On the night of December 15 and the morning of December 16, the Rajasthan government launched a crackdown on doctors working in government run hospitals and health care centers in towns and villages across the state. At least 60 doctors were reported to have been picked up from their residences and workplaces by the police and arrested. Many other doctors have been forced to go into hiding to evade arrest. The savage attack on doctors working in government medical institutions was aimed at preempting a proposed strike by these doctors, which was slated to begin on December 18. The Rajasthan government invoked the fascist Rajasthan Essential Services Maintenance Act (RESMA), 1970, declared the proposed strike illegal, and proceeded to arrest leaders of the All Rajasthan In-Service Doctors Association (ARISDA). Health services throughout the state, especially in the rural areas, have been severely affected as doctors have left their posts fearing arrest.
The ARISDA general secretary, who went underground following police raids, left a video message on social media in which he equated the state government’s rule with British era and accused it of imposing undeclared emergency in Rajasthan.
The ARISDA President Dr Ajay Choudhary said “We have sought time from the Chief Minister to apprise her about our demands and problems, but the government has started arresting the doctors. We gave time till December 18 so that talks can be held even as were serving the patients so that they do not face any problem. But government has provoked us to take this extreme step.”
It is clear that the Rajasthan government is not interested in resolving the grievances of the doctors. Instead, it has decided to unleash a reign of terror with the aim of destroying the ARISDA.
The arrest of the doctors on the night of December 15 has been met by massive protests. When doctors were arrested in Barmer, several doctors, including chief medical and health officer and principal medical officer, gathered outside the police station and protested against the way police arrested the doctors while they were on duty. Doctors in rural areas boycotted duty on December 16.
Background to the present struggle
The doctors working in government medical institutions in Rajasthan have been carrying on a prolonged struggle for their demands. These relate to the extremely poor working conditions they face, the lack of equipment and adequate medical personnel, terrible living conditions, and poor remuneration. All the demands of the doctors are just, and their fulfillment will contribute to improving the health services provided to people in government run medical institutions. Towards this end, doctors organised under the banner of the ARISDA have been waging innovative forms of protest, while keeping the services functioning. However, faced with the adamant attitude of the government to their demands, they went on a weeklong strike from November 6-12. The strike had ended with the government signing an agreement with the ARISDA to fulfill their 33 point charter of demands.
In-service doctors in Rajasthan forced to
Later developments have shown that the Rajasthan government had no intention of implementing the agreement. It began violating the agreement, and attacking the ARISDA. It began victimizing the doctors who had participated in the strike. It refused to withdraw the criminal cases it had lodged against these doctors. It refused to withdraw the charge sheets issued against doctors who had boycotted training programs during the “noncooperation movement”. On November 28, it announced the transfer of 12 leaders of the association.
Faced with these attacks, the ARISDA had announced that it would go on strike on December 18, if the government did not stop its victimization of doctors and continued to violate the agreement reached in November.
The struggle of the in-service doctors of Rajasthan has drawn widespread support from doctors associations across the country.
The Jaipur Association of Resident Doctors (JARD) extended support to the in-service doctors and threatened to go on indefinite strike, if repression of the doctors was not immediately halted and their demands promptly fulfilled. Resident doctors of Kota government hospital also warned of joining the strike.
In Bharatpur, doctors attended patients on roadsides near Raj Bahadur Memorial Hospital to register their protest. The PHCs and CHCs wore a deserted look in many districts.
The UP Provincial Medical Services Association (PMSA) extended support to the Rajasthan Government Doctors' Association in their struggle.
“If the public faces problems, then the government is responsible and not the in-service doctors,” the ARISDA president said. “If the government tries to suppress our agitation, then all doctors will go on an indefinite leave,” Dr Choudhary warned. Vice-president Dr Lakshman Singh Ola said, “The government should immediately stop its suppressive actions and implement the agreement, so that doctors do not feel humiliated.”
The Communist Ghadar Party condemns of the Rajasthan government’s fascist attack on doctors. The struggle of the doctors is entirely just.