COVID pandemic: Who will come to the rescue of junior doctors; how long MBBS and MD exams will be in the clutches of the tottering exam system

Lalit Shastri

Striking Junior Doctors in Bhopal

The US President Joe Biden, only the other day said that the vaccination programme to fight the Covid pandemic has been backed by the augmentation of the work force engaged as COVID warriors.

Biden said that the US after suffering an economic downturn is now bouncing back. All this has happened, first, as they had made the vaccine program a priority and as there weren’t enough vaccinators, so they went to FEMA, the United States military and got retired docs and nurses to come out of retirement — got thousands and thousands of additional people to administer the vaccines that they didn’t have before.

Nearer home, India is fighting the second wave of COVID pandemic. The situation is so bad in India that it has even been decided at the level of the Prime Minister to cancel the Twelfth examination of Central Board of Secondary Education to protect children and many state Governments, including the Central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, have followed this up by announcing the cancellation of State Board exams.

Instead of taking a cue from the decision to cancel the higher secondary Board exams and doing the same for final MBBS and MD, especially keeping in view the huge shortage of doctors, those occupying positions of authority in government have failed to act in this direction. One does not understand why the authorities have not kept already in focus the fact that final MBBS students are being used like ward boys and they are not even being paid any stipend in private medical colleges, where the situation is dismal.

Dr Devi Shetty had emphasised this point much earlier and gave a formula for augmenting the work force in terms of junior doctors at the national level by giving a go-bye to the Macaulay’s system of examinations that India inherited from its colonial past.

In this backdrop, we have reached a pass where about 3,000 striking junior doctors working in the six government run medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh resigned en masse from their posts on Thursday after the Jabalpur High Court told them to call off their strike and return to work.

Question arises – what is it that the Madhya Pradesh junior doctors are demanding. They are only asking what is overdue to them. The junior doctors, who have completed two years of their 3-year MD programme and for more than a year they have been attending to COVID patients in the hospitals, want a hike in their stipend, waiver of exam fees and full medical coverage for themselves and their families in case they get infected by the deadly COVID-19. The junior doctors in Madhya Pradesh, besides tendering enmasse resignation, have announced that they will challenge the decision of the High Court division bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq Ahmed and Justice Sujoy Paul. The Court has given them 24-hour deadline and instructed strict action against the striking doctors if they fail to resume work.

From the doctors’ angle, the situation has been aggravated by the State government as it has taken too long to issue orders to increase their stipend. To make matters worse, it is learnt that their enrollment for the third year PG has also been cancelled and consequently they will be debarred from taking their examination.

Newsroom24x7 Network adds:

From the MP Government side, State Medical Education Commissioner Nishant Warwade told media persons that Minister of Medical Education Vishvas Sarang had informed the Junior Doctors Association representatives on many occasions that steps had been raken to meet their demands and as per the Consumer Price Index, a 17 per cent increase in stipend of junior doctors has already been approved and soon orders to this effect will be passed. Besides hiking stipend, the government is also implementing medical insurance schemes for them, the Health Commissioner told journalists adding ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) is applicable to doctors and it is hoped the striking doctors will return to work and start treating the patients.

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