Rajasthan, India: On March 29, medical services will be affected in Rajasthan as doctors, except for the emergency services, are on strike against the Congress-led Rajasthan Government’s Right to Health Bill. The Rajasthan Indian Medical Association’s (IMA) President Sunil Chugh has claimed to have a backing of “all 55,000 public and private doctors in Rajasthan,” Indian Express reported. Furthermore, he alleged that the Bill is draconian, asking to take it back.
Megh Updates (@MeghUpdates) posted on Twitter, “Rajasthan: Thousands of doctors from the Govt and Private sectors from all districts of Rajasthan gathered in Jaipur to protest against the Right To Health bill brought by Congress state govt. The rally was 3-4 miles long, with over 50000 medical and paramedical personnel,” along with multiple videos of Rajasthan’s doctors marching in protest against the Bill.
The All Rajasthan In-Service Doctors’ Association (ARISDA) announced the one-day strike to support the doctors protesting the Bill. ARISDA’s General Secretary Dr Shankar Bamnia said, “All doctors will be on one-day mass leave in support of the movement but treatment in emergencies will not be affected.”
Meanwhile, Rajasthan’s Health Minister Parsadi Lal Meena posted on Twitter, “The state government took care of everyone, the state became healthy and happy. Now, health in the state became a right, Rajasthan government brought right to health bill #RTHBill #RightToHealthBill #RightToHealthInRajasthan,” amid mass protests against the Bill.
On March 28, Congress leader and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot appealed to doctors protesting against the Bill claiming that the government is willing to listen to their grievances. He said, “I would again like to appeal that government is ready to listen to doctors. There shouldn’t be any misunderstanding and the strike must be called off.”
Furthermore, he said, “Right to Health bill is in the public interest. We have sorted out all the misunderstandings & have included all the suggestions from doctors. We want both public & private sectors to serve the people of state. We respect all the doctors.”
However, Ashok Gehlot also targeted the Government of India alleging them of doing religious divide. He said, “There is a limit to doing Hindu-Muslim politics, how long will the country tolerate such politics, Rahul Gandhi raised questions regarding the Adani case, false allegations of defaming the country in foreign nations were levelled against him and when he tried to give clarification in the Parliament, he was not allowed to answer, he was thrown out of the Parliament in a conspiracy.”
Right to Health Bill
On March 21, the Rajasthan Government passed the Right to Health Bill which gives all residents of the state the right to avail free Out Patient Department (OPD) services and in Patient Department (IPD) services.
However, Rajasthan’s doctors have raised concerns about reimbursements made under the Bill as the doctors have to make payments to staff and nurses and maintain medical tools and equipment. Furthermore, the doctors are protesting against the Bill for the following reasons:
- The word ‘emergency’ is not well defined in the Bill.
- The quality of medical services will be compromised due to the Bill.
- The bureaucratic interference will increase in the functioning of private hospitals due to the Bill.
In an interview with Indian Express, Sunil Chugh said that the doctors have been telling the government about the problems concerning the Bill. He claimed that a formal letter was submitted to the Chief Secretary enumerating all pending issues with the Bill on March 17, however, the Rajasthan Government passed the Bill without resolution of those issues.
Furthermore, he claimed that the Rajasthan Government defined ‘emergency’ after the doctors asked them, however, the government did not make an exception for obstetric emergencies even though all deliveries are emergencies.
He told Indian Express, “The perception the government is giving is that you go to any private hospital and everything will be free for you. And the MLAs are already boasting to their constituents that you go to any private hospital and there is free treatment for everything. This will create trouble.”
“People will come to the hospital and say treat us for free. If we were to tell them that a particular treatment or procedure is not covered, they would insist there is RTH, so how dare we deny them. They might also threaten legal action, but before that there might be vandalism on the spot itself,” he added.
Rajasthan Government threatens action against doctors
On March 22, Rajasthan Police resorted to water cannons and lathi charges to disperse the protests. The protesting doctors alleged that police officials engaged in a physical altercation with the doctors, tore their clothing and mistreated women doctors.
On March 22, Parsadi Lal Meena reacted to the doctors’ protest, “When this bill has been unanimously passed in the Assembly and a law has been made, then everyone has to accept it and no one can disobey the law,” ANI reported. He added, “Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has also appealed to the doctors and I am also appealing to them to return to work, otherwise the government will take necessary action.”
On March 28, Parsadi Lal Meena said, “The doctors have gone on strike without any reason. The Select Committee had heard the concerns of all stakeholders. Thereafter, the chief minister also spoke with them. All their opinions were included in the Bill. Despite that, they have gone on strike,” in an interview with India Today.
When asked about the breakdown of talks between the doctors and the Rajasthan Government, Sunil Chugh said “They did not let me speak, saying they have not come to listen to my bhashan (speech). I told them I am representing 55,000 doctors of the state and that I have to communicate their feelings to them, otherwise why did they call us. I was asked to be quiet a number of times. They eventually asked me to leave. Is this the way?” in an interview with Indian Express.