On Saturday, Telangana faced an ambulance shortage as some 108 emergency service staff with the GVK-EMRI went on strike demanding that the service be delinked from GVK and be operated by the Telangana State Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare.
At present, the emergency service is operated on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis. The strike affected all Telangana districts except Hyderabad.
Saturday saw 20 ambulances go off service in the state as 34 employees of the GVK-EMRI went off work after 4 pm.
The Employees’ Union claimed that the 108 service was disrupted in all districts of Telangana except Hyderabad. However, the GVK-EMRI management deployed their Emergency Management Technicians (EMT) and drivers who were on the bench and managed to bring 18 of the ambulances back into service in the districts.
There are a total of 326 ambulances that operate under the emergency service attending to various medical emergencies in Telangana.
The employees have been demanding better working hours and asking for the staff to be treated as government employees. Employee unions are demanding that working hours be reduced from 12 hours to 8 hours, calling the present working hours a violation of labour laws.
The Chief Operating Officer of GVK-EMRI, P Brahmananda Rao, told The New Indian Express that they were able to attend all emergency cases as they had proper contingency plans and had executed them accordingly. He also said that the 34 employees who did not turn up for duty have been terminated from service.
The unions have been staging dharnas and protesting against the PPP model under which the states emergency service has been operating. All across India, emergency services operate on a PPP model.
Emergency service employees in Telangana going on strike is not an isolated instance. The service employees in Bhopal, Indore and Chennai have all gone on strike in recent months. All these strikes were related to labour problems. However, the unions in Telangana are the only ones to demand that the service be taken over by the state government.