It has been more than nine months since junior resident homeopathy doctors at State Lal Bahadur Shastri Homeopathy College, Allahabad and State National Homeopathic Medical College, Lucknow have received their stipends.
After a series of unsatisfactory communications between the college administration, the Uttar Pradesh government’s finance department and even the chief minister, the doctors had no option but to boycott classes and go on a strike on September 23. However, they have clarified that it is a peaceful protest and that patients are being duly attended to in the OPDs.
The ten students at the college in Prayagraj and the 18 in Lucknow constitute the first batch of post-graduate doctors under the ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy). In 2014, the NDA government carved out a separate AYUSH ministry to revive the ancient medical sciences.
Four years later, in December 2018, the ministry opened 28 seats for post-graduate homeopathy doctors in Uttar Pradesh. These students cleared the all India entrance exam to get admission in their respective colleges.
“We are the first batch under AYUSH and as per the law, we were supposed to get a stipend but we haven’t for the last nine months. We talked to our principal and even reached out to the ministry of AYUSH but we have only got oral assurances and false promises,” said a student from State Lal Bahadur Shastri Homeopathy College, Allahabad.
Some time back, students say, the state government’s finance department invited them to their offices, congratulating them for passing the files to pace up the process. But the students declined the invitation.
Last week, on September 19, the students had written a letter to the principal saying that they will go on strike on September 23 if they are not given a written assurance by the 21st.
A student in Lucknow told LiveWire that the director of the college, Dr V. K. Kamal, paid a visit last Sunday and allegedly tried to create divisions among those who were planning to protest.
“The director took a class last Sunday and gave us a written assurance tearing off a page from her diary. It, of course, wasn’t an official letter. We will continue with the strike unless we get a proper assurance in writing. She also indirectly tried to scare some interns so that they don’t participate in the protest,” said a post-graduate student from Lucknow.
She also said that the director had sent them an old letter (with a new date) saying that the work is “under process.”
According to students, the junior residents in Homeopathy in other cities like Kolkata, Kottayam etc., started getting stipends from the very first month of their enrolment.
Students allege that the internal corruption in Uttar Pradesh could be a possible reason behind the delay. According to one of them, the stipend they’re entitled to is approximately Rs 60,000 – which is very close to the salary of a faculty member. This is what nettles the faculty members, students said, perhaps acting as a contributory factor to the lack of support they’ve rendered.
One student at Allahabad also alleged that they have been told to pay some money under the table to get their work done at the earliest. The director, according to them, has courted controversy in the past for encouraging such unethical activities in the college, an allegation that the director denied.
The secretariat has also been repeatedly asking the college’s administration for the name of the post to sanction the stipends.
“This is not a job and we are enrolled as junior residents in this college. But if the college knew that a post had to be created for stipends, they were supposed to prepare themselves beforehand. They knew this in May, 2019. Why didn’t they do anything?” said a student from Lucknow.
When LiveWire contacted the director, he said that these complications have arisen because it is the very first batch in Uttar Pradesh and that he is constantly in touch with the state government’s finance department to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
“Yesterday [September 23], I talked to the finance department who had raised some objections to our request letter for granting stipends some time back. We rectified it and sent it back again. We are hopeful that we will get a positive response within two weeks,” he said.
He declined to comment on the specific objections raised by the finance department.
‘Not here for protests’
Previously, these doctors were working professionals in various private and government medical colleges but left their jobs to enrol themselves in these AYUSH colleges. However, with no stipend or hostel facility, some of them are thinking about leaving the course.
“We were all working professionals and came here to learn, not to sit on these strikes and protest. I was a senior research fellow at a central government institution in India. This is not what we are here for. The OPD is good but what are we going to do with it if we have to take money from home? We have faced nothing but torture. If this continues, we will definitely pack our bags and leave the course,” said the Lucknow student.
The stipend amount, students say, also covered the home rent assurance. But without that, they have to take money from home to pay for private accommodation outside the college premises. It is under law, students say, that the college has to provide hostels to junior residents.
“Although the college in Lucknow has made a temporary arrangement for accommodation on one of the floors in the in-patient department, this is still not a hostel,” she said.
The students are still awaiting a satisfactory response from the administration and, hence, those from Allahabad will be joining the strike in Lucknow, today, along with other undergraduate students and interns.
The director, on the other hand, has told LiveWire that he will be meeting the students agitating in Lucknow.
All images provided by the students of the two medical colleges