Maharashtra’s resident doctors called for an indefinite strike across the state starting 1st October. The Maharashtra State Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) announced that the strike will continue till their demands are fulfilled.
The primary demand of the resident doctors is that academic fees should be waived. Secondly, that hostel conditions should be improved as they are bad throughout Maharashtra. Thirdly, that tax should not be deducted at source from the stipend of resident doctors of BMC hospitals. Further, the doctors have demanded that doctors in government hospitals throughout Maharashtra must be paid the COVID incentives due to them.
The MARD spokesperson pointed out that they have been raising these issues for the last 5 months; but no action has been taken so far. No written assurances have been received from the state government. This is what has driven them to go on an indefinite strike. MARD has warned that the strike would intensify if their demands are not met. However, the Association emphasised that emergency medical services will be continued but no OPD will be served.
On October 5, the resident doctors called off the strike following acceptance of their demands by the Maharashtra Chief Minister.
In the last two years, health workers have been working under inhuman conditions, laying their life on the block to serve Covid patients under their care while they themselves have been totally vulnerable to the virus. It is well known that they have not been provided safe working conditions, often being denied even basic protective gear. They have been hailed as Corona Warriors but lavish accolades aside, no steps have been taken by the health authorities to improve their working conditions. In many cases, their salaries have been in arrears for months on end.
Time and again, especially in the last two years, doctors, nurses, and hospital support staff have struck work in support of their demands, but always ensuring that their patients do not suffer from this. The ruling class has taken advantage of the pandemic to break every one of its promises to the health workers. Across the country, this has been repeated – health workers strike work or organise protests and demand to be heard. But central and state governments have been repeatedly making false promises to diffuse the anger of the workers, without any commitment to change the working and living conditions of the health workers.
Very recently, on 4th September 2021, the AIIMS Nurses Union and the Karamchari Union gave notice of an indefinite strike starting 25th October. They have put forth 47 demands, the principal one being parity in pay scales and allowances with central government employees. This is as per the regulations governing AIIMS which the authorities are violating. Their other significant and long-standing demand has been to increase the number of posts of nurses and other employees. While many centres have been built in the hospital, the number of posts for these services have remained the same.
In May-June 2021, junior doctors of Madhya Pradesh demonstrated in support of their demands for a 24% hike in their stipend and assurance of a 6% annual hike (which barely covers the rise in the cost of living) and better medical facilities and free treatment for their families infected with covid-19.
In October 2020, doctors of North Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run Hindu Rao Hospital, Rajan Babu TB Hospital and Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, had to go on strike in support of their demand to be paid their salaries, which were overdue for four months at that time! At that time, 5,000 resident doctors from across the capital observed a symbolic strike in solidarity with these doctors. The resident doctors’ and nurses’ associations had raised their problems with the authorities of the hospitals as well as with the Municipal Corporation authorities several times prior to calling the strike.
Resident doctors, nursing staff and other health workers in several states have also raised their grievances about arrears in pay, vacancies remaining unfilled, the extension of the period of residency, not being able to prepare for their exams, arbitrary rescheduling of examinations, etc.
It is condemnable that health workers who give so much to society have to keep protesting for their just demands.