Due to the delay in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) PG 2021 counselling process, resident doctors across the country called for a nationwide strike to expedite the entire process. This came after the Supreme Court expressed doubts on the central government’s decision to set Rs 8 lakh as the annual income limit to avail of the economically weaker section (EWS) quota.
The central government was asked by SC to form a committee and revisit the matter in the last hearing. The government is yet to take a decision on the same and the counselling process has been put on hold till then.
The NEET PG counselling was scheduled to begin on October 25 but was later postponed till further notice due to the SC’s intervention. The case was last heard in November. The resident doctors have been protesting for more than a month now.
What would happen if the quota limit is changed?
The Modi government has introduced 10 per cent reservation in medical colleges under the All India Quota (AIQ) for students belonging to EWS. If the EWS quota limit of Rs 8 lakh is changed, this would make more or even fewer students will be eligible to avail of the reservation depending on the basis of the decision. The Medical Counselling Committee (MCC) had earlier hinted that the decision regarding the quota is unlikely to be taken before January.
Who is protesting and why?
The Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association India (FORDA) has asked resident doctors from across the country to join the protest demanding the government to expedite the NEET PG counselling process. This is because the resident doctors are “overworked and exhausted resident doctors” and are feeling “burnt out”.
The resident doctors further claim that they are “already over-burdened and exhausted” from fighting at the frontline since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and the addition of more doctors would be a welcome move. They also said that they have been “waiting patiently till date for some positive outcome of Supreme Court proceedings in the matter of already delayed NEET PG 2021 Counselling, however, there seems to be no respite to their physical and mental distress”. A delay in medical counselling would further defer the college education leaving students less time to complete their degrees, the doctors said.
They had called for the strike on November 27 and had taken to social media platforms even before the protests began to put forth their demands. They had also suspended OPD services on the same day and routine services from December 3. On December 27, the doctors marched towards the Supreme Court and lit up ‘diyas’ in the campus of a medical college on December 23.
A large section of doctors also protested outside the Nirman Bhawan outside the office of the health ministry and later on the premises of the Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) and marched around to demand the expedition of the counselling process.
On December 28, resident doctors clashed with police at Safdurjung hospital after they were stopped from marching. The doctors’ groups in Delhi also threatened to shut down all medical services. The police had shut all the doors of the hospital to prevent protesting doctors from leaving and had also lathi charged. Later the health minister expressed regret over the police’s behaviour towards the doctors following which the AIIMS factors call off their strike.
What the health ministry said?
The health minister had regretted the police action on protesting doctors and had urged them to call off their strike on November 29 which also included the emergency services considering country needs its doctors, especially during he Omircron threat in country.
The FORDA had earlier held a meeting, in December first week, with Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya regarding the NEET PG counselling. The association later said that the health minister has taken note of their grievances and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) will get the case mentioned in the Supreme Court for an early hearing.
When will the case be heard next?
The case is expected to be heard on January 6, 2022 by a three-judge bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud. Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta has told SC that the central government will make a committee and take a fresh decision within four weeks.