Govt employees occupy The Mall

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  • Separate protests of health and literacy departments’ employees choke Mall Road leading to massive traffic jams.
  • Protesters demand increase in salaries and regularisation of their contractual jobs

LAHORE: The Chairing Cross Chowk of Mall Road remained once again over-crowded throughout the day on Thursday as hundreds of protesters hailing from two different departments of Punjab government staged a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly to press for their demands.

As per the details, hundreds of employees from Punjab Literacy and Non-formal Basic Education (LNBE) and Health departments remained adamant at Mall Road while staging a sit-in demanding the regularisation of their contractual jobs.

 

Protest of Literacy and Non-formal Basic Education

Under the banner of Punjab Literary Association (PLA), hundreds of employees from LNBE department including both male and female were demanding an increase in their salaries and regularisation of their contractual jobs. The protesters from different cities of Punjab, including Gujranwala, Gujrat, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Attock, Bahawalpur, DG Khan, Kasur, Rahim Yar Khan and Hafizabad reached Lahore in the wee hours yesterday and started gathering at Mall Road to stage a demonstration. Talking to Pakistan Today, PLA President Rai Zohaib Asghar said that they were forced by the government to take to the roads as they had no second option left because 15,000 non-formal teachers have been working on a salary of just Rs 5000 per month, which is not even equivalent to the minimum wage set by the government.

“We have inculcated non-formal education to over 1.5 million children at primary level while more than 3.5 million illiterate young people benefitted from us since the inception of the department back in 2002,” he said while highlighting the importance of the department that was created to increase the literacy rate of the province. He further added that his fellow colleagues are trying hard to uplift the literacy rate of Punjab by imparting non-formal education to over 450,000 children in 15000 schools but their future is still not secure as they have been working on contractual basis for the last 16 years at a meager salary.

“We had a detailed meeting with the minister in charge, Dr Farrukh Javed in November last year and also moved an application to Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif but our issues are still unresolved and we are ready to stage a sit-in until the acceptance of our demands,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that a circular was issued just one day before the sit-in by the department, which is also available with Pakistan Today, in which the employees were warned not to retort to protest otherwise disciplinary action would be taken against all those staging a protest. Faisal Bukhari, a protester who came all the way from Rahim Yar Khan said that the small amount of his salary forced him to reach Lahore for protest as it is impossible for him to bear the expense of his household in this amount.

“This protest has the representation of all districts of Punjab as every district was directed to bring at least 100 people,” he said.

 

Protest of School Health and Nutrition Supervisors

Meanwhile, school health and nutrition supervisors under the banner of Punjab Nutrition Association (PNA) also held demonstration throughout the day demanding the regularisation of their contractual jobs which they have been doing for the last ten years. This protest also had the representation of people from across the province and their only demand was the regularisation of their jobs.

Shafique Ahmed, a school health and nutrition supervisor from Kasur said that he has been providing his services to the health department for the last ten years and is still waiting for the regularisation of his job. Hired in 2008 under the Punjab Health Sector Reform Program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ABD), there are around 1800 school health and nutrition supervisors throughout the province who are involved in providing health education and screening programs to children in schools.

“The polio vaccination campaign is to be started from February 12 and we all are on the same page to boycott this campaign if our jobs are not regularised by then,” Ahmed said.

The protesters that included both men and women were ready to spend the whole night at Mall Road as they had brought their blankets and clothes with them. The protesters were occupying the Mall Road till the filing of this report.

 

Traffic logjam

There was a traffic jam at the adjacent arteries of the Mall Road because of two protest demonstrations at Chairing Cross. The commuters were seen stranded for hours at Davis Road, Garhi Shahu, Lakshmi Chowk, Queens Road and Hameed Nizami Road (Temple Road) due to the traffic load and because of ongoing development work at the route of Orange Line Metro Train.

The traffic jam in Lahore has become a routine matter because of different development schemes and the situation gets worst whenever the protesters reach Mall Road. It is worth mentioning here that IG Punjab himself was stranded the other day at traffic logjam while traveling from his office to the secretariat and the chief traffic officer had to face his wrath as well.