Govt Takeover Leaves Workers from Medical College Unemployed in Chhattisgarh
In September, 2021, services of about 101 non-teaching employees of Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College, Kachandur, Durg in Chhattisgarh came to an abrupt end.
The Chhattisgarh Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College, Durg Acquisition Bill, 2021 was passed in July in the state Assembly, and was notified on September 3, thus paving the way for a government takeover of a private medical college.
Since then, the Class III and Class IV employees of the college have been fighting for their livelihood. Among these workers, there are about 41 women and 60 men, most of whom had been working at the college since 2013.
Contentious Clauses of Acquisition Act, Unjust Towards Workers
There has been a big controversy around the government acquisition of the private medical college. The Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Medical College (CCMMC) was established in 2013 in Kachandur, Durg as a private medical college. Since 2018, it has been facing difficulties and its directors expressed their inability to run the medical college because of its poor financial condition. They petitioned the state government of Chhattisgarh to acquire it.
According to reports, the legislation states that while the liabilities of the institute will be borne by its owners, the state government will conduct a valuation of the movable and immovable properties of the college after which it will pay twice the ascertained amount to the institute's owners.
Also, the Act mandates that no action can be taken against the special officer, who will be appointed by the government to undertake the valuation of the assets of the college.
Further, the Act spells termination of employment for the existing employees of the institute. The opposition in the state Assembly had proposed an amendment to retain the existing employees, but as per reports, the government had countered this on the grounds that it cannot absorb private employees. The government claimed that hiring a government employee is a structural process and due process would be followed to hire employees after acquisition.
As per Clause 12 (1) of the Chhattisgarh Gazette notification (July 2021), any person, who was in service at the college before acquisition by the state, will not stake any claim to remain in service at the medical college or under any government service.
The workers, however, say that they have been working there for about 10 years and many of them have crossed age limits for applying afresh. “Such a condition in any Act, forcing universal dismissal of existing employees, is completely illogical and unjust,” said Kaladas Daharia, of the Jan Swasthya Karmachari union representing the former Class III and Class IV employees of the medical college.
NewsClick reached out to P L Punia, senior leader and Chhattisgarh in-charge of the Congress party, regarding the issue and in his reply he said that “it has been sent where it had to be sent”. No other details were shared. Recently, the workers from the medical college had met Punia in Delhi on March 14.
On February 17, the High Court put a stay on recruitment of Class III and Class IV personnel in the CCMMC. The replies had not been filed by the government till then and the representatives of the Chandulal Chandrakar Memorial Hospital (private company) were absent. On the subsequent hearing on March 16, the replies had still not been filed by the government and the private company’s representatives were again missing. Consequently, the court issued March 29 as the date for the next hearing.
Meanwhile, one of the workers, Mohan Lal Baghel, is at present on an indefinite hunger strike outside the medical college in Durg, which has now entered its seventh day.
Other Controversies Surrounding the Medical College
Reportedly, the owners of the private medical college are linked to the Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel through his son-in-law Kshitij Chandrakar. It is alleged that this acquisition could be “merely an act of bailing out some well-connected people on public expense”.
The Indian Express reported that the Medical Council of India (MCI) noted in 2018 that “Except for Ophthalmology and OBG (obstetrics and gynaecology), there was not a single post-operative patient lying in surgical and allied surgical specialties wards who was operated 1-3 days earlier (5th to 7th April 2018), although OT register was full of entries of various operative procedures, putting a question mark on the validity of these entries. In tough language, it can be termed as fraudulent”.
For the year 2019-20, the medical college had failed to get approval from the Medical Council of India (MCI), which found gross deficiencies in its functioning. On the basis of the MCI report, the students had filed a petition with the High Court and the court had directed the state government to form a committee and come up with a scheme to transfer the aggrieved students to other medical colleges.
To counter these allegations, the state government reportedly issued a statement that the decision of acquisition was taken in the interest of people and students and for speedy expansion of medical education.
The state government ministers and Congress MLAs have reportedly defended the acquisition by terming it as a step towards improving the availability of public health facilities in the state and that “this is the best option to start a government medical college in the state with limited resources”.
“When we first came to know about the proposed acquisition, we welcomed it by distributing sweets. Government medical colleges offer good education at very affordable rates. However, the government has a responsibility not only towards the medical students, but also towards workers employed at the medical college”, said Dhanush Kumar Sahu, one of the terminated workers of CCMMC.
Past Acquisitions: Workers’ Interests Were Safeguarded
The workers are expressing surprise at the conduct of the Congress government in Chhattisgarh which claims to have a pro-worker agenda. Sumit Parganiya, the former store-in-charge at the CCMMC says, “In the past, the Congress governments have conducted a string of nationalisations, in which private industries were brought under the government control – the banking industry, the jute mills, the coal mines, Maruti Company etc. In each and every one of these cases, the relevant Acts not only guaranteed continuity of employment for each employee working in the private company that was being acquired, the Acts also laid out very meticulously how retirement benefits and other benefits would be continued or improved upon acquisition.”
“It is shameful that the same Congress party would now move an Act that results in mass termination of the working people – even those who have been working here since the Medical College was inaugurated”, he said.
With no earnings for the last six months, the Class III and Class IV employees of CCMMC are struggling for survival. They have tried various democratic ways of protesting – by taking out a bike rally, forming a human chain, sitting on hunger strikes, holding candle light vigils and even visiting Delhi and meeting some national leaders.
Some of the public health activists in the state say that the interests of the workers must be protected. Terminating them suddenly is grossly unjust. They suggest that there may be ways to safeguard their livelihoods by absorbing these workers in other state-owned institutes and also training them further.
“Today, the system and the machinery favours capitalists; whereas, workers’ voices are muzzled. The medical facilities and hospitals are for the people, but they have become means to earn profits. We appeal to the larger public also to stand with us in our democratic struggle for ensuring our right to livelihood”, appealed Daharia.
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