| Doctors of the Indian Medical Association’s Bengal chapter on a hungerstrike outside the ESI Hospital in Maniktala on Tuesday. The Association is protesting the government’s apathy towards ESI doctors in the city and across the state. Picture by Amit Datta
A rift developed among doctors affiliated to the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on Day One of the three-day hungerstrike and sit-in in support of the plight of ESI doctors in the city and beyond.
Members of the IMA’s Bengal branch started their strike early on Tuesday, protesting the government’s “apathetic attitude” towards nearly 1,500 ESI doctors who haven’t received their salaries since July 2002. However, the IMA’s city wing stayed out of the agitation, saying the attempt to resolve the situation through strikes was “futile”.
“The government is responsible for the plight of these doctors. Why should the medical officers at the ESI hospitals bear the brunt of our protest'” asked city branch secretary R.D. Dubey on Tuesday. But he added that the branch’s member-doctors had extended “moral support” to their Bengal branch counterparts on the issue.
The first day of the hungerstrike went off peacefully. About 200 doctors participated on Tuesday, with numbers likely to increase on Wednesday and Thursday.
The IMA announced on Tuesday that if the government fails to pay the overdue salaries soon, the IMA would launch a ‘fast-until-death’ in protest. IMA state president Subir Ganguly, however, ruled out any difference of opinion between the two branches of the IMA.
Dubey has sent a three-member team from the IMA to New Delhi to take up the issue with minister of state for labour Vijay Goel. The three-member team, led by Milan Sengupta, chairman of the standing committee of ESI doctors within the IMA, is to discuss the state government’s “misappropriation of funds” released by the Centre for the uplift of ESI doctors and hospital infrastructure, to the tune of “Rs 68.75 lakh”.
“We want Central intervention in this matter. We also wish to highlight that recommendations made by the Union government to enhance the ESI doctors’ capitation fees from Rs 60 per family per year to Rs 120 has been ignored,” added Dubey.
According to A.K. Khokar, deputy medical commissioner, ESI Corporation, enhancement of capitation fees of the ESI doctors was recommended to the state government last year.
“The Bengal government has so far been silent on its treatment of the ESI doctors. Several rounds of talks have failed so far. But we will continue our agitation till someone does something for these professionals, who are in a pitiful state,” concluded IMA state president Ganguly.