The protest had taken a dramatic turn earlier as medics and police personnel had faced off in streets, with both sides claiming several persons suffered injuries in the ensuing melee.

Doctors protesting against the delay in NEET PG 2021 counselling at Safdarjung hospital in DelhiImage: PTI
news Protest Tuesday, December 28, 2021 - 16:51

Intensifying their stir over the delay in NEET-PG 2021 counselling, a large number of resident doctors on Tuesday, December 28, protested on the premises of the Union government-run Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, even as police personnel were deployed to ensure maintenance of law and order. The protest, a day earlier had taken a dramatic turn, as medics and police personnel had faced off in streets, with both sides claiming several persons suffered injury in the ensuing melee.

A senior police officer said security personnel have been deployed on the premises of Safdarjung Hospital to maintain law and order amid the ongoing strike by the doctors. "Over 100 police personnel have been deployed. This is also to ensure the law and order situation at the hospital. The situation is normal and under control as of now. The resident doctors are peacefully protesting here," a senior police official said.

Doctors chanted slogans like 'We want justice', and sought to bolster the morale of each other, after the face-off with the police on Monday went all the way to midnight as dramatic scenes were witnessed at the Sarojini Nagar Police Station.

The Faculty Association of Safdarjung Hospital condemned the face-off, while the resident doctors' association of AIIMS urged the government to reveal its plans for expediting NEET PG counselling, failing which it threatened to proceed with a token strike on December 29, including shutdown of all non-emergency services.

The stir, led by the Federation of Resident Doctors' Association, entered its 12th day on Tuesday, even as patient care remained affected at three Centre-run facilities -- Safdarjung, RML and Lady Hardinge hospitals and some of the Delhi government-run hospitals.

FORDA on Monday had also said that several of its members were "detained" when they tried to hold a protest march from Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) to the Supreme Court. FORDA president Manish had claimed that resident doctors of a large number of major hospitals on Monday "returned their apron (lab coat) in a symbolic gesture of rejection of services".

The Faculty Association of Vardhaman Mahavir Medical College (VMMC) and SJH on Monday had written to the Delhi police commissioner stating, it "strongly condemns and finds unacceptable, the cruel and inhuman manner, in which the protest of the resident doctors was mishandled by the Delhi police. The resident doctors were brutally assaulted by the Delhi Police."

“In today's civilised world, it is a matter of shame that junior doctors who have been tirelessly working as the frontline COVID-19 warriors for the last two years have been treated so harshly,” it alleged.

"With the third wave of COVID-19 almost knocking at our doors, everybody will again be begging the doctors to go beyond their call of duty so that lives can be saved. It is the duty of the administration which includes the police to look after the physical well-being of doctors. Resident doctors are protesting for the last two weeks for a cause and there can be no earthly reason why they should be beaten up...Violence in any form on either side should be and is being condemned by our association," the association wrote.

However, police on Monday had denied any allegations of lathicharge or use of abusive language from their end, and said, 12 protestors were detained and released later.

The AIIMS RDA wrote to Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Monday condemning the alleged "atrocities of police" against the doctors who it said were protesting peacefully for expediting NEET PG counseling for admission of more than 42,000 doctors.

"By brutally thrashing and detaining the doctors, the police and government have hit a new low," it alleged.

The medical fraternity has shown exemplary sacrifice for the sake of the nation at a time when COVID-19 pandemic was running through the country. The same workforce, the AIIMS RDA said, now feels backstabbed and betrayed by the "duplicity of the lawmakers and the police on the issue of NEET PG counselling," it alleged in the statement.

"This day shall be remembered as a black day for the medical fraternity,” the AIIMS RDA said.

This incident is sensitive enough to spark shutdown of all routine medical care activities by the resident doctors; and in the absence of the government's immediate response the RDA will not fail to do so. It is high time for the government to release a report of what has been done till date, and what are the government's plans moving forward, for expediting NEET PG counselling, it said.

"RDA of AIIMS does not believe in hampering patient care services and hopes that the government will address the grievances in an appropriate and timely manner, and shall not force us to escalate the protest further," the RDA said in its letter.

An FIR has been registered under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code for COVID-19 violations, rioting and damage to public property among others, police had said on late Monday night.

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