| Drivers of 102 ambulance service protest outside SK Memorial Hall in Patna on Tuesday. Picture by Ranjeet Kumar Dey |
Drivers and technicians of all the 28 basic life support ambulances that run in Patna under “102 ambulance service” went on an indefinite strike on Tuesday.
They said they have not been paid for the past four months.
Sources said the State Health Society, Bihar, which runs under the health department, had purchased all the ambulances and Dr Jain Video On Wheels Ltd provides manpower to the ambulances. The firm is supposed to provide salaries to the technicians and drivers of the ambulances.
Dr Jain Video On Wheels Ltd. is also responsible for the maintenance of the ambulances running with the number “102”.
“Under the ‘102 ambulance service’, 28 vehicles run in Patna, while under the ‘108 ambulance service’, only 10 run in Patna. On Tuesday, technicians and drivers of all the 28 ambulances that run under the ‘102 ambulance service’ went on an indefinite strike. This would definitely hamper healthcare services in the district because people are more dependent on the ‘102 ambulances’ because they are more in number,” said Ajay Kumar, a driver of a 102 ambulance. He had also joined the strike.
Sources said those who are manning the 102 ambulance service had earlier decided to launch an agitation in August because that time, too, their salary was due for over five months. However, when the matter came to light, the company officials thought it better to resolve the issue and so they took immediate stand on the matter and got the salary of the technicians and the drivers released. “People of Patna will have to suffer because of our strike. But we have no other way other than to enforce our demands because the company is insensitive towards our plight,” said Pappu Kumar, a technician of a 102 ambulance.
He added that many technicians and drivers in Madhubani were on strike in August like their counterpart in Sitamarhi and Buxar because of non-payment of salary for months.
“Only after their strike, their payments were released. It seems that the company has not taken the strikes seriously. It will take notice of our problems only if we go on a strike. We give 12-hour service, while we were asked to provide only eight hours at the time of joining. We are not even paid for the overtime. We should not be forced to do overtime, and if we do, the company has to pay us extra money,” he added.
According to the technicians and drivers, their salary receipts do not mention whether provident fund was deducted or not.
Officials of Dr. Jain Video On Wheels Ltd reached the protest site to pacify the agitators but nothing worked in their favour. “We have promised the technicians and drivers working under the ‘102 ambulance service’ that their payments would be released on Thursday. We are hoping that the strike would be called off soon,” said Anjani Kumar, the ambulance control officer of Dr. Jain Video On Wheels Ltd.