VISAKHAPATNAM: Covid-19 warriors hit the road demanding better pay, work culture, proper employment, and payment of dues to them. They staged a Vanta Varpu protest at the Collectorate in the city on Monday, October 11, 2021. Speaking to TNIE, Leela, a paramedic working at the Urban Health Centre near Swarna Bharathi Indoor Stadium, explained how she had rendered services during the first and second waves of Covid-19, but hasn’t received proper payment either time. She also said that while she was recruited for a contract period of six months, she was laid off during the first wave after three months.
“During the second wave, I joined at Mudasarlova Covid care centre in June and worked for three months there. Later, I was shifted,” she said.“Here, along with me, several warriors were terminated after three months. A few of them requested the authorities to let them continue to work without salary so that they could gain experience and get a certificate,” Leela elaborated.
She said that a certificate with less than six months experience does not have any worth. Covid warriors alleged that this unfairness towards them has been prevalent since the first wave itself. This year, close to 1,500 Covid warriors have been demanding better rights and much more for close to two months.
Hundreds of Covid warriors had allegedly received termination letters towards the end of September without the completion of six months. Following protests, the government extended it to the end of October. For many, the end of October doesn’t mark the completion of six months of the stipulated time period for Covid warrior posts. For some, it will be close to five months and less.
Ramalakshmi, a staff nurse, said, “Covid-19 has affected us too. We don’t want to stage protests like this but we cannot afford to be unemployed or go without salaries at times like this.” Several protestors highlighted that even the certificates were not given on time during the first wave.
“Even after receiving the certificates there were many errors and the DM&HO’s sign was not there on many of them,” they said. Ramalakshmi claimed that even now, salaries are not paid in a timely manner. “Moreover, in urban health centres across Visakhapatnam district, there are roughly 140 vacancies. But the authorities are not even considering us for the posts and neither are they letting us apply. They are attempting to take in new people. Why isn’t our current experience being taken into consideration?” she questioned.
During the protest, the medical staff also narrated how several staff and their family members had succumbed to coronavirus. They demanded an ex gratia of `55 lakh to the next of kin. Some claimed they received only half of their salaries during the first wave. “Though we have made several representations to medical and health officials, no steps have been taken to improve our lot,” she rued. Efforts to contact the DM&HO of Visakhapatnam to get an official response on the issue, proved futile.