Medical interns in Uttar Pradesh are unhappy with a monthly stipend of Rs 7,500 and had vocalised their protest on social media over the past few months. Despite their appeals through Twitter and WhatsApp, UP government appeared to have ignored their demands.
The intern doctors have now gone on strike and The Quint spoke with several students to understand their issues and complaints.
LLRM Medical College in Meerut was among the first ones to go on strike. One of the intern MBBS doctors on strike on campus had this to say:
"We are on emergency duty for 8-12 hours daily and get a renumeration of Rs 250 a day. This is both insulting and inadequate."Intern at LLRM College, Meerut
The intern doctors have chosen to remain anonymous in the report as they feel their protest could jeopardise their career.
Another student of LLRM college said that they have been raising the issue of salaries for the last few months but no assurance from the state government has been forthcoming.
“We keep submitting letters and keep hearing that it has been forwarded to the government. However, there is no progress beyond that. In such circumstances isn’t our protest justified?” the student said.
The intern doctors also ask why call them ‘corona warriors’ when no one is ready to even listen to them. They say, being on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been doing their duty but also want “rights” that they feel they are entitled to.
Why is The Stipend So Low in Uttar Pradesh?
An intern at Agra Medical College asks why Uttar Pradesh trails other states when it comes to stipends for doctors.
"Some state governments felt it is their responsibility to look into this issue and they hiked the stipend for doctors. In Karnataka, the stipend was increased after mild protests. However, in Uttar Pradesh, we do not know how to make ourselves heard."Intern MBBS doctor at Agra Medical College
Uttar Pradesh has more than 40 private and government medical colleges combined where over 2,500 intern doctors practice. These interns are paid a stipend of Rs 7,500, among the lowest nationally. In several other states, the stipend is double, and in some cases, nearly triple.
According to an intern at Jhansi’s Rani Lakshmibai College, “our curriculums are the same and we do nearly the same work but centrally funded medical colleges pay a monthly stipend of Rs 23,000. West Bengal pays Rs 16,500, Punjab pays Rs 15,000 and most other states have a stipend higher than Uttar Pradesh.”
“This is a matter of concern and sadness for us and makes us wonder if we’ve done something wrong,” she added.
Earlier in 2020, Karnataka had provided relief to over 8,000 interns by heeding their complaints and increasing the stipend to Rs 30,000.
Further, Indian Medical Association, Student Medical Networks allege that in UP some medical colleges have been paying only Rs 6,000 as stipend while a few have been making interns work with no stipend at all.
The association has written to Chief Minister Adityanath detailing their issues and have demanded a hike.
At Gorakhpur’s BRD Medical College, an intern told The Quint:
"Our state did not find it important to even give us any assurance. We have written to the government but there is no response as yet. This is why we were compelled to go on strike. We did not want to take this step but we are left with no other choice."
‘We have to Answer to Our Families’
While MBBS takes about 4.5 years, students are required to complete a year-long internship after that. During the internship, doctors are put on duty across different departments. They assist senior doctors, and during the pandemic, have also been given the responsibility of conducting screenings.
According to Neeraj Kumar Mishra, state president, United Resident and Doctors Association, the risk factor of the job profile is highest among interns. Mishra says they are on the frontline and despite the risk are paid only Rs 250 a day i.e Rs 7,500 a month.
One such intern told The Quint that after five years in medical college, he is hesitant to ask his family for money.
“My father is a farmer and currently there isn’t much work happening on that front either. Our annual fees is Rs 21,000 and it has been four-and-a-half years. It doesn’t feel good to ask money from home,” the intern said.
United Resident & Doctors Association India has also written to the Union Health Ministry where it has mentioned the death of Dr Anurag. The letter states that the medical fraternity is in ‘”shock” at his demise and it is crucial to listen to the doctors at this point.
“The letter intends to apprise the government that the interns have worked nearly 12 hours a day during the pandemic. Their demands should be heard before it gets too late,” said Mishra.
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