Health professionals have a rather uncanny timing of launching agitations in pursuit of their demands during crisis. In the early stages of the pandemic, contract employees of the state based National Health Mission threatened to launch cease work strike if their demand for absorption into state service is not fulfilled. They ultimately backed out after a government appeal. The teaching and non-teaching staff of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) had also time and again threatened to go on strike even in the midst of this Covid 19 crisis. This time, it is the turn of All Manipur Health Services Doctors Association (AMHSDA). And their demands include among others non-practising allowance (NPA) for doctors as per central government pay norms, Draft Manipur Health Services Rules and immediate cancellation of the extension of Dr K Rajo as director of Health Service for six months. AMHSDA had resolved on December 18 to launch various lines of action from December 21 against non-fulfilment of their demands.
On the other hand, the Directorate of Health Services has warned government doctors with regard to the agitation proposed by the All Manipur Health Services Doctors Association (AMHSDA) including stopping of emergency services from December 21. The directorate urged the health professionals not to stop providing any kind of health services and directed all the officers of health services to continue providing all healthcare services, including emergency and OPD services in all the government hospitals. A memorandum issued from the directorate of health services said that considering the prevailing pandemic, the Government of Manipur has issued an order on December 19 that prohibited any form of agitation which disrupts or dislocates the functioning of government health services. It said that the order will remain in force for a period of six months from the date of issue. Besides, non-compliance of the order will be treated as an offence under the Manipur Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1984, it stated and warned that action will be taken accordingly against defaulting authorities or employees. It further directed all chief medical officers or medical superintendents to submit a daily report to the director and additional director of health services without fail at 5 pm every day.
Today, we are still facing a war-like situation, even if the spread of the pandemic has slowed down a bit. If the government doctors go on strike while there is an urgent need to induct more health professionals, it would indeed be a tragedy. Every health professional had gone through the Hippocratic Oath and now is certainly not the time to run away from that oath, howsoever legitimate and genuine their demands be. Yet, the government has to study the genesis of the present agitation. Clearly, the demand of non-practising allowance (NPA) and of Draft Manipur Health Services Rules is not a new one. The catch this time is regarding the six months extension of the incumbent Director of Health Services Dr K Rajo. The first question which comes to mind is naturally the logic of his extension. Is he that indispensable? What are his plus points which merited the extension at the expense of other health administrators waiting in line? Looking at the track record of the government, past or present, it has a habit of giving extension to the services of top level officers who are due to retire. But, this too is for a selected few who has a line with the powers that be. A joke doing the rounds in the bureaucratic circles is about a few top engineers who simply refused to retire