Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said it was shameful that doctors of Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run hospitals were not getting their salaries and requested the Centre to grant funds to the civic bodies so that their paychecks can be issued, reported PTI.

Several doctors of North Delhi Municipal Corporation have been protesting for the last two weeks over their pending salaries for three months. Doctors have gone on an indefinite strike from Tuesday as their demands of getting their pending salaries were not met, Maruti Sinha, the general secretary of the Municipal Corporation Doctors’ Association, said.

“It pains me that our doctors have to protest for their salaries,” Kejriwal said at the inauguration of a waste-to-energy plant at the Ghazipur poultry and fish market. “These doctors risked their lives to serve us during the [coronavirus] pandemic.”

The chief minister claimed that civic bodies in the Capital have not been able to pay salaries of doctors, teachers and sanitation workers over the years. “Why is there such an acute shortage of funds in MCDs,” he asked, adding that his government has released more funds to the municipal corporations as compared to the previous dispensations.

“The pandemic has hit the tax collection of the Delhi government,” he said. “Still, it has been managing affairs properly and releasing salaries of its doctors and teachers.”

He alleged that there was corruption and gross mismanagement in the way the civic bodies ran and asserted that things needed to be set right. Kejriwal said there should be no politics over the issue of doctors’ salaries and everybody should make efforts to ensure they get their paychecks.

He also alleged that the Centre was releasing grants to all municipal corporations other than Delhi. “If we had the funds, I would have given the salaries of doctors of MCD-run hospitals today itself doesn’t matter if it was as per the Constitution or not,” he said, requesting Centre to release salaries of the doctors.

Meanwhile, doctors of three Centre-run hospitals held symbolic protests to express solidarity with the protesting health workers. Doctors of Safdarjung Hospital and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital wore black ribbons in support of the protest. Similarly, medics from Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital observed a pen-down protest for two hours in all wards except those for Covid-19 patients and emergency services.

The Resident Doctors’ Association of RML Hospital said in a statement that the non-payment has been a regular problem in MCD-run hospitals. “It is disheartening that even after directions of the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court, resident doctors of these hospitals were not paid salaries for four months and they had to resort to symbolic protests and demonstrations from October 5 onwards,” the statement said, urging all concerned authorities to resolve the problem.

“We strongly condemn the insensitive nature of competent authorities of the Hindu Rao Hospital, Kasturba Gandhi Hospital, and Rajan Babu TB Hospital and extend our support to our fellow resident doctors. In this Covid-19 pandemic, the least that can be done for frontline warriors is to pay their most deserving dues. Safdarjung resident doctors held a black ribbon symbolic protest over non-payment of salary to doctors of these hospitals.” 

— Doctor Manish, president of Resident Doctors’ Association Safdarjung Hospital .

On Monday, the doctors went on a day-long casual leave en masse and threatened to go on an indefinite strike from the next day. Resident doctors of the Hindu Rao Hospital, also under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, demonstrated over unpaid salaries in the Capital’s Connaught Place area, and burnt an effigy of Ravana. Doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital, Kasturba Hospital and Rajen Babu Tuberculosis Hospital had staged a protest on October 22 at Jantar Mantar.

On Monday, the Indian Medical Association also demanded that the payments should be done, calling the situation “unfortunate”. In a release titled “Banana Republic”, the doctors’ body said healthcare workers, especially doctors, are a national asset and their “humiliation by denying” legitimate salaries is nothing but “state-sponsored violence”.

The Supreme Court had specifically directed that salaries of doctors and healthcare workers should be paid in time. It seems the writ of the highest court of the land does not bind these officials who administer these hospitals, the Indian Medical Association said in the statement.

As many as six hospitals, 63 maternity and child welfare centres, 17 polyclinics and seven maternity homes come under the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. These medical facilities employ at least 1,000 senior doctors, 500 resident doctors and 1,500 nursing officers.

Meanwhile, Delhi has so far reported 3,59,488 Covid-19 cases, according to the Union health ministry. The toll stood at 6,312.