Gujarat govt terms resident doctors' strike as illegal

Gujarat government terms resident doctors' strike as illegal, warns of action

At least 2,000 resident doctors of government hospitals have been on strike since Wednesday evening, mainly over the issue of bond service period

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The Gujarat government on Friday termed the ongoing strike called by 2,000 resident doctors of six government medical colleges as "illegal", and threatened to invoke the Epidemic Diseases Act if they did not return to duty.

The agitating resident doctors, mostly those who have recently finished their post-graduate course, belong to government-run medical colleges of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar.

At least 2,000 resident doctors of these hospitals have been on strike since Wednesday evening, mainly over the issue of bond service period and the 7th Pay Commission. In Gujarat, medical students of government colleges are required to sign a bond, which mandates that they serve for a year in rural areas after completing their studies. 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 bond duty. Thus, six months in Covid-19 wards will be considered as one year of bond period.

However, in July, when Covid-19 cases dropped significantly, a new notification was issued stating that the ratio has been restored to 1:1 instead of the previous 1:2, the Junior Doctors' Association said in a statement.

Now, the resident doctors have demanded that the old 1:2 days formula be restored, and sought salaries as per the 7th Pay Commission. Instead of remote rural areas, the agitating doctors also want the government to deploy them in their "mother institutes" during the bond period.

However, Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who handles the Health portfolio, rejected their demands and asked the resident doctors to return to their duties. "Very few Covid-19 cases are being detected these days, and a large number of doctors are needed in rural areas. We have issued an order asking bonded doctors to join their respective duties in rural areas. It is mandatory for them to serve in villages as per the bond conditions. If they do not wish to serve in villages, they have to deposit Rs 40 lakh," Patel said in a statement.

"This strike is illegal and meant to put undue pressure on the government. They are holding patients to ransom. We will not tolerate this. We will take action against these agitating doctors under the Epidemic Diseases Act if they don’t return to their duties after winding up their strike," the deputy chief minister added.