NO Maternity Leave for DNB: Doctors reach NHRC against NBE
New Delhi: In the latest development regarding the demands of reinstating maternity leaves for DNB doctors, the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) has taken up the matter to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which has now registered a case regarding this.
Apart from NHRC, FORDA has also approached the National Commission for Women seeking their help in the issue. The matter is pending before the Commission; a representative of FORDA has informed Medical Dialogues.
The issue concerning the denial of maternity leaves to DNB doctors has come to the forefront a couple of weeks ago. In fact, slowly, the demands of reinstating the maternity leaves, which was allegedly denied by a notification by the National Board of Examinations (NBE) a few years ago, started gaining momentum as well.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that previously, DNB doctors were allowed a Maternity Leave of three months without any extension of the course duration. Back in 2018, bringing relief to the DNB candidates, NBE in a public notice had mentioned that DNB/FNB candidates who joined after 2018, would be entitled to Maternity/ Paternity leave as per the Central or State Government policies, whichever is applicable to DNB/FNB training institute.
However, in 2019, NBE answered some frequently asked questions (FAQs) and clarified that "Any Leave availed by the DNB/FNB Trainee other than the eligible leave mentioned in the revised leave rules dated 20.03.2018 (i.e 30 days per year), shall lead to extension of DNB /FNB training."
For the past couple of weeks, doctors have started questioning this stand of NBE and several associations have raised their voices regarding the matter. FORDA, in a letter directed to the Prime Minister, had mentioned how the "Maternity Amendment Bill" was passed in 2018 as a welcome move and it extended the Maternity Leaves of female employees to 26 weeks, extending from the previous period of 12 weeks. However, the same benefits were denied to the DNB doctors by NBE.
"The Maternity Leave has become more relevant in the ongoing COVID19 pandemic since pregnant DNB Residents are not able to join their duties because of risk of contracting the infection which in turn, might harm the mother as well as the baby who is yet to be born. Withdrawal of Maternity Leave is a serious violation of basic rights of the female Resident Doctors," FORDA had further mentioned earlier.
In its representation before the NHRC, FORDA has pointed out how the DNB doctors used to be awarded with the maternity benefits of 12 weeks till 2018. Mentioning that NBE had withdrawn the provision for unknown reasons, the association has also informed the Commission that such a step on NBE's part was taken after the Central Government's policy to increase the Maternity benefits from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
Referring to the case Supreme Court judgment in the case of Dr. Ankita Baidya vs Union Of India & Ors, the association further pointed out how the Apex Court had granted relief in Dr. Baidya's case, who was a student of DM course.
"The court held that the reach and sweep of the Maternity Benefit Act, being in the nature of a piece of social welfare legislation has to be as expansive as possible rather than limited by any pedantic considerations of word or phrase. Therefore, the court held that a student to the DM course, cannot be excluded from the benefits available under the Act, just because it applies to employees," FORDA has submitted before the Commission mentioning that enforcing a candidate to undergo an extension of the course after availing maternity leave would be violative of Article 42 of the Constitution of India.
The association has also referred to Article 15, which directs the State to make any special provision in favor of women and children, and also the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women (2001) to present their case.
Finally referring to the fact that most of the PG students belong to an age-group which are the most reproductive years for a woman, FORDA submitted, "It is a very well known fact that most of the resident doctors pursuing their post-graduation degree are within the age group of 25-30yrs and also these are the best reproductive years for a woman. As the age advances, the fertility begins to decline. Women have to face a lot of trouble in conceiving as her age advances."
"Therefore it is our moral duty to provide every female a conducive environment so that the ability of a woman to nurture new life is encouraged in every best possible manner," concluded FORDA.
Speaking to Medical Dialogues regarding the issue, Dr Kulsaurabh Kaushik, National Secretary of FORDA said, "The maternity leave benefits of 90 days were there before 2018. However, it was canceled for unknown reasons. As everyone knows, most of the PG students belong to the age group of 25-35, and it is the best reproductive age for a female. Not allowing them with their basic right for maternity benefits is an injustice."
"Earlier, we had approached the Union Health Ministry and NBE regarding the matter. However, we didn't receive any specific response," he further informed.
"We had sent the copy of the letter to the NHRC and the National Commission for Women as well. Finally, yesterday the case has been registered with the NHRC and in the Women Commission, it is still in the processing state. Now, we cannot do anything apart from waiting for the Commission's decision," Dr. Kaushik added.