Resident doctors from Delhi’s major government hospitals, protesting repeated delays in NEET-PG counselling, Monday alleged that they were beaten, dragged and detained by the police during their march to the Supreme Court. On the eleventh day of complete withdrawal from all routine and emergency services, the doctors decided to return their white coats to authorities as their demands were not being heard.
The delays in counselling have been due to a clutch of cases pending in the Supreme Court over the recently introduced quota for the economically weaker sections. Around 50 doctors, including the president of the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) that is leading the strike, were detained near ITO.
“There is no respect left for Covid warriors. We are shocked and in disbelief at what happened today. Both male and female doctors were dragged on the road. Several people were injured, some had lacerations from being dragged, others got hit against the barricades, and still other received injuries to their hand when the bus door was closed on it,” alleged Dr Anuj Aggarwal, general secretary of the resident doctors’ association of Safdarjung hospital where FORDA president Dr Manish Kumar also works. Dr Sunil Duchania, vice-president, FORDA, said that all the persons were later released.
Additional DCP (Central district) Rohit Meena said, “They came to protest and tried to stop the traffic movement. We tried to stop them and they then started marching towards the Supreme Court. We again stopped them after discussing with them. Seven police personnel received minor injuries and they have damaged two buses as well. We are taking legal opinion before lodging any FIR against them.”
After the incident, doctors from across the city and other states who had joined the protest came together at Safdarjung hospital on Monday evening and burnt an effigy of a PPE-clad doctor. The doctors then decided to march to the health minister’s residence at night. The doctors began their protest exactly one month ago with a withdrawal from out-patient clinics; it was slowly escalated to withdrawal from all work by resident doctors who are the backbone of services at medical college hospitals.
The strike was halted for a week and resumed on December 17. Since then, doctors have symbolically returned “thalis, diyas, and flowers” that were showered on them in respect for their services during the previous waves of Covid. “Resident doctors, the so called “Corona Warriors”, protesting peacefully to expedite NEET-PG Counselling in Delhi were brutally thrashed, dragged and detained by cops. There will be complete shutdown of all healthcare institutions today onwards!” said FORDA in a statement.
The doctors expect their seniors and consultants to join the strike; a decision on the same is yet to come. “We expect the consultants will be joining our protest, their GBM (general body meeting) is happening,” said Dr Duchania. Dr Aggarwal added, “The violence has brought together everyone from across the country. Earlier some were pitching in with some work in the hospitals, but now there will be a complete shutdown of services.”
Later in the evening, police said they had detained protesters at Sarojini Nagar police station and allowed them to conduct a peaceful march. DCP (South West) Gaurav Sharma said, “They were marching and we have stopped them peacefully.”
Over 2,500 resident doctors were detained at the Sarojini Nagar police station while they were marching towards the Union Health Minister’s residence. With no space within the police station, they stood outside. In addition to slogans, they also sang tha national anthem.
In a tweet, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “Showering flowers was just for the show, in reality injustice was being showered. I am with the Covid warriors in their protest against the Central government.”
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi tweeted, “During corona these young doctors stayed away from their families to support all the citizens of the country. Now it is time for the country to stand in support of the doctors to wake the Narendra Modi government, who used police force and did not listen to their demands. There is no need for false PR, the doctors need their right and respect.”
Delhi Police has registered an FIR of rioting, causing obstruction in duty of police personnel and damaging public property against the doctors. Police lodged an FIR at I P Estate police station after a complaint has been filed by a Delhi Police personnel, who was present on duty.