As many as 500 government doctors and paramedics - who were forced to leave Jammu and Kashmir in the height of militancy in 1990 - have suddenly received a directive from the J&K government, asking them to report to work.
The catch is that most of them run private clinics in Delhi and elsewhere and are still drawing salaries from the J&K government because they were forced to relocate in 1990.
Since they do not draw a non-practising allowance, the doctors claim that running a private clinic is not illegal in the absence of a government posting. The state government doctors are allowed to practise privately after their duty hours. The directive forces them to either take voluntary retirement or go back to J&K.
The September 28 order of the health and medical education department, J&K, had earlier asked the doctors to join by October second week, which was later extended by a month. The directive also said those who failed to report would face "disciplinary action".
"Since the state health institutions are facing staff crunch, the department has decided to utilise the services of all doctors, paramedics and ministerial staff," states the directive, a copy of which is with HT.
The state cannot continue to pay people who don't work for it, says state health secretary MK Dwivedi. "I know it's been long but now we can accommodate them".
More than 100 doctors and nearly 400 paramedics - mostly Kashmiri pandits - who had fled the Valley due to militancy called the order unfair.
"Back then, our children were young, many of us had old and ailing parents. Most of us had requested for jobs in Jammu hospitals, but no one paid attention to us," said a Delhi-based orthopedic surgeon. "The state government has realised that it needs us at a time when we are nearing our retirement age."