The state government's decision to increase the service tenure of Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) doctors in rural areas as the eligibility criterion for admission under the post-graduation (PG) quota has kicked up a row.
Rural doctors working in 1,186 dispensaries under the department of rural development and panchayats have accused the government of discrimination, adding that they, too, should be considered for the PG quota.
The government has increased the tenure for eligibility of PCMS doctors from three to six years in "difficult rural areas" and from two to four years in "very difficult rural areas".
Demanding immediate cancellation of the 60% PG quota for PCMS doctors, the Rural Medical Services Association (RMSA), Punjab, has called upon the government to frame a policy, adding that it should only be given to the cadre which has been serving in rural areas for greater number of years rather than offering it to doctors who do it only for four to six years. Also, there should be strict clause for carrying on services in rural areas even after doing MD/MS under the 60% PG quota.
Dr Aslam Parvez, president, RMSA, Punjab, alleged that the benefit of 60% PG quota had been wrongly extended to the PCMS cadre as the maximum number of posts of medical officers in rural areas had been transferred to rural development department.
In 2006, 1,186 posts of medical officers were shifted to the department, under which one doctor had to be posted in each of the 1,186 subsidiary health centres across the state under zila parishads. However, there are less than 1,000 PCMS doctors posted in rural areas, yet they are sole beneficiaries of the PG quota, the association said.
Dr Anand Malhotra, RMSA organising secretary, pointed that from 1998 to 2009, the health department had not recruited medical officers under the PCMS cadre, adding that a handful of PCMS doctors got the benefit of the PG quota with the then eligibility criteria of just three years of rural service.
"We have been serving the rural populace of Punjab for nearly seven years, but have been deprived of the PG quota. Doctors feel demotivated as despite having served selflessly in rural areas, the government has failed to acknowledge our services" added Dr Malhotra.
The association had recently submitted a memorandum to the Punjab minister for rural development and panchayats Surjit Singh Rakhra, urging him to immediately take up the matter of 60% PG quota benefit for rural medical officers with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
The general body of the RMSA will convene a state-level meeting in Ludhiana on November 24 to plan a strategy for the fulfilment of demands of rural doctors, said association senior vice-president Dr JP Narula.