This will be one of the largest long marches in which the health workers are protesting for their demands. My Medical Mantra spoke with Nandkishor Kasar, President of the Union of National Rural Health Mission workers to know about their protest and long march.
MMM: Can you tell us something about the long march?
Nandkishor Kasar: The long march will begin in the morning on May 18. We will start from Nashik, and end the long march at Azad Maidan, in Mumbai, on May 28. Around 8,000 odd people will be joining us in the long march. Doctors, nurses and the staff will join us from Nashik. We will walk all the way to Mumbai. Every day we will walk 20 kilometres. We know that Maharashtra is reeling under scorching sun. So, we have to battle against the heat wave too. So, a team of doctors will be accompanying us to treat those affected will heat stroke or any ailments, injuries which may occur en route.
Why have the doctors, nurses and staff called on for an indefinite strike?
Under the National Rural Health Mission, a number of people are providing medical services from the past 13 to 14 years. They have crossed the age of forty and are no longer eligible for any government job. For the last number of years, they have been working on a very low pay scale. That is why our demand is to accommodate them in the government service and pay them as per their education and the working hours they have been putting in while providing medical service. On April 27, Maharashtra Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant assured us that the state will consider their demands. The government has now set-up a three-member ministerial committee. But, nothing has been done on the ground level.
What are your demands from the state government?
The doctors who are attached with the National Rural Health Mission receive merely Rs 22,000, and the nurses who provide medical care receive Rs 15,000 as a monthly salary. All are working here in the hopes that they will be given permanent government jobs. In 2018-19, the health department is will having 17,000 vacancies. Our demand is we should be accommodated during the hiring process. With this move, the state government will save crores of rupees which they will land up spending on the hiring process.
What about the pay structure? Has it changed over the years?
The pay structure has not been revised since the past number of years. It paints a sad picture, when you take a look at that the people who are rendering their services for the past several years, but the government deliberately chooses to not pay attention to their issues. The pays scale has not been changed. Every year, the government come with a new scheme, but no one talks about the pay or the remuneration.
How does the NRHM function?
The National Rural Health Mission was launched on April 12 in 2005. The scheme was launched to provide medical care to poor and needy people living in remote villages, and those who belong to the economically weaker sections of the society. Under this scheme, people can receive medical aid at the district hospitals, rural hospitals, primary health centres. In all 6,500 doctors and 5,500 nurses are working under this scheme.