Lady health workers continue sit-in at the edge of Red Zone

Updated 16 Oct 2020

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Lady health workers shout slogans on the second day of their sit-in at D-Chowk on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Lady health workers shout slogans on the second day of their sit-in at D-Chowk on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of lady health workers continued their sit-in at the edge of the Red Zone on Thursday despite the absence of necessary facilities.

The lady health workers are among thousands of government employees from unions, associations, organisations, tehreeks and etihads who came from across the country to gather at Express Chowk on Wednesday in order to protest their salaries, pay structure and scale.

All the protesters other than the lady health workers have left in batches after their negotiations with ministers failed.

The lady health workers, however, refused to leave until their demands are met. With streetlights switched off, they have been left to sit on the road in the dark, without a supply of water or meals for them. They also do not have access to sanitation facilities, as the government, including the capital administration and police, try to break the protests with such tactics.

President of the National Programme Health Employees Federation Rukhsana Anwar told Dawn that the protesters had to walk to the nearby petrol pumps or metro stations for toilet facilities. She alleged that the petrol pump employees and the staff at the metro stations had now told them that the government had directed them not to allow them the facilities.

Leaders from the Young Doctors Association visited D-Chowk on Friday in solidarity with the lady health workers. Dr Salman Haseeb demanded that all the demands of the workers be met. He said the protests had entered their second day under difficult circumstances, as the government has suspended the water supply and turned off the lights. He said the country’s daughters were being humiliated on the streets while the government was silent.

He added that doctors from two provinces were in the capital and would come out onto the streets in support of the lady health workers if they are harmed.

The government is harassing all sections of society and there is unrest all over the country, Dr Haseeb said, adding that Pakistan is being discredited all over the world and such decisions are being made because of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advisers.

The lady health workers have issued a 10-point agenda of demands, which includes the restoration of the National Programme of Family Planning in its original condition,all employees should be given equal bonuses and all the provinces should receive equal pay.

They said it was unjust that the salary for lady health workers in Sindh is Rs35,000, while lady health workers in Punjab are paid Rs20,000. They demanded the creation of a service structure for all employees and service rules.

They have demanded that services of all cadres of the national programmes should also be counted, all lady health workers andlady health representativesshould be regularised, retired employees should be given pensions, the union should be restored, victimisation and retaliatory action stopped and dismissed colleagues reinstated immediately.

Security must also be provided to all employees of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme during polio vaccination campaigns, they said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday announced its support to the protesters and criticised the government’s handling of the situation.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2020