26-year-old Vaibhav, a resident doctor at corporation-run Hindu Rao Hospital, had to lend money from his friend to pay his hostel fee. 28-year-old Samarth, another resident doctor at Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, had to move into a cheaper accommodation since the previous one had become unaffordable. There is a plethora of such plights of the resident doctors who were forced to demonstrate at Jantar Mantar on Friday evening after they were denied payment of their dues for the last four months.
The usually mundane lane of Jantar Mantar situated in the heart of Delhi echoed with the slogans denouncing Municipal Corporation of Delhi when hundreds of doctors occupied the street and protested for the payment of their pending salaries. The protest, jointly called by three major hospitals -- Hindu Rao, Kasturba Gandhi and Rajan Babu TB Hospital -- which come under North Delhi Municipal Corporation, witnessed the solidarity from other hospitals and resident doctors associations as well.
"I have been working at Hindu Rao since it became a Covid dedicated hospital. We are not being paid for four months and this is our basic human right and I need to pay my room rent. I can't ask my family for money at this age. I can't afford a loan and despite following all the protocol of speaking to authorities no action has been taken," Samarth, who held "salary is our basic right" poster at Jantar Mantar told IANS.
The doctors condemned the scenario where they are forced to hit the streets at a time when the healthcare workers are required at the forefront to battle the pandemic. The healthcare workers including resident doctors and nurses of Hindu Rao Hospital have been protesting more than a week to demand their pending salary. They have also absolved themselves from providing services to the hospital, except emergency, which was converted into a non-COVID facility three days ago.
"We have been forced to come to Jantar Mantar and protest because despite writing to the authorities, we haven't been provided with a fixed solution. Not even a comfortable solution has been given to us, which is why we have gathered here, all MCD run hospitals, in solidarity with each other over the issue," said Dr Abhimanyu Sardana, president of Resident Doctors Association of the hospital.
Recently, The NrMCD released one month's salary for all the health workers at MCD run hospital for the month of June, which they say is not the solution. The doctors echoed that the hospitals' control must be transferred from the corporation to state or the centre.
Sunil Kumar, president of RDA at Kasturba Gandhi said that the conduct of the NrMCD is a direct violation of the court's order. "Our demand is a permanent solution because this issue has been going on for the last 4-5 years. If we don't protest then our normal salaries don't come as well and we are forced to come and protest here. Despite Supreme Court guidelines on healthcare workers' salary no action has been taken by the MCD."
In June, the Delhi High Court had taken the suo motu cognizance of the non-payment of salaries to MCD employees, after observing various media reports claiming that the doctors at hospitals including Kasturba Hospital, Hindu Rao Hospital etc, managed by the civic body were not getting salaries. The top court had ordered the NrMCD to disperse the pending salaries of the healthcare workers and asked not to repeat the situation in future.
Kumar also said that the corporation should hand over the healthcare to the governments at state and centre. "If the corporation can't afford our salaries then they should hand over the healthcare to the Delhi or Central government," he stated.
Along with resident doctors, nurses, sanitation workers and senior doctors are also standing in solidarity. From October 19, senior doctors from North MCD run hospitals will start their indefinite protest.
President of AIIMS RDA Dr Adarsh Pratap Singh also came in solidarity with the resident doctors and said this is a disgusting state of health structure that covid warriors instead of working in the hospital are on the roads demanding their salary.
"We will not stop protesting till the basic rights of healthcare workers are provided to them. As RDA AIIMS we also wrote to the union health ministry and chief minister office about the condition of healthcare workers in the national Capital, which is pathetic and the government cannot ignore this, especially at a time when there is a pandemic going on," he said.
Singh also added that the Delhi government and BJP-run municipal corporations should not indulge in politics and should solve the issue in the interest of the public. "The Aam Aadmi Party at state and BJP at Centre should come forward and resolve the matter. If need be, take direct control of the hospitals running under the MCD. If they have funds for other things, why can't they arrange it for the doctors?" he said.
Meanwhile, Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) also came out in solidarity with the covid warriors. "It is a sad state to see healthcare workers leaving their jobs to ask for their salary, which is their basic right. We stand in solidarity with our resident doctors and will be protesting till a permanent solution is not provided," FORDA secretary, Dr Sunil Arora said.
He also stated that the governments should intervene directly in the matter and take the control of the hospitals.
The healthcare workers have said they will continue the protest despite getting warnings from the authorities.