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Strike holds rural health to ransom
- Infants, pregnant women worst affected

Immunisation drives and antenatal check-ups across the state were badly hit as 62,000 contractual employees of Jharkhand Rural Health Mission continued their pen-down strike for the second consecutive day on Thursday.

The protest is a part of a series of agitation in the run-up to the indefinite strike called by members of Jharkhand Rajya NRHM Anubandh Karmachari Sangh — an association of these contractual employees — from June 2.

Karmachari Sangh members started their phase-wise agitation from May 19. Thursday’s pen-down strike meant a complete shutdown of the JRHM office in Namkum.

The objective is to press for a seven-point charter of demands that includes regularisation of workers, payment of arrears and salary revision for multi-purpose workers.

President of the association Rahul Pratap conceded that the proposed indefinite strike and the ongoing agitation would affect health services across the state.

“All services, except diagnosing a patient that is done by a doctor, are executed by JRHM contractual employees,” he said.

Coincidentally, Thursday also happened to be Village Health and Nutrition Day in. The pen-down strike adversely affected immunisation of children across the state, as auxiliary midwife nurses (ANMs), sahiyas and other health workers stayed off work.

The immunisation drive is held on one Thursday of every month in every village. Children and pregnant women are immunised and antenatal check-ups are conducted by ANMs.

Pratibha Devi, a contractual ANM from Mandar, confirmed that immunisation was not conducted across the block on Thursday. “The association members in Ranchi had informed us beforehand about the strike and hence we, too, decided to express solidarity,” she added.

Ranchi civil surgeon Gopal Srivastava, however, claimed otherwise. “Health services were not affected and many contractual employees were at work,” he said, adding that he had not collected reports from the field yet.

NRHM managing director Ashish Singhmar and director-in-chief (health services) Dr Sumant Mishra were not available for comments.