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Docs launch nationwide strike

Police lathicharged striking medical students in Mumbai as anti-reservation agitation gained momentum.

india Updated: May 14, 2006 15:08 IST

The medicos' anti-reservation stir gained momentum on Saturday with resident doctors joining students in striking work in the national capital and several other cities, causing hardship for thousands of patients at state-run hospitals.

In Mumbai, police mercilessly beat students including women who had gathered peacefully and blocked traffic on the busy Walkeshwar Road leading to the Governor's and Chief Minister's residences to protest against the Centre's move to have 27 per cent reservations for OBCs in elite educational institutions.

Policemen were seen dragging and caning several students. Over a dozen students were injured in the police action and two dozen were detained.

The functioning of five government hospitals in Delhi, including the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), was paralysed as resident doctors did not report for duty. Hundreds of patients and their kin were seen desperately looking for help.

The doctors and students at AIIMS and other government hospitals, who began a strike on Friday in response to a call from the Indian Medical Association (IMA), shouted slogans against Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

Official sources, however, said emergency services were not affected as they were manned by senior doctors.

Resident doctors in Safdarjung Hospital, Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, Maulana Azad Medical College and Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Hospital also joined the one-day strike.

In Orissa, 1,200 house surgeons and junior doctors in hospitals attached to government medical colleges at Cuttack, Burla and Berhampur stopped work, said BD Patnaik, coordinator of the Orissa Medical Students Association.

The doctors, he said, also planned to begin a hunger strike.

Medical students of different colleges in Ahmedabad began an indefinite strike on Saturday as a mark of solidarity for their counterparts in Delhi.

Over 600 students and interns from various colleges staged a protest at the Civil Hospital campus.

"We want the government to find a long-term solution to the whole reservation issue," said a student leader. "We will neither attend our classes nor go for duty at the clinics till the government clarifies its stand on the issue."

In Delhi, Vinod Patra, a member of the resident doctors' association, said, "We want a rollback of the proposal to reserve 27 per cent of seats for OBCs."

Senior doctors said they were supporting the protest by medical students and a decision whether to join the strike would be taken on Sunday.

"We are watching the situation. Normally we do not go on strike as it causes incovenience to patients," said KK Handa, general secretary of the AIIMS faculty association.

Hundreds of striking medical students had on Friday clashed with the police in Delhi when they were prevented from marching to the Prime Minister's office. Condemning the police action, the IMA asked doctors in the city to go on a 24-hour strike.

The apex doctors body called for a "total medical bandh" in Delhi on Monday. It is likely to call a nationwide strike on May 25 if the IMA national committee ratifies the proposal at its meeting in Delhi on May 20-21.