It seems the nursing staff and drivers serving in the ambulances introduced under Arogya Kavacha 108 scheme, who strive hard to save the lives of others, do not enjoy a secured job themselves.
Karnataka State Arogya Kavacha 108 Employees Union has alleged that, as many as 18 workers, had been dismissed from the service in the past 20 days for taking part in the State-level convention of the union organised in Shimoga on May 12.
The Arogya Kavacha 108 ambulance service introduced under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) is managed by GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute in the State. The combined strength of drivers called as pilots and nursing staff called as emergency medical technicians in the State exceeds 2,000.
Speaking to The Hindu, Raghunath Kankari, president of Karnataka State Arogya Kavacha 108 Employees Union, said sufficient funds had been released by the Government under NRHM to the GVK company towards managing the vehicle, expenses towards petrol, purchasing medicines, payment of salary, and other benefits for the workers.
The nursing personnel and drivers were denied their salary and leave entitlements. The management deliberately posted the workers out of their districts. Accommodation were not provided for women workers and were forced to work in night shift against the law, he said.
Drivers were held liable even for minor damage to the vehicle. Mileage of 15 km a litre is made mandatory without taking into consideration the condition of the roads. Drivers were blamed for the road accidents involving Arogya Kavacha ambulances.
In fact, drivers had been stressed out because of harsh working conditions. The Karnataka State Arogya Kavacha 108 Employees Union was formed and registered as per the law to ensure that workers and patients were benefited from the amount released under NRHM, he stated.
The pilots and emergency medical technicians remained off the duty in the State on April 24, 2010 seeking fulfilment of their demands. Mr. Raghunath said that, on the day of the convention in Shimoga, the higher officers called the workers over telephone, asked them to return to the duty immediately.
After the convention, 18 workers who had identified with the Union were terminated from service, he said.
Mr. Raghunath, who received the pink slip on Thursday, said the management had said in the termination notice that his involvement in trade union activities was against the rules of the company. Its full support to the 108 ambulance workers in Karnataka, according to the COITU.