Lady health workers to march towards Parliament in Islamabad as demands still not met

Updated 19 Oct 2020

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Lady health workers (LHWs) — who have been protesting in Islamabad for the last five days — announced on Monday that they would march towards parliament at 2pm if the government failed to accept their demands. — Twitter/File
Lady health workers (LHWs) — who have been protesting in Islamabad for the last five days — announced on Monday that they would march towards parliament at 2pm if the government failed to accept their demands. — Twitter/File

Lady health workers (LHWs) — who have been protesting in Islamabad for the last five days — announced on Monday that they would march towards Parliament at 2pm if the government failed to accept their demands.

Hundreds of women have been protesting since Oct 14 for a service structure and an increase in salaries to meet rising inflation.

National Programme Health Employees Federation President Rukhsana Anwar, who is leading the sit-in, said protesters were waiting for their colleagues from Charsadda, Mardan and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa before marching to the Parliament.

"We will leave for Parliament once they arrive. We have decided on a strategy for our march to Parliament," she said.

A day earlier, Anwar had asked for the protesters' demands to be met immediately. "A service structure and creation of service rules, and an increase in salaries, are our main demands which should be met immediately."

Anwar said lady health workers had no service structure and were paid little — from Rs20,000 to Rs22,000 other than LHWs from Sindh, who were paid Rs20,000 and another Rs17,000 in the form of a Covid-19 risk allowance.

She said it was decided during a meeting the protesting LHWs held with Punjab Health Secretary Ajmal Bhatti on Sunday that all their demands, including framing a service structure, would be met. But no notification in accordance with that meeting had been issued yet.

Following the meeting and the assurance given by health officials, hundreds of protesters left the venue, assuming the notification would be issued.

"But no notification has been issued so far and the government is now backtracking on the commitment to issue the notification," she said.

She said LHWs have also received threats of departmental action if they do not call off the sit-in.

No facilities for protesters

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 Oct 14 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. One protester said that they are facing several challenges. They have no blankets or quilts to protect against the changing weather, no lighting in the absence of streetlights, no access to sanitation facilities and a shortage of drinking water.

The protesters have 10 demands, which include the restoration of the National Programme of Family Planning in its original condition, equal bonus and pay for employees in all the provinces.