| A medical student shouts slogans as he runs towards police barricades during the anti-reservation protest in New Delhi. (Reuters)
New Delhi, May 12: The Indian Medical Association has asked doctors in the capital to stay away from work on Monday after medical students protesting against reservation in education faced tear gas and water cannons today.
Several hundred under-graduate medical students ran into a wall of water as they staged what they described as a peaceful march towards the Prime Minister’s Office. Police also detained around 350 students, IMA officials said.
The protest suggests that the election-enforced lull in the campaign against reservation has ended. The IMA has also warned of a nationwide medical bandh on May 25 if the government fails to give a “patient hearing”.
“The police action is a precipitating factor for our call for a Delhi medical bandh on Monday,” Sanjiv Malik, the president of the IMA, said. “What happened today shows us that the government does not even want to listen to us.”
Malik conceded that a call from the IMA to all doctors ' private and public ' to stay away from work for a full day is rare. “We don’t want to do this. But we’ll have to find ways to build up pressure.”
The IMA had last given a call for a Delhi medical bandh during the mid-1990s in protest against assault on doctors and demanding more security for them.
The IMA has urged the government to help students from backward classes to enter medical colleges through ways other than the proposed increase in reservations from 22.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent.
“Free books and even funding special classes to prepare them for medical entrance examinations are other options to provide them a level-playing field,” said Narendra Saini, the IMA joint secretary.
“We’re asking doctors to avoid work, but provide consultation and treat any patient who absolutely needs treatment,” Saini said. “Doctors will be available for patients in an emergency,” he said.
“We’re not doing this only for medical students or for ourselves. This is for all of society. We’re hoping society will support us in this cause.”
While the medical community has been spearheading the anti-reservation agitation, the IMA now plans to get in touch with engineering and other professional associations to urge them to join the protest, Malik said.
Medical students protesting against reservations have argued that any increase in reserved seats would deprive general category candidates who qualify in entrance tests, create incompetent doctors, and exacerbate the brain drain.
Among India’s 242 medical colleges, 12 are centrally-governed. These institutions are likely to be affected first by the proposal to increase quotas.