NEW DELHI—At least three hundred resident doctors working in two large public hospitals in Delhi, one of which provides services to patients suspected of suffering from COVID 19 and other serious ailments while the other caters to children and women, have threatened mass resignations if they are not paid their pending salaries within a week.
In two separate letters to the authorities on Wednesday, the Resident Doctors’ Associations (RDA) representing around 100 doctors from the Kasturba Hospital and about 200 doctors from the Hindurao Hospital conveyed their intention of tendering ‘mass resignations’ if their salaries, pending at least for the past three months, were not paid within a week.
“We cannot work without money. Being the frontline workers, we should be paid our pending salaries as soon as possible and should be ensured a regular payout,” said the doctors in the letter written by the RDA at Kasturba Hospital. “We are afraid that if we won’t be paid by 16th June 2020, we will have to move for mass resignation.”
“We cannot work without money. Being the frontline workers, we should be paid our pending salaries as soon as possible and should be ensured a regular payout.”
The letters were addressed to officials in the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, as it is their administrator, and the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, among others.
Through their letter, the resident doctors at the Kasturba hospital also reminded the administration that they are “working in this pandemic COVID 19 situation continuously putting their and their families’ lives in danger.” Resident doctors at the Hindurao hospital feel similarly vulnerable.
Both hospitals are under the administrative jurisdiction of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which is controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and doctors told this reporter that they have been given to understand by the hospital administration that funds have not been released by the municipal corporation which is causing the delay in payment of their salaries. This could not be independently ascertained.
Lack of funds for workers employed by the BJP-led municipal corporations has been a recurring problem in recent years. It has also been cause for a political clash between the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and BJP-led municipal corporations.
In April, the BJP criticised Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when he announced Rs 1 crore compensation for the family of Delhi government employees in case they die of coronavirus. Municipal workers were not covered under this order and the BJP leaders criticised CM Kejriwal for “discriminating” against municipal workers.
In 2018, sanitation workers employed by the east delhi municipal corporation went on a strike for non-payment of their salaries and refused to pick up garbage from the streets, causing mountains of trash to pile up for weeks.
Corporation officials blamed the AAP government for not paying their dues according to recommendations of the fourth finance commission, while the latter denied that was the reason for failure of the corporations to pay salaries. The Delhi High Court had to intervene to temporarily resolve the issue. More recently, in April this year during the lockdown, municipal sanitation workers again complained about not being paid their salaries for the month of March.
In 2016 as well, doctors working for the municipal corporations protested over non-payment of salaries. It was in May this year that doctors voiced these concerns again and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about it. But the delay in payment of salaries has worsened and doctors have now threatened to register their protest by adopting the tactic of ‘mass resignations’, which appears to be the first such attempt.
HuffPost India has reached out to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation to understand the reason for the delay in payment of salaries and this report will be updated if the officials respond.
The concerns that doctors from both hospitals emphasised prominently in their letters were directly related to the adverse impact of non-payment of salaries on their livelihoods.
“...we are not being paid salaries making us unable to pay our house rents, huge travelling expenses and to buy essential commodities,” the letter by Kasturba Hospital RDA said.
Resident doctors at the Hindurao hospital outlined similar concerns. “We would like to inform you that with every passing day, it’s getting very hard and tedious to get through the daily expenses of a lot of doctors. Even it’s getting cumbersome to commute to work and earn basic livelihood,” the RDA letter said.
This appears to be a rather peculiar set of concerns expressed by doctors working in a hospital located in the national capital.
HuffPost India has documented concerns expressed by doctors across India, especially those working in government hospitals, about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) while they are involved in treatment of patients. But in this case, doctors say they have been provided with PPE and not salaries.
This is particularly serious as it comes at a time when the Indian economy’s slide has been hastened by the coronavirus lockdown and economists are predicting that this year India will see the worst recession since the 1970s. The scale at which this will affect livelihoods adversely is hard to quantify and massive unemployment is anticipated.
ADMINISTRATIVE APATHY, HELPLESS DOCTORS
What makes it worse is that, when doctors took their issues up with the respective managements of their hospitals, no resolution was promised to them for the near future.
“We have been mentioning it as a key point in every letter but we feel our voices are unheard rather they are dismissed with acrimony and irrational reasons. The prolonged wait is causing a lot of disharmony and agitation amongst the doctors and residents,” warned the RDA at the Hindurao hospital in its letter.
It also stated that, being “helpless”, the doctors were choosing the ‘No Pay, No Work’ rule to ‘mark their agitation’ and, if the situation persists, they will go in for ‘mass resignations’. It requests the administration to release pending salaries by 18 June 2020.
“We have been mentioning it as a key point in every letter but we feel our voices are unheard rather they are dismissed with acrimony and irrational reasons.”
Dr Abhimanyu Sardana, President of the Resident Doctors Association at the Hindurao Hospital, told HuffPost India that the doctors were mulling about drafting an online petition to mobilise public opinion in favour of their cause. They get their salaries on the 15th of each month and the last received salary on February 15, which means they have not been paid salaries for four months.
In an interview with this reporter, Dr Abhiman, who is the spokesperson of the RDA at Kasturba hospital, said when they took up their concerns with the administration, the doctors were told that their pending salaries will not be paid anytime in the next two-three months because the municipal corporation had not disbursed funds to the hospital. He said it’s not just doctors but even other healthcare workers have not been paid all their salaries and on time at the hospital.
Both hospitals provide services to hundreds of patients everyday. According to Dr Arbhiman, the Hindurao hospital has specific provisions for patients suspected of COVID 19 and, till last week, doctors were sending about 100 samples everyday for testing. It does not have treatment facilities, however, and patients get referred to different COVID 19 hospitals which are treating patients affected by the disease. The Kasturba hospital refers most COVID 19 suspect patients to the LNJP hospital and its major focus area is children and women, especially those in need of post pregnancy care.