For more than a decade the government of Tamil Nadu has not hired veterinary doctors on a permanent basis. After 2009, the state exam for selecting veterinary doctors was finally held in February 2020, after a 11-year-long gap. However, one and a half years after the exam was held, the 1,141 selected doctors still await appointment orders.
The doctors who cleared the exam and other qualifications received selection orders in January 2021, upon which many of them quit their private practices and started waiting for appointments, but a delay of more than six months in posting has left them with no livelihood.
Many of these doctors are first generation graduates from poor and rural backgrounds. Most of them are married and have children, and this ever-stretching delay has hit hard on their lives.
The frustrated veterinary graduates staged a massive protest near Valluvar Kottam in Chennai on Thursday, July 29, asking the government to expedite appointments. More than 600 veterinarians participated in the demonstration.
WHY THE DELAY?
The State government, under the leadership of the then Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, had launched the free distribution of milch cows and goats/sheep scheme in 2011. To carry out the scheme, 636 veterinary doctors were hired by the state government, but the process was completed without conducting the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) exam.
Since then, these doctors have petitioned the courts demanding that the government prioritise them in filling the Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) permanent posts on the basis of seniority. These court cases have delayed the conducting of the TNPSC exam for veterinarians for over a decade, which is otherwise held every year or two.
Finally, in 2019, the state government released a call-for applications and the TNPSC exam was held for direct appointment to 1,141 VAS posts. Even though the exam was held in February 2020, a one-year lag followed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consecutive procedures were delayed.
In January 2021 certificate verification and interviews were conducted, and soon, 1,097 doctors were provided selection orders.
Yet, there was further delay in appointments because 110 doctors out of the 636 doctors hired by the state in 2011-12 had cleared the VAS exam, and approached the court demanding priority in filling posts. An interim order was passed by the Madras high court in April 2021 announcing that 110 seats be withheld out of the 1,141 available VAS posts, and the remaining 987 posts be filled without further delay.
However, the doctors who were selected in January 2021 but are now being denied appointments due to the withholding of the 110 posts have petitioned the courts.
The protest last week was an outpour of the frustration from the ever-stretching delays in appointments. The doctors pushed for an immediate sanctioning of appointments without any more delay.
The limited government vacancies and plenty of veterinary graduates seeking secure public service jobs has led to this situation of high competition.
The secretary of Tamil Nadu veterinary doctors association, Thangavel Devarajan, said, “After the selection order was provided for doctors early this year, many of them quit their jobs and they have been unemployed for six months. Just when they were about to get the jobs, it again slipped out of hand.”
Tamilselvan, one of the 1,141 doctors awaiting appointments, told NewsClick “many of us were earning 1 lakh in private practice, but we are now denied work in private as well. Given that we may be appointed to government posts at any time, private hospitals don’t want to give us work. We are well qualified, but not able to practice in both private and public service. This is our plight.”
He added, “We are all in the age group of 25 to 38 years, we have families and children, but we are suffering because we want secure government employment.”
Tamilselvan said, “Every one or two years, exams to assistant surgeon posts used to be held prior to 2009, but because of the 11-year delay, many lost the opportunity to give the exam due to the age bar. This is unfair”.
The veterinary graduates awaiting appointments state that they have met the Minister for Animal Husbandry, Anita Radhakrishnan, A Gnanasekaran, the Director of the Department of Animal Husbandry, and also Secretary of the Department, T S Jawahar, over the past few months. They have even written to the Chief Minister Cell, and await progress.