Kerala nurses bank on 'politics of protest'

Kerala nurses bank on 'politics of protest'

As two mainstream political ideologies enter a face-off in the familiar electoral battle in Kerala, a group of nurses is using the poll platform to protest against continuing apathy to issues encountered by nursing professionals.

The United Nurses Association (UNA), an organisation of nursing professionals in the state, has fielded its state president Jasminsha from the Thrissur Lok Sabha constituency for the April 10 election. The UNA that devised a mass contact campaign centred around 50 hospitals in the constituency, has since moved on to more inclusive strategies.

As the candidate enters the last leg of his campaign across Thrissur, his campaigners propose to cover more than three lakh voters in the constituency through the 300 squads formed by nurses affiliated to the association.

“We are not here for an upset victory or to assert our political affiliations. This is only a protest. None of the political parties here have helped to address concerns of the nurses. They have failed to see the issues raised through the various agitations that nurses took up in the state,” Mithun Jose, president of the UNA’s Thrissur chapter and convenor of the election campaign, told Deccan Herald. The past couple of years have seen many agitations by nurses and nursing students in Kerala over wages, poor working conditions and harassment by hospital managements.

K P Dhanapalan of the Congress and C N Jayadevan of the CPI are engaged in a close contest in Thrissur. In an election that has already seen strictures on spending by candidates, the UNA team is struggling to meet poll expenses. The campaign runs on funds collected from supporters.

The association had originally announced candidates from seven constituencies but backed out due to financial constraints. Shoby Joseph, a male nurse and UNA member, was chosen for the contest from Idukki. “I withdrew the nomination after the association decided to support the candidate nominated by the High Range Protection Council (HRPC) that is fighting for the livelihood of thousands of people,” Joseph said.

With the campaign’s progress, the team in Thrissur aligned with associations of teachers, textile workers and marginalised labourers to ensure more support to the movement. There are close to 27,000 nursing professionals in Thrissur, including nurses employed outside of the state and country, affiliated to the UNA. 

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