–Protesters reject government’s claim of having redressed their issues
–LHWs determined to continue protest till the acceptance of their demands
–Health minister says govt has accepted all demands, protesters are after political gains
LAHORE: The third day of the protest of Punjab’s Lady Health Workers (LHWs) ended without any positive development as the protesters rejected the government’s claim of having redressed their issues.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab Health Department had said that the government had accepted the demands of the protesters, however, this was rejected by the president of the Lady Health Workers Association, who said that the protest would continue till proper acceptance of their demands.
LHWs from across the province have been protesting on The Mall for three consecutive days, bringing the traffic to a halt. As the roads were closed for traffic, locals, including students and businessmen had immense difficulty in going about their daily routines. The roads leading to Ganga Ram Hospital and Mayo Hospital also remained congested, adding to the miseries of the patients.
The protesters have been demanding an increase in their salaries besides the implementation of a proper service structure and upgradation of their pay scales. The protesters contended that these issues had been pending for a while.
A protester named Rehana Saleem said that in the past, LHWs had been assured about a raise in salary besides the implementation of a proper service structure and the upgradation of their pay scales but the authorities forgot about their promises as soon as the protest had ended. “They cannot fool us every time,” she said.
Afsheen Raza, another protester, said, “The government and the health department have been fooling us for a long time but this time we will not accept their false promises. No representative of the health department or the government has approached us for negotiations despite the fact that we have been protesting for three days.”
Citing disillusionment with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, a protester named Shumaila said that the incumbent government had turned out to be worse than the previous government. “We are an important part of the health system but until now we have been ignored and neglected. We will not let this practice continue,” she said.
Other protesters were of the view that they had been forced to come on the streets because the government had rendered them helpless. “Inflation is on the rise and it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to manage our homes with mediocre salaries,” they said.
There are 44,000 LHWs working in Punjab, out of which nearly 1,000 were present in the protest on Wednesday.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid said that the provincial government has accepted all demands of the LHWs and the protesters are only protesting for political gains. “We are drafting a service structure for the health workers and will appoint 13,000 LHWs. The current health workers would be promoted after the finalising of the seniority lists,” she added.
Image credits: Zubair Mehfooz