Lady health workers (LHWs) under the National Program for Family Planning and Primary Health Care on Monday gave the government a two-day ultimatum to regularise them.
If their demands are not met, they will commit mass suicide by self-immolation in front of Parliament House, while nurses in other cities will boycott the upcoming polio campaign, they said.
LHWs from across the country are presently staging a hunger strike near the National Press Club.
“Our only demand from the government is regularisation, which we have wanting for the past 18 years,” a LHW told The Express Tribune.
She quoted the government as saying that the issues of LHWs will be resolved after a month-and-a-half.
This means that no funds will be allocated for us in the upcoming budget, she added.
The protesters said that there are many LHWs who are on roads with their children as their landlords have thrown them out for non-payment of rent.
Bushra Arain, central chairperson of the All Pakistan Lady Health Workers Welfare Association, said during this 18 years struggle, many LHWs have lost their lives, gone to jail and been beaten on roads.
Among them was Rizwana, who died in Sialkot while attempting to give an application to the District Coordination Officer (DCO) to release their salaries and regularise them, while another committed suicide as she was unable to bear household expenses.
In November 2010, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the establishment of a service structure for all workers under the programme, along with regularisation. On March 30, 2011, the Sindh Assembly passed a bill for the regularisation of the programme.
“Despite this, nothing practical has been done to-date. For the past four years, the government has only made false pledges,” she said.
When contacted LHW Association President Rukhsana Anwar disowned the LHWs protests. She said, “These are sitting for self promotion. The government is resolving their issues and it will take few months, they need to be patient.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.