitapur,” she said.
Similarly, the CMO of Mirzapur, PD Gupta stated that 65 ambulances are operational. “Arrangements have been made for the drivers to drive these ambulances. The old drivers are not removed from their jobs, they themselves have quit their services,” he said.
Satyaprakash Singh, the CMO of Unnao district told Gaon Connectionthat a total of 30 emergency ambulances (108 ambulance service) and 35 maternity care ambulances (102 ambulance service) are operational. “We have forwarded the demands of the protesting drivers to the higher authorities,” Singh told Gaon Connection.
Also, from Barabanki, the protesting association’s district head Yogesh Kumar Lodhi told Gaon Connection that the keys of the ambulances have been handed over to the administration.
Two primary ambulance services of the Uttar Pradesh government — 102 (delivery of pregnant women) and 108 (emergency service) — have come to a grinding halt since July 25-26 midnight, as the ambulance drivers across the state have gone on an indefinite strike.
Till now GVK EMRI (Emergency Management and Research Institute) was operating advanced life support system (ALS), 108, and 102 ambulance services in the state.
Now, the responsibility of the ALS ambulance service has been given to Ziqitza Health Care. The ALS ambulance drivers have launched a protest against the changes in their employment conditions and payment following the handover of the ambulance service tender to a different company.
The protesting drivers claim that the employment conditions offered by the new company are unjust and the government should be considerate towards their selfless service at a time when the COVID19 was at its peak. The general ambulance drivers (102 and 108 emergency service) have also joined the protests in solidarity and this has created fresh troubles for the healthcare system in the state.
With inputs from Arvind Shukla (Lucknow), Brijendra Dubey (Mirzapur), Mohit Shukla (Sitapur), Virendra Singh (Barabanki) and Sumit Yadav (Unnao).