Over 10,000 doctors in Gujarat have been fighting to get the pending allowances cleared since 2004. The doctors, who worked day and night during the Covid-19 peak, have been presented their issue to ministers and bureaucrats, and even resorted to protests. The BJP government in the state has returned with an even bigger majority, but doctors’ dues haven’t been cleared yet.
Finally, the Gujarat High Court this month issued notices to Additional Chief Secretary (Health and Family Department) Manoj Agarwal, State Finance Secretary JP Gupta, Medical Commissioner of Gujarat Shahmeena Husain, Director of Medical Services of ESIS (Gujarat) Sameer Shah, asking them to address the issue.
The order issued by Justice Nisha Thakore on December 12 states: “Notice is hereby given calling upon you to appear in person or by an advocate before this court till January 9, 2023, 11 am.”
As per the show cause notice, the bureaucrats need to prove why they should not be penalised for their inaction. The advocates for the petitioners are PS Datta and SP Majumdar.
Doctors are eligible for a non-practicing allowance (NPA) at 25% of their basic salary, and the NPA is counted for all service matters including pension. When 67% of Dearness Allowance (DA) prevailed in April 2004, 50% of that was converted into Dearness Pay. The move was intended to raise the salaries but for doctors, this led to a reduction in their monthly pay. On an average, doctors in the state-run facilities in Gujarat have suffered an overall loss of around Rs 1.50 lakh annually.
In the case of doctors, 67% DA was given along with the NPA. Dr Shailendra Vora, vice-president of Pensioners’ Doctors Associations, said, “When this error happened, we approached the authorities but nobody rectified it. We then approached the high court and won. The state government approached the Supreme Court which dismissed its plea within seconds. But still, the government has not obeyed the court’s order, so we have filed a contempt petition.”
Vora said that “unfortunately” the IAS officers don’t want to “take a stand for doctors”. “They are not cooperative. Forget about us, they have not even replied or given any official statement to the Gujarat High Court’s notice. We have been fighting since 2004 and we will keep on fighting for our hard-earned money,” Vora said.