New Delhi: The Madhya Pradesh government’s handling of demands for better conditions for medicos has spiralled into a crisis, with over 3,000 junior doctors resigning across the state.
The junior doctors had been on strike to demand, among other things, that those looking after COVID-19 patients should get a hike of 24% in stipend and have separate reserved hospital beds. They had also demanded better medical facilities for their families.
The situation worsened after the Madhya Pradesh high court’s division bench on Thursday declared the strike illegal and ordered them to return to duty within 24 hours. After that, the MP Medical University in Jabalpur cancelled the registration of 450 junior doctors.
This triggered a spate of resignations from six medical colleges.
According to Arvind Meena, president of the MP Junior Doctors Association, the state government had committed to fulfilling their demands. Still, there had been no written communication during their strike of four days.
Instead, he implied that there was a mala fide intention behind the court petition.
“Rather, an attempt was made to mislead us by getting a petition filed in the high court. That’s why we tell the government that you can stop us from striking, but not from resigning. So, we have decided that we will resign and continue our fight,” Meena said at a press conference, as per Times of India.
In the petition, Shailendra Singh, a Jabalpur advocate, had pointed out that doctors can’t proceed on strike as per the Essential Services Maintenance Act.
The division bench had stated that the strike during the ongoing pandemic could not be justified on any ground. The high court also directed that if the doctors don’t resume duty within 24 hours, the state government should initiate action against them.
The Madhya Pradesh government has claimed that they were working to implement the demands but added that the doctors should not “blackmail” the authorities.
“One of the demands they are stuck on is they do not want to work in rural areas. What will happen in villages then? They should listen to the high court. It is not right to blackmail patients like this,” medical education minister Vishwas Sarang said.
Speaking to NDTV, a junior doctor denied that they were trying to benefit from the pandemic. “When the pandemic was at its peak, we listened to all assurances and kept on working. If we wanted to take advantage of a medical emergency, we would have done this at the peak and not now,” said Priyanka Meena.
At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave, Madhya Pradesh was recording between 12,000 and 13,000 cases per day. On June 3, confirmed new cases were 798, as per official data.
A member of the junior doctors’ association explained that they just wanted to have guaranteed security and treatment in case they got infected with COVID-19. “We want better security; many times, we get beaten up. If we or our families get infected, there are no beds for us,” Saurabh Tiwari told NDTV.
According to the Madhya Pradesh Medical Education Admission Rules, 2018, if a candidate resigns after a stipulated time from an admitted seat of any government medical college, a bond amount of Rs 10 lakh is payable.