Goa’s lifeguards on indefinite strike while World flocks to Goan beaches

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 29 December 2015 20:50 IST

While the whole world has flocked to Goan beaches to celebrate Christmas and New Year, around 600 beach lifeguards have resorted to indefinite strike from today.

The reason is simple. Neither the tourism department nor Drishti, the private contractor, has bothered to listen to their woes in spite of a strike notice given almost a month ago.

On the contrary, the state has now invoked Essential Services Maintenance Act, declaring lifeguarding and water safety services on the beaches and the inland water bodies as essential services and prohibiting their strike.

“We are not on strike, we are on Satyagraha. And the ESMA does not apply to the lifeguards since they are not government employees”, said Christopher Fonseca, the trade union leader.

At the same time, Tourism minister Dilip Parulekar claims that the strike has not affected the beach services since Drishti has brought their lifeguards from Maharashtra and other places to provide safety services.

But Fonseca says the government is playing with the lives of the tourists by hiring untrained persons as lifeguards.

The young striking lifeguards are demanding that they be absorbed by the tourism department and their services be regularised with a monthly salary of minimum Rs 21,000.

The lifeguards are trained and employed by Drishti, a private organisation, with a monthly salary of Rs 10,000 without any job security.

According to Fonseca, the government authorities did not bother to entertain them in spite of giving strike notice one month ago and repeatedly requesting to give them a hearing.

“We have nothing to do with the strike. It’s a matter between the private contractor and the striking lifeguards”, says Parulekar, who however justified government invoking ESMA.

The minister has also ruled out the possibility of absorbing the lifeguards in government service.

The state government, as informed by Parulekar, spends around Rs one crore on the lifeguard services, hired out to Drishti.

“We outsourced the services because government is unable to provide this emergency service with such efficiency. That does not mean we should absorb them”, says Parulekar.

While Fonseca says the strike would continue indefinitely, Parulekar says they will be compelled to hire services of disaster management cells of the Government of India if the strike is not resolved.

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