Punjab: State reduces NPA, Doctors go on strike
Ludhiana: Objecting to the State Government's recommendations related to the Sixth pay commission, the government doctors all across Punjab went on a day-long strike on Friday. The doctors held demonstrations in many places as they didn't agree with the Government's decision of reducing the non-practising allowance and de-linking it from the basic pay.
As a result, health services in the State were affected as apart from the emergency services (COVD-19 services, vaccination etc.) all the other medical services including the outpatient department (OPD) services remained suspended in the government hospitals – from the district hospitals to subsidiary health centres as well as in all ayurvedic dispensaries and homoeopathic clinics. In fact, works in the veterinary clinics were also closed due to the strike.
The Punjab government last week had decided to implement a majority of the recommendations of its sixth pay commission with effect from January 1, 2016. Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that cabinet took a decision following the 6th pay commission report and reduced the non-practice allowance from 25 % to 20% while dissociating it from the basic pay. Opposing tooth and nail the reduction in NPA from 25 % to 20% following the 6th Pay Commission report, the doctors at Government Medical College (GMC) and Government Dental Colleges in Punjab had boycotted duties for three hours on Monday.
Afterwards, the state government employees on Wednesday had gone on a five-day pen-down strike against the recommendations of the sixth pay commission. They were objecting to the formula used in the calculation of pay increase.
Following this, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday constituted a committee of ministers to resolve the grievances of the employees. Local Government Minister Brahm Mohindra, Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, Social Justice Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Medical Education and Research Minister OP Soni and Health Minister Balbir Sidhu will be a part of the committee.
The Chief Minister also directed the Chief Secretary to constitute an officers' committee to personally hear the grievances of the employees of various departments.
PTI reports that the strike call was given by the Joint Punjab Government Doctors Coordination Committee, which has members from the Punjab Civil Medical Services Association and is supported by Punjab State Veterinary Officers Association, Rural Medical Officers Association, Punjab Dental Medical Officers Association and Punjab Ayurveda Officers Association.
"We are against the decision to decrease Non-Practising Allowance and delinking NPA from basic pay. Besides, we are also objecting to the formula which they have used to calculate pension benefits," Dr Gagandeep Singh, president of the Punjab Civil Medical Services Association told PTI.
IANS adds that the impact of the strike was seen more in rural areas of the state. Patients and their attendants blamed the government.
"The common man suffers more because of the strike as they can't afford the costly private treatment," Gurdev Singh, a resident of Amritsar who brought his mother for treatment, said.
As per the latest media report by Hindustan Times, OPD services remained functional at Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital in Faridkot. Although a few doctors of the hospital didn't join the protest, those in support of it registered their protest by wearing black badges on duty.
While commenting on the issue, the medical superintendent of the medical college and hospital, Dr Shilekh Mittal told the daily, "There has been some impact on OPD services due to the strike but we are providing treatment to all patients. We have medical students on duty along with doctors, so patients are not facing any problem."
Meanwhile, speaking to the daily, Dr Chander Shekhar Kakkar, a senior vice-president of the PCMS Association, Punjab said, "The medical college is providing OPD services despite the strike call. All medical college doctors do not directly come under the state health department and they also have interns. But we are going to ask them to close the OPD in support of the strike as this is a joint protest of doctors."
"If the state government does not accept our demands, a decision will be taken after consulting association members to scale up the protest by closing more services on Monday. Our main demands are the restoration of NPA, 5% house rent to doctors and higher education allowance to all doctors equally," he further added.
Several associations of resident doctors all across the country have come in support of the government doctors in Punjab.
Sharing the news on their Twitter handle, IMA-JDN wrote, "@PunjabGovtIndia has reduced NPA of Govt Docs from 25 to 20% in recent revision of pay commission and no allowances decided yet for newly recruited docs. In this context, all govt Drs of Punjab are on strike today except emergency services."
Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA) has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi extending their support to the demands of the Punjab government doctors. "@FAIMA_INDIA_stands with Punjab Doctors in their fight regarding Reduction of NPA. @capt_amarinder @IYCPunjab @RahulGandhi @priyankagandhi @srinivasiyc @PMOIndia @drharshvardhan kindly look into this matter on uregent basis," they wrote on Twitter.
"At this critical juncture, when we doctors are working tirelessly at the frontline, the morale of our colleagues in Punjab has gone very down," FAIMA mentioned in the letter directed to the Prime Minister.
"The doctors are hence forced to go on strike from today onwards in a phased manner," further added the letter dated 25.06.2021.
Meanwhile, speaking to Medical Dialogues, Dr Gagandeep Singh, president of Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) Doctors Association, said, "Yesterday on June 25, the joint action committee comprising of Punjab Civil Medical Services Association along with Ayurvedic, Veterinary, homoeopathic, rural, and dental medical officers went on a one-day strike opposing the State's decision to reduce the NPA and delinking it from the basic pay. Yesterday, all government doctors were on strike and we closed down OPD services. However, keeping the welfare of the public in mind we didn't boycott the COVID vaccination and emergency services."
When asked if the Government has responded yet, he added "No, we haven't received any positive response from the Government yet. The Govt. has constituted a broader committee of ministers to listen to the grievances of all the employees. However, that is going to take long and the new order is going to be implemented from July 1."
Talking about their future course of action, Dr. Singh said, "Next, we are going to hold a press conference on Chandigarh tomorrow. We are planning to hold another one-day strike on Monday also. If the government still doesn't pay notice, we may stop the medico legal work as well."