Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Mar 20:
Healthcare services in Odisha continued to be severely affected on the third day today as the 108 ambulance workers pressed ahead with their strike even after the government imposed Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) yesterday.
“The government simply doesn’t care about us. We have tried all possible ways to convey our issues before opting for cease work protests. Now they have imposed ESMA and are arresting our colleagues. But, these pressure tactics won’t work. We are not going to back down. The strike would continue until the government gives in,” said Ramesh, an ambulance driver in Bhubaneswar.
On the other hand, the government enforced ESMA even more strictly today and both detention and arrests were made across the state. FIRs were lodged against at least 12 workers by noon.
“We are doing our best to ensure that the patients do not suffer. Alternate arrangements have been made. ESMA has also been imposed. Strict action would be taken, if anyone is found neglecting his duty,” said Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak.
“We have asked the district administration to arrange vehicles and manpower so that patients can be shifted as and when the need arises. This is an emergency service. Everyone should cooperate. Bullying and threatening in order to achieve the demands won’t work,” he added.
Notably, the employees of the 108 ambulance service including drivers, helpers and medical technicians have been on a cease work protest since March 18 demanding payment of minimum guaranteed wages, 15 per cent annual increment and construction of rest shades for the employees among others.
Besides, they have been alleging that they are being forced to work in 12-hour-long shifts against the provision of eight hours.