The workers were worried about losing their jobs as ZHL has already started recruiting fresh employees. They also claimed that the employment conditions at ZHL were unfavourable.

A company that provides emergency services in Uttar Pradesh has allegedly fired over 550 of their protesting ambulance workers as they refused to resume work, according to sources.

Ambulance drivers and workers associated with GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) Company launched a strike on the intervening night of July 25 and 26 after the firm’s contract expired and the new agreement was awarded to Ziqitza Healthcare Limited (ZHL) by the government for the operation of the Advanced Life Support (ALS) system ambulances in the state.

The workers were worried about losing their jobs as ZHL has already started recruiting fresh employees. They also claimed that the employment conditions at ZHL were unfavourable. Ambulance drivers associated with both the 102 and 108 government-operated helplines have also joined the indefinite protest, disrupting the services in the state.

The government claimed that it had no role in the termination of employees.

Additional Chief Secretary (Information) Navneet Sehgal said even though the government has mounted pressure on GVK EMRI for resumption of ambulance services, it cannot terminate the employees. “The termination process has been carried out by the company. The government is only putting pressure on the company for not providing services, which is causing inconvenience to people,” said Sehgal.

The Indian Express could not reach GVK officials for a comment.

Talking to The Indian Express, Additional Director General (ADG) Law and Order Prashant Kumar said FIRs have been registered in several districts against the protesting workers as Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) ESMA is in practice. “If someone is doing something in contravention of that order, then we will take action. If we receive complaints, then FIRs will be registered. As of Wednesday night, seven FIRs have been registered. The district where these FIRs were registered includes Lucknow, Azamgarh, Ballia and Varanasi,” he said.

The ongoing strike of ambulance drivers, mainly under the banner of one Jeevandayni Association, has made several demands, including assurance of continued service after ZHL takes over the contract and continuation of their benefits. Around two months ago, the state government had decided to pass on the tender of ALS system to the ZHL.

Amit Kumar Soni, who claimed to be the state president of one Jeevan Rakshan Committee, said there nearly 1,600 ambulances in the state and over 20,000 workers. This included nearly 250 ALS ambulances and 1,000 ALS employees.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra blamed the state government.

“During the Covid period, the government used to talk about showering flower petals on ambulance workers. But as soon as they raised their voice for their rights, the government is talking of attacking them with cane. The government dismissed over 500 workers using Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) and the public is troubled. God save the state from such a government,” tweeted Priyanka.

Responding to this, Cabinet minister and state government spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh said instead of understanding the matter she is supporting people who are creating hurdles in public service.

Attacking the Congress, Singh questioned how can a leader like Priyanka behave irresponsibly and post anything on social media without knowing the exact matter and mislead the public.

“She just trying to sensationalise something that is not sensational at all. Such statements only prove that Priyanka did not do her homework before trying to malign the image of the state government, which has done a tremendous job in controlling the second Covid-19 wave,” he added.

“At this time of hour when everyone should show their support towards the government, the Congress is trying to mislead people and create a situation of panic through such irresponsible statements. Priyanka comes to Uttar Pradesh only for tourism and has nothing to do with the people,” he said.

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