104 service staff in Telangana take loans to cover basic expenses as partial salaries come after six months

One employee pointed out the common excuse given by many DMHOs that the election Model Code of Conduct prevented salary credits.

BySumit Jha

Published Jun 15, 2024 | 8:00 AM Updated Jun 15, 2024 | 8:00 AM

104 service staff in Telangana take loans to cover basic expenses as partial salaries come after six months

Fifty-two-year-old Rajakumar, from Peddapur in Julapalli Mandal, Peddapalli District of Telangana, worked as a driver for the 104 Ambulance Service in Telangana.

On 23 May, while returning to the office on a bike with a colleague, he suddenly fell seriously ill while in Jagtial district.

He was immediately rushed to the government hospital, where CPR was administered, but he tragically passed away during treatment. Rajakumar’s family claims that he had not been paid his salary for six months and was under severe mental stress during that period.

They believe this stress led to his fatal heart attack. Rajakumar relied solely on his income from the ambulance service, with his last payment received only in November 2023.

He was dead by the time his four months salary got credited after a delay of six months. This reflects the plight of all 1,225 staff members working for the 104 service in Telangana.

104 Ambulance Service

Initiated by the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s government in 2008, the 104 Ambulance Service was a unique program designed to provide free primary health care through Mobile Medical Units (MMUs) directly to people’s doorsteps, especially in remote areas.

The service aimed to diagnose and treat conditions like diabetes and hypertension, employing two lab technicians, a pharmacist, a data entry operator, a driver, and a security guard for each ambulance.

However, the service was discontinued by the previous BRS government in 2021.

Following this, the paramedical staff and drivers were reassigned to primary health centres across the state on a contractual basis, overseen by the District Medical and Health Officers under the District Collectorate.

The salaries of the 104 service employees were credited after a six-month delay.

The payments for December, January, February, and March were finally deposited on the evening of 14. However, the salaries for April and May are still pending.

Related: Salaries delayed for month, uncertainty looms over Telangana NHM workers

The trap: Employees on their ordeal

“We received our salary for November in December and used it for household expenses, school fees, and other necessities without realising we wouldn’t get paid again for months,” said Andela Ram, a 104 service driver in Warangal, to South First.

“We need to manage our households, schools have reopened, and we have to send our kids to school and buy textbooks for them. Many of us have taken out loans, often multiple times, just to cover basic expenses. Some employees have even pawned their wives’ gold to get loans and pay off debts. The situation is dire for all of us,” Ram added.

Another employee mentioned their frustration when they approached the District Medical and Health Officer (DMHO) for their salaries.

“At first, they listened to our grievances, but after a while, they always claimed to be in meetings, made us wait for hours, and then left the office,” a driver explained.

Additionally, one employee pointed out the common excuse given by many DMHOs: The election model code of conduct prevented salary credits.

“I never understood how the model code of conduct could stop them from crediting our salaries,” the employee remarked.

Also Read: Like removing poisonous lizard from a meal: Doctors criticise NTA decision to conduct NEET UG re-exam

Meeting the CM

104 service employees meeting Revanth Reddy.

“Recently, the 104 employees also met with the Chief Minister  Revanth Reddy on 13 June to voice their grievances. The employee union stated that if their salaries were not credited within a week, they would take action,” said Rama Rajesh Khanna of the NHM contract employee union to South First.

On Friday evening, when contacted, the DMHO of Warangal stated that he had signed the file to get the salaries credited for the 104 employees.

“We have submitted the bill, and the budget should be released in a day or two,” said Warangal DMHO Warangal Dr Venkat Ramana.

When asked about the delay, Dr Ramana said, “I don’t know. Whenever the budget is sanctioned, we submit the bill to the treasury. We have submitted the bill for four months and should receive it in a day or two.”

Regarding the remaining months’ salaries, the DMHO was unsure when they would be credited.

“Due to the employees meeting with the Chief Minister and the threat of a strike, the salaries for their four months of service have been credited,” Khanna explained.

Employees in other health departments across the state, such as NHM and Basti Dawakhan, are facing similar issues.

NHM staff have not been paid for May, while Basti Dawakhana staff have not received their salaries for the past three months.

(Edited by Neena)

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