Around 70,000 government nurses all over the country began an indefinite strike on Friday against “discrimination” by the Seventh Central Pay Commission. “The Pay Commission has totally neglected us,” said Prem Rose, president, Delhi Nurses Union, protesting outside Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi. “The Commission has increased the entry level qualification from a diploma to a degree but there has not been an increase in our salary. They did not increase our allowances either when they did so for other services.”
She claimed that, according to the commission’s recommendations, their salary will not increase for another 20 years. “We will be stuck with the previous salary structure of 2006,” said Rose. “On top of this, we are over-worked. Today one nurse in Safdarjung Hospital, for example, handles three patients.”
She said that the government’s charge that nurses are taking advantage of the situation when in Delhi there has been a rise in the number of cases of Chikungunya and dengue is untenable.
“We had put off our strike twice,” said Rose. “We did it once in February and the other time in August. The government asked us for more time and we did give them time but no more. We are sorry to our patients. We sympathise with them. But the government is to blame.”
In Safdarjung Hospital, which employs around 800 nurses, just over 100 reported for duty. “We are making do with our contract nurses and students who have been pressed into service,” said Prof Dr Anil K Rai, medical superintendent, Safdarjung Hospital. He, however, did not agree with the claim that the nurses were being underpaid.
“The government actually pays nurses so well, at times even better than private players, that we were asked why we were doing so,” said Rai. “The pay commission simply reflects this fact. The nurses’ demand is completely unjustified.” The Delhi government imposed the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). Delhi Police detained several nurses from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
“All demands of nurses association have been acted upon by the Govt, Further demands can be considered,” wrote Ministry of Health’s Twitter handle quoting Secretary (HFW) C K Mishra.