North MCD fails to pay salaries to health staff of 5 hospitals run by it for over three months

While North MCD’s BJP mayor Jai Prakash insists that Delhi govt is at fault, the state government says that it has already paid the corporations what is owed to them

NH Photo by Vipin
NH Photo by Vipin

Ashlin Mathew

None of the health workers working at the five hospitals under the North Municipal Corporation of Delhi have been paid their dues for at least three months. In a couple of the hospitals, they have not been paid since May. All the MCDs in Delhi are under the control of the BJP.

Though its mostly doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital who have been protesting, health workers of all the five hospitals under north MCD – Hindu Rao Hospital, Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, Maharishi Valmiki Institute of Infectious Diseases, Mrs Girdhari Lal Maternity Hospital and Rajan Babu Institute of Pulmonary Medicine and Tuberculosis – have written multiple letters to the north MCD mayor Jai Prakash demanding payment of their salaries. Several of the health workers across these hospitals have been on strike periodically and have stated that they would go on strike again.

At Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, the resident doctors who were protesting got their salaries for the month of June in October. “Salaries for the last three months are yet to be given. The resident doctors protested, so they got paid. The others who didn’t, have not been paid. The senior residents, junior residents and all the PG students are on indefinite strike till the dues are paid completely,” said Dr Sunil Kumar, RDA president of the Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, which is located near Jama Masjid in old Delhi.

However, the nurses and para-medical staff have not been paid for the last four months, while the nursing orderlies and ward boys have not been paid since July. “We have met the north MCD mayor Jai Prakash. When we met him more than two weeks ago, he promised that salaries would be paid in the two weeks. As it hasn’t been paid, we will have to meet him again. It’s not enough that we work, but we have to fight for getting paid as well. We don’t have too many options. We will also sit outside on a 24-hour strike if our salaries are not paid,” explained Manjulata, general secretary of the hospital’s nursing union. There is discrimination even while releasing the salaries, she underscored.

The situation is the same at Hindu Rao Hospital too, whose doctors protested at Jantar Mantar earlier this week. “As we have been protesting, all the staff got paid for the month of June. But we still have to be paid for the remaining three months (July, August and September). With the festival season around the corner, several of us cannot manage without an income,” said Dr Abhimanyu, RDA president of Hindu Rao Hospital.

At RBIPMT Hospital, which is Asia’s biggest TB Hospital, protests have been on intermittently for the last two months. “Initially, the staff at Hindu Rao began protesting and then we all joined in. As we are in the midst of a pandemic, we have not taken any drastic steps. The doctors are yet to get paid from July onwards, while the nursing and para medical staff have not been paid since June. This situation is not new. It has been going on for a few years,” said Dr Mahendran CS, RDA president of RBIPMT Hospital.

“When the MCD says the delay is due to the pandemic, they are lying. From before 2018, there have been problems, but till 2018, they would settle all our dues by the end of the financial year. However, since 2018-19 they haven’t ever paid on time. First, our basic pay has to be cleared and only then can our arrears be paid. Every year, the pay scale gets changed. We have not even begun to address that,” added Mahendran.

All through the pandemic, all the health workers did not stop working even if the salaries were not paid, said Mahendran. He pointed out that they opened up the out-patient services before most hospitals in Delhi opened up. “We did everything possible to not disrupt the services and this is how they treat us,” said Mahendran.

The situation is the same at both Maharishi Valmiki Institute of Infectious Diseases and Mrs Girdhari Lal Maternity Hospital (GLMH). Though the doctors of GLMH had written to the North MCD commissioner intimating him of the strike due to non-payment of wages at these five hospitals, it has been postponed for a week.

“The indefinite strike has been postponed for the time being in general public interest with the hope that the Corporation will find a permanent solution to the salary issue. If our three months salaries are not paid within a week, then we may be forced to reconsider our decision,” stated Dr RR Gautam of GLMH. He is also the president of the Municipal Corporation Doctor’s Association.

However, the North MCD’s BJP mayor Jai Prakash insists that the Delhi government is at fault. “Only three months salaries are pending. This issue is due to the Aam Aadmi government. They have not released sufficient funds. They have not released the health fund and Basic Tax Assignment. Under North MCD, there are 55,000 employees and 22,000 pensioners. We have to worry about all their salaries. We are hoping to clear all the dues by the beginning of 2021,” said Prakash.

“The city was under a lockdown for 4 months. Under normal circumstances, the state governments should help the MCDs. The government is supposed to give us Rs 1,600 crore, but only Rs 400 crore has been released. We have been facing this problem ever since the AAP government came to power,” he added.

Meanwhile, Delhi government officials have written to the MCDs to consider handing over the hospitals to the government if they are unable to pay the staff. In the letter it was mentioned that the inability to pay the salaries has led to a situation where Covid-19 patients are being forced to shift from Hindu Rao Hospital to Lok Nayak Hospital, under the Delhi government. The state government has been insisting that it has already paid the corporations what is owed to them. Two instalments of the Basic Tax Assignment have been released already, it says.

Several of the health staff have been complaining of mismanagement of funds at the north MCD. “The MCD says they have no funds. The Delhi government states that they have paid the MCDs and in the tug of war between the two, we get stuck. Several of the health workers are the single-earning members in their families. Have they thought how families are meant to survive without pay for months?” questioned Dr Sunil, who is also an anaesthetist at Kasturba Gandhi Hospital.

“There must be some benefit of running these hospitals, otherwise they would have handed over the running to the government. This is not an issue which began during the pandemic,” said Sunil.

Both the north MCD and the Delhi government have been at loggerheads with the latter accusing the former of corruption even as late as July 2020 and as early as 2015. In July, there were complaints of corruption in purchase of medicines at north MCD and a vigilance inquiry was announced into the appointment of a medical health officer. In August, after a three-storey building collapsed in north Delhi, AAP leader Durgesh Pathak and Prakash have been involved in a war of words.

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