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Strike on under eviction threat

New Delhi, May 21: Medicos continued with their anti-quota agitation today, rejecting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s appeal and ignoring a warning that they would be thrown out of AIIMS hostel rooms.

At the All India Institute of Medical Sciences ' the centre of anti-reservation protests now on across the country ' striking doctors were served with notices to vacate their rooms by tomorrow morning or return to work.

Simultaneously, the government has indicated it plans to recruit doctors if the strike continues. At AIIMS, the hunger strike entered its eighth day.

The Uttar Pradesh government today invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (Esma), declaring the strike by junior doctors at the Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow illegal. It asked the doctors to resume duty within 24 hours.

State chief secretary Navin Chandra Bajpai said the “services of those who do not report for duty would be terminated and legal action taken against them”.

The Prime Minister had issued his appeal last night after receiving the report of the Group of Ministers set up to find a way out of the confrontation over the proposal to extend reservations for Other Backward Classes in central educational institutions.

“The appeal carried no meaning as it does not address our main demands,” said Dr Kumar Harsh, spokesman for Youth for Equality, which is spearheading the agitation.

The doctors want an “apolitical committee” of experts to review the impact of reservations over the past five or six decades, a demand on which the government maintained silence today.

Defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, who headed the GoM, and another member, finance minister P. Chidambaram, met the agitators’ representatives yesterday.

But the medical students and junior doctors disagreed with them that the solution was increasing the number of seats in medical colleges so that an OBC quota does not reduce general category seats.

The doctors argue that increasing seats isn’t practical: the infrastructure to absorb more students does not exist.

A meeting with health secretary P.C. Hota this evening failed to break the deadlock.

“The hunger strike will continue,” an AIIMS doctor said. “The government is under pressure to do something because of the hunger strike.” But the condition of many of the hunger strikers worsened today.

“Twenty students, on hunger strike since Sunday last, will be replaced by others following deterioration in their condition,” said Dr Sasmit Sarangi.

“Ten students from each college will join the indefinite hunger strike from today,” said Amithasha Sinha, a student of Lady Hardinge Medical College.

In an attempt to reach out to more people, the medicos have called for a blackout by households tomorrow between 8.00 and 8.10 pm to indicate solidarity with them.

The medicos claim ' without citing evidence ' that the authorities are planning to use force to evict the protesters from AIIMS.

Some doctors said they had burnt the eviction notices as a mark of protest.

IIT suicide plea

A group of students from IIT Delhi today submitted a memorandum to the President seeking permission to commit suicide if reservation for OBCs is implemented.

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