Malaria and TB treatment is seriously affected in Manipur following a strike by contractual employees. The worst hit are the Directly Observed Treatment Short Course, the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) and sputum microscopy programmes.

T. Lenindro, general secretary of the All Manipur RNTCP Contractual Workers’ Welfare Union, told The Hindu that though the contractual appointment of 116 employees of the RNTCP from March 2012 to February 2013 had been approved by the government, the Pay Implementation Cell of the Finance Department directed that 30-40 per cent of their salaries be deducted. So they began the strike on July 27.

The same treatment has been meted out to the contractual employees in the Malaria department (10) and the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP).

According to Satyabati, a statistical assistant in the RNTCP, this had never happened in the past 13 years and there was no government order on salary deduction. The salaries of the contract employees are funded entirely by the Centre. Initially the striking employees locked up the store rooms, thereby denying medicines to patients. However, they later reversed their decision and did not prevent the regular staff from distributing medicines to patients.

Health Minister P. Tonsing told the representatives of the strikers, that since the RNTCP was a centrally sponsored scheme the contractual employees should get the full wages. But health officials would not budge from their stand on salary deduction.

The protesters pointed out that contractual employees in other parts of the country got their full salary, besides an annual increment of 5 per cent.

Health Director Surchandra Sharma sent a letter appealing to the employees to call off the strike the very first day, pointing out that he was in touch with higher officials. The letter, however, remained silent on the issues raised by the contractual employees.

The Health Minister is on a foreign jaunt. In his absence, no official and senior Ministers are ready to intervene.