Protests as Haryana Terminates Services of Over 2,000 Contractual COVID Health Workers

Congress leader Kumar Selja recently raised the issue, calling it an 'injustice' that the workers have been let go.

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New Delhi: More than 2,000 contractual health workers, who were intrinsic to emergency services during the COVID-19 waves of the past two years, have been holding protests across Haryana after the government terminated their services recently.

The protesters have accused the Manohar Lal Khattar-led Bharatiya Janata Party-Jannayak Janata Party government in Haryana of adopting a “use and throw” approach towards them.

Congress leader and former Union minister Kumari Selja has spoken out in support of these contractual workers and demanded that their services be regularised.

In all, 2,212 health workers – comprising nurses, sweepers, security guards and other paramedic staff – were engaged by the state government to provide emergency services during COVID-19. Most of them were posted at government hospitals.

Selja said, “Instead of honouring the workers who tried to save the lives of people by risking their own lives during the dreadful coronavirus situation, the BJP-JJP alliance government has sent them home.”

The Congress leader also accused the government of paying no heed to the demands of these workers, who have been forced to protest in the scorching summer heat because they want to be gainfully employed again.

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Elaborating on the issue, Selja said these 2,212 workers were recruited in July 2020. “When everyone avoided going near COVID-19 patients, they risked their lives. Some of them collected samples from patients, some examined those samples, some gave medicines to the patients on time, while some brought food for them.”

The former Union Minister said it was due to the hard work of such workers that lakhs of lives were saved. “Otherwise the death toll could have been more frightening in the state.”

She said the Haryana government terminated their services with effect from March 31, 2022.

The Congress leader alleged that the Khattar government has failed to create new jobs for the youth and also rendered contract workers jobless. She termed this approach “totally wrong”, especially since “36% of the sanctioned posts were lying vacant in the health department.”

Selja added, “From district hospitals to health centres, the posts of doctors treating patients to staff nurses were vacant.”

She said there was also a dearth of experts in laboratories.

Meanwhile, the terminated workers have held protests at various places in Haryana, including near Khattar’s residence in Prem Nagar, Karnal, over the past two months to seek restoration and regularisation of their service.

Upset over the termination of their service contract, hundreds of contractual health workers turned up at the Karnal protest.

At the Karnal protest, one such contractual worker, Meenakshi, who had worked at a Panipat COVID-19 lab, was quoted as saying, “We helped government fight COVID-19. Even the families of COVID-19 patients were not helping them but we served them. Now the government should think about our families.”

Around 1,100 workers employed under the National Health Mission (NHM) for COVID-19 duty across Haryana also held protests in Rohtak against termination of their services.

At an earlier protest, the general secretary of NHM Karamchari Sangh Hari Raj had stated that these 1,100 workers were appointed to meet the staff shortage when the pandemic began in 2020. The appointments included those for the posts of Auxiliary Nurse Midwife (ANM), data entry operator, driver, health inspector, microbiologist, lab technician, epidemiologist and others. Since March, the services of these workers have not been extended.

Another protest has been planned by terminated health and essential service workers in Rohtak on May 28 to seek restoration of their services.