Gujarat: Resident doctors to return 'COVID warrior' certificates as strike enters sixth day
At least 2,000 resident doctors went on strike on Aug 4, mainly over issue of the bond service period and demanding emoluments as per 7th Pay Commission
Several resident doctors on strike in Gujarat for the last five days on Monday decided to return their 'COVID Warrior' certificates claiming officials have asked them to vacate hostels and disconnected water and power supply even as Chief Minister Vijay Rupani urged the medicos to call off the protest and honour the bond agreement.
At least 2,000 resident doctors, most of who recently finished their post-graduate courses, went on strike on August 4 evening, mainly over the issue of the bond service period and demanding emoluments as per the 7th Pay Commission.
These doctors belong to government-run medical colleges in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel had already termed this strike "illegal" and had warned to invoke the Epidemic Diseases Act if the doctors did not resume duty.
"When we went to Gandhinagar a few days back to meet top officials, we were asked to show proof of our work during the coronavirus pandemic. This 'COVID Warrior' certificate given by the government is the biggest proof that we worked day and night for patients without thinking twice about our selves" said a protesting doctor in Rajkot.
"Authorities have asked the protesting doctors to vacate hostels. Water and electricity connections were also cut. Women doctors were forced to spend the night outside. This is nothing but an insult. Thus, several doctors have decided to return those certificates which hailed us as COVID Warriors" she said.
Meanwhile, the chief minister has urged the agitating doctors to call off the protest.
"There are hardly any coronavirus patients in the hospitals at present. When cases were at their peak, we had introduced a scheme wherein one day of COVID duty was considered equivalent to two days of the bond service. Now, since there are no coronavirus cases, doctors must honour the bond agreement. I urge them to end the strike and join duties as per the bond," Rupani told reporters in the Narmada district.
Deputy CM Patel said doctors need to be practical and should first join duties before coming to the negotiation table.
"One should not remain adamant when something is illegal. Doctors need to adopt a more practical approach and follow rules. I have already asked them to first end their strike and join their respective duties. We will consider their plea for transfer to a place of their choice only after they join their allocated duties first," Patel said.
In Gujarat, medical students of government colleges are required to sign a bond, which mandates them to serve in rural areas for a year after completing their studies. Recently, the state government, as per the bond rules, had issued duty orders to such doctors.
Doctors can break the bond by paying Rs 40 lakh. In April this year, when COVID-19 cases were on the rise, the state government had announced that one day of COVID-19 duty will be considered equivalent to two days of the bond duty, which effectively means that working in COVID-19 wards for six months will be considered as one year of the bond period.
However, in July, when COVID-19 cases dropped significantly, a new notification was issued stating that the ratio (of the COVID-19 duty and the bond service period) has been restored to 1:1 day instead of the previous 1:2, the Junior Doctors' Association said in a statement.
The striking doctors are demanding that the old 1:2 days formula (which considered one day of COVID-19 duty equivalent to two days of the bond duty) be restored. Another main demand includes the payment of salaries as per the 7th Pay Commission. They also want the government to post them in their "mother institutes" during the bond period instead of in remote rural areas.
Gujarat on Sunday reported 25 COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 8,25,045, while the toll remained unchanged at 10,077 and the recovery count increased by 14, as per the state health department.