New Delhi: Amid the spike in dengue and malaria cases, the discontent among the employees of government hospitals over their long-pending demands has exacerbated the situation.
Cutting across staff groups, the employees of Hindu Rao Hospital decided to stage a three-hour strike every day until their grievances regarding salary payment and arrears are addressed. Doctors, nurses, the paramedic staff and other employees struck work and staged a demonstration from 9 am till 12 noon. The employees threatened to go on a complete strike from November 18 if their demands are not met.
According to the medical staff, the dearness allowance and the bonus are pending for the last six and three years respectively. Besides, the salaries of most employees have not been paid for the past two months.
Tejinder Singh, member, Paramedical Staff Union of the Hindu Rao Hospital, told Newsclick over the phone that around “200 hospital employees staged a pen-down strike” on Monday morning. “We will continue to protest until the administration pays our salaries.” This is not the first time that the medical staff has been being “forced” to stage a strike. “We went on strike last year and this year as well but our issues remain unresolved,” he said referring to the strike observed by more than one lakh municipal corporation employees in the national capital last year and January this year. “We will go on a complete strike from November 18 if the demands are not met.”
The latest protest comes at a time when the number of dengue and malaria cases at Hindu Rao Hospital, one of the largest hospitals under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), has surged. All the three municipal bodies in the national capital—North, South, and East—are controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Shankutala Devi, leader, Auxiliary Nursing Midwifery Staff Union, told Newsclick that the delay in payment of salaries is only one issue. The staff is also “overwhelmed” by the increased workload in the hospital. “The number of patients has considerably increased over the years as against the number of employees, resulting in intense work pressure. When it comes to salary payment, we are treated as if we are demanding something illegal,” she said, adding that timely salary payment is the “least” that the “overworked” medical employees deserve.
The problem of delayed salary payment also plagues municipal corporation schools and safai karmacharis. The Delhi High Court had pulled up both the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the BJP-run municipal corporations earlier for reducing the matter to a “political slugfest” rather than finding a solution.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi was trifurcated by the then-Sheila-Dikshit-led Congress government in 2012. Over the years, the AAP has alleged corruption and financial irregularities in the corporations while the BJP has maintained that the non-disbursal of funds by the Arvind Kejriwal government to the three corporations has delayed the salaries.
The employees of the three corporations are bearing the brunt of the AAP-BJP “tussle”, rued AP Khan, convenor, Confederation of MCD Employees Union, a group of more than 20 corporation employees unions. According to him, the confederation had suggested solutions to the “funds problem” in the three corporations but to no avail.
“We have been demanding unification of the municipal corporations or, at least, of their finance for many years to ensure that that the funds are properly divided as per the needs of each zone,” Khan told Newsclick. After last year’s strike, the confederation also proposed to the MCD mayors to seek a “one-time bailout package” worth Rs 1,000 crore from the Centre. “We were told that such a proposal was forwarded to the Central government last year. But not much has been discussed about it since then.”
Multiple calls made to Raja Iqbal Singh, mayor, NDMC, went unanswered. Khan said that the confederation supports the protesting hospital employees. “Even teachers and safai karmacharis in the corporations are not paid on time. We may all go on a mass strike again if forced,” he said.