Five lady health workers (LHW), including a minor girl were injured when the police resorted to baton-charge to stop them from marching towards parliament house on Monday. The LHWs, who were protesting to press their demands for salary hike and regularisation of services, were beaten-off with sticks by the capital police near parliament.
Later in the day, they called off their protest after Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took suo motu notice of the incident.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also took notice of the protest and directed Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali to take immediate steps to address LHWs’ grievances and submit a compliance report.
Gilani, who is in South Korea to attend a Nuclear Security Summit, said his government would utilise all available resources for the welfare of the lady health workers.
The police used force when the LHWs tried to march towards Parliament. Six LHWs fell unconscious due to use of brutal force by the police. Five LHWs fainted earlier in the day due to heat.
They were all taken to the nearby Polyclinic hospital. Women commandos, police, and elite force were called in to control the protesting LHWs, who had converged from all over the country on the D-Chowk near Parliament at 9:45am and staged a sit-in.
They are demanding raise in their wages, release of their salaries for the last six months and pay them the allowances allocated for their service during polio campaigns, dengue fever surveys, vaccination drives and others additional duties.
“We are being treated like a step or orphan child by this so-called democratic government. This corrupt government has taken all our salaries and left us helpless and forced us to come on streets to protest,” one of the LHWs told The Express Tribune.
They said there are being paid only Rs7,000 salary, which is not sufficient in the face of the skyrocketing inflation. They said that they were being exploited by the government using their services for other health projects without paying them additional allowance.
“We have to bear all our travel expenses from our own pockets. We don’t get a penny to buy food during duty hours, even when we are travelling. Besides this, we must pay for forms and other things required for our services from our own pocket,” they claimed. They said many LHWs are widows and the sole bread earners of their families. They said that if their demands are not met, they will boycott the upcoming polio campaign.
Munawar Shafiq from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) said she is the sole bread earner for her five children and husband, who’s unable to work due to health problems.
“I have to pay my children’s school fees, feed them and also bear my husband’s medical bills. I have not gotten my salary for the last six months and must bear all these expenses by borrowing money from friends and relatives. Now they are reluctant to lend me any more money,” she said.
Fauzia from Sheikhupura said, “The tall claims of the present government turned false today when the LHWs, a dream of the slain two time woman prime minister of the Muslim world, were beaten and dragged on the road by the police in front of Parliament, the Presidency and the PM House.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2012.