Glorified as “Covid Warriors” , as many as 156 contractual staffers who had led the battle against the deadly pandemic are now running from pillar to post to get their salaries which have remained unpaid for the past four months. The staffers including- sweepers, clerks, ward-boys and nurses were recruited at the Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Civil Hospital through a private manpower agency which is yet to receive payments from the hospital authorities. This despite judicial directions to all states and union territories to ensure timely payment of salaries to healthcare workers engaged in the battle against Covid. Stung by the apathy and insensitive attitude shown by the state government authorities, scores of staffers launched a “ Bheek Maango” (Begging) agitation by marching out of the hospital with begging bowls in their hands on Wednesday. The agitation was held under the aegis of Shramjeevi Kamgar Sanghatana led by former legislator-Vivek Pandit and Sultan Patel who is the working president of the trade union.
“These people have risked their lives by sincerely working on the frontline in the fight against the pandemic and what they get in return?
A struggle to manage even their daily expenses. When our requests and appeals went to deaf ears, we were left with no other option but to launch this agitation which will further intensify if the wages are not cleared immediately.” said Pandit.
“It is true that these contractual staffers have remained unpaid for four months. However, we are regularly following-up with the authorities for the release grants and we are hopeful to receive funds within a week.” said chief medical officer of the government hospital-Dr. Ashok Gite.
Some agitators also alleged that since the transition of the erstwhile municipal hospital to a state operated healthcare facility, their wages were significantly trimmed due to unknown reasons. “We have worked silently with complete devotion, but it has become very difficult to fulfill our daily needs without salary and the situation has now become intolerable.” said an agitator.