Frontline Covid warriors work at meagre salaries, allege bias

Frontline Covid warriors work at meagre salaries, allege bias

Activists of Left parties protest against government’s ‘anti-employee’ policies in Amritsar on Sunday.

Karam Prakash

Tribune News Service

Patiala, August 9

Ramneek Singh (name changed), a Covid frontline worker under Mission Fateh, has been borrowing money from relatives to deposit the school fees of his children. A Class-I ayurvedic medical officer (AMO) selected through the PPSC, Ramneek has been going in the field to collect swab samples.

With a meagre salary of Rs 9,000 a month, Ramneek, who is on three-year probation, has been finding it hard to support his family. As many as 104 ayurvedic medical officers on probation are facing similar financial constraints.

“Despite being a frontline worker, I am getting only Rs 9,000. I am staying at my friend’s place in Patiala, so that I can save money and send it to my family,” said Ramneek.

Other officials who have been performing same duties and are working as volunteers are getting more than Rs 50,000 per month.

Another AMO, who has been posted at a Covid care centre, said the government had been discriminatory in its treatment. “The government is ready to shell out Rs 50,000 on a contractual employee, but there is no such incentive for regular staff,” he rued.

As announced by the Chief Minister, the government will recruit new health staff, including ayurvedic medical officers, on the Central pay- scales to fight Covid. The new recruits would be paid between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000 a month.

Recently, Health Minister Balbir Singh, on his Facebook account, applauded the state AMOs for rendering special services during the pandemic. Officials have met him several times to highlight the issue, but to no avail.

Dr Sanjiv Pathak, president, Punjab Ayurvedic Medical Service Association, said, “We are risking our lives to fight Covid, but the government is ignoring our genuine demands.”

Anurag Aggarwal, Health Secretary, said the new recruits were getting higher pay because they were hired as volunteers. “If regular employees think there is discrimination, they should resign and join as volunteer staff. We will pay them a good amount.”

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