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August 4, 2011

Upset with cabinet’s stand, doctors continue strike

Ushinor Majumdar

Ushinor.Majumdar@hindustantimes.com

Jharkhand Edition Aug 3, 2011

Ranchi: The All Jharkhand Contract Doctors Association has decided to continue their mass leave and has not accepted Tuesday evening’s cabinet decision to regularise contract doctors.

Initially, some of the contract doctors appeared jubilant and were celebrating the cabinet’s decision to give in. On Wednesday afternoon, the association decided to continue their strike after they read the terms closely, according to which the contract doctors would be eligible directly for interviews by the Jharkhand public service commission subject to an age restriction that would leave a majority of them out.

Dr Mrityunjay Singh, president of the contract doctors’ association, said, “We do not accept this. There has to be complete absorption of all 372 contract doctors.”

Dr Manoj Kumar, state coordinator of the association, said, “All details were not revealed to us last evening (Tuesday). Now we know what it means. Only 15-20% of us will get an opportunity, so we will continue our agitation till we are all duly absorbed.”

Chief Minister, Arjun Munda told Hindustan times that the decision had been done after careful consideration of existing laws, constitutional provisions and legal precedents. He added, “As per our decision, many of the contractual doctors will get an opportunity to be regularised. We are not creating a precedent here as the contract doctors had been hired through a careful selection process using public notices and advertisements. No ‘backdoor entry’ method is or was being used.”

Constitutional law expert and Supreme Court-designated senior advocate– Jaideep Gupta says, “The point of regularisation is to abolish contract labour once and for all. If once there is any kind of regularisation of contract workers, the government cannot go back to creating contractual positions for those posts any longer.”

The chief minister said, “No exceptions are being made for the contractual doctors outside of the law, but if they have any confusion they should approach the department for clarifications.” The chief minister added that the cabinet has decided to hire qualified doctors directly through duly notified interviews. This move comes in the wake of the massive shortage of doctors faced by the state.

The eligibility question is based on the Madhya Pradesh public service commission rules, which has been adopted by Jharkhand in absence of its own guidelines. As pert the Madhya Pradesh rules, there are respective age-bars on applying for services under each of the general, SC/ST or OBC quotas. For the Jharkhand contract doctors, there will be a relaxation on the age limit in proportion to the number of years they have served contractually with the state.

So if the age-bar is 35 and the doctor was within the limit on the date he was hired as a contract doctor, he is eligible for the interview. According to the association, this leaves only 15-20% of the contract doctors as eligible for the interview process and also resulted in a rift within the contract doctors association.

The usual process for entrance to state public services is based on eligibility under the rules, followed by an entrance examination and a subsequent interview. The state cabinet gave the eligible contract doctors a direct jump to the interview.

According to sources, the cabinet had sought a legal opinion on the issue from the legal department, which had summarily rejected the contract doctors’ regularisation in the state. However, the cabinet suggested a review of the opinion and based on the reviewed opinion, the cabinet said that the contract doctors could sit directly for interviews, subject to the age restriction.

EOM

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