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TN: Strike of Cuddalore Govt Medical College Interns Demanding Stipends Enters Sixth Day

Neelambaran A |
The CRRIs of the erstwhile Rajah Muthiah Medical College demand Rs 25,000 stipend after being taken over by the state government. They have not been paid a penny during the eight months of the internship.
TN: Strike of Cuddalore Govt Medical College Interns Demanding Stipends Enters Sixth Day

The strike by interns of Government Medical College (formerly Rajah Muthiah Medical College, Annamalai University) in Cuddalore has entered its sixth day. The interns have not been paid a stipend since their appointment on May 23, 2021.

The interns have been involved in all government-run programs, including the vaccination camps, as part of their internship duty. Still, the government has not yielded to their demands on paying stipends on par with their counterparts in other government medical colleges.

In a move to weaken the strike, the college administration closed the hostel on January 17, forcing interns on COVID-19 related duties without accommodation and food. The protesting interns also claimed that 46 interns tested positive in the last week due to the surge in new infections.

The Director of Medical Education (DME) is expected to hold talks with the striking interns on January 19, while the interns are firm on a written assurance on paying the stipend for withdrawal of the strike.

STRIKE ENTERS SIXTH DAY

The state government pays a stipend of Rs 25,000 per month during the Compulsory Rotatory Residential Internship (CRRI), a compulsory one year service in hospitals attached to the college of study.

Since the earlier protests and oral assurances from the college administration had not been fulfilled, the interns resorted to strike from January 14. There are 134 undergraduate medical interns, while the number of dental interns is 71.

“We are not protesting against the government. Our protest is intended to highlight our plights and seek the attention of the state government to find a solution to our problem,” said Akash Immanuel, a protesting intern.

The administration has held talks with the protestors and has sought the withdrawal of the strike. But, considering the bitter experiences of the past, the interns have not yielded to the demands.

“We have been demanding stipends since May 2021 and the hospital administration has given several promises. Nothing has happened so far due to which we started our protest,” said Akash.

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The interns have tried to meet the DME multiple times to appraise their demand, but it was in vain. “We have been informed that the DME will be here to talk to us. Our only demand is that the government sanctions stipend like other medical college interns,” Akash added.

HOSTEL CLOSED TO DILUTE PROTEST’

A circular informing about the hostel's closure was pasted in the notice board by 5 am on January 17, and the interns were asked to vacate the hostel by 11 AM after the interns refused to withdraw their strike.

“The CRRIs are protesting for a very genuine demand of being paid stipend for their internship. The administration has acted cruelly by closing the hostel. The interns were given just 5 hours to vacate the hostel despite their service for the past eight months,” said the Tamil Nadu Medical Students Association (TNMSA) statement.

Notice announcing the closure of the hostel and mess.

Notice announcing the closure of the hostel and mess.

The CRRIs also claimed that 46 of their colleagues have tested positive in the last week while carrying out their routine duties inside and outside the hospital. “We have discharged all the responsibilities vested on us by the administration and the government. But, no wage is being paid to us for the services,” another protesting intern said.

The TNMSA condemned the administration for closing the hostel and threatening the protest organisers through the police.

WHY STIPEND IS DENIED?’

The state government took over the Rajah Muthiah Medical College in January 2021 after eight years of introducing the bill in 2013 and was named Government Medical College, Cuddalore. The students held a 54-day long protest from December 2020 demanding a reduction of fees after being taken over by the government.

Henceforth, all the government-run programs, including Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam (healthcare at doorsteps), are carried out through the medical college hospital.

"After the takeover of the college, we are students of the government medical college and are involved in routine work like any other interns of other medical colleges. Then, why are we denied our stipend?" questioned another protestor.

Earlier, the university used to pay Rs 3,000 as a stipend to the interns, but after the government took over the college and implemented the state-run schemes, the interns raised the demand for their stipends.

“We have not gone to our homes since the beginning of the internship during the second wave of the pandemic, fearing the spread of the virus to the elders of the family. But, our genuine demands are not listened to,” Akash said.

The protesting interns recalled the promises of the present chief minister MK Stalin during the 54-day long protest of the students of the medical, dental and pharmacy colleges of the erstwhile Annamalai University.

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