Over 3,000 not paid; GVK-EMRI says payment delayed as government is yet to release funds
Over 3,000 staff members of 108 Arogya Kavacha ambulance service including 1,556 ambulance pilots (drivers) and 1,503 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) apart from call centre employees are finding it hard to make ends meet as they have not been paid salaries for the last two months.
While officials from GVK-EMRI, that runs the service for the State government, said that the salaries have been delayed as the government is yet to release funds, State health officials said as per the agreement with GVK it is the responsibility of GVK to pay salaries on time.
Sources said the State releases ₹40.6 crore every quarter to GVK. This is to cover salaries, fuel and maintenance of the ambulances. A sum of ₹5.6 crore is required for salaries alone. However, the State has not released funds for the last two quarters and this has led to non-payment of salaries.
That apart, the Health Department had on September 19 last year issued an Order directing GVK to grant a 15% hike for all employees from 2017-2018 onwards.
“The Health Department had asked the company to utilise the available funds of ₹13 crore to pay the arrears and increment to the employees. However, forget the arrears, we have not even got our regular salaries since December. When we ask the authorities, they say it will be paid soon and we are waiting in vain,” Arogya Kavacha Employees’ Association president Srishail Hallur said.
“Although we have been working for the last 10-12 years, our salaries are in the range of ₹8,000-₹10,000. We were pinning our hopes on increments but are disappointed that we have not got what is due to us,” he said. “With no salaries we are unable to pay house rent, school fees of our children and make ends meet,” said Poornima K , an EMT.
State Health Commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey told The Hindu on Wednesday that action would be initiated against GVK-EMRI for not paying salaries of employees.
“As per the agreement, GVK cannot hold the salaries if the State has not released funds. Yes we have held up funds for the last one quarter as the company has not furnished certain documents that we had asked them to submit. We have called for a meeting on Thursday in this regard. Penal action will be initiated against the company,” he said.
Agreement with GVK-EMRI
The government had entered into an agreement with GVK-EMRI in 2008 for a period of 10 years on a PPP model.
On July 14, 2017, the Health Department terminated its nine-year association with the company citing irregularities and violation of tender conditions. While the department had invited tenders for a new service provider, the company approached the High Court of Karnataka challenging the termination of their service before the expiry of their 10-year contract period. The company also contended that in the fresh tenders, the conditions were such that GVK was unable to participate.
The High Court ruled that the company should be allowed to participate in the tender process.
Subsequently, in December 2017 the department relaxed tender conditions citing poor response to the tenders (only two bidders had participated). After this, GVK-EMRI was asked to continue providing services till January 31, 2018.
Thereafter, the re-tendering process was further delayed due to Assembly elections in 2019 and the company was again asked to continue till further orders. “Although we have some three-four companies interested now, there are some legal hurdles that we are waiting to be cleared. We should be able to finalise a new service provider soon,” Mr. Pandey added.