Intensifying their agitation against the government's controversial reservation proposal, medical students of Delhi on Saturday decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike from Sunday.
The decision to go on an indefinite hunger strike was taken at a meeting of the 'core group' of students of the five premier medical colleges of the capital this evening. The students will assemble at the premier health institute AIIMS on Sunday morning, where they will sit on the hunger strike.
"We feel we need to be more aggressive, hence the decision that all the medical students of Delhi go on an indefinite hunger strike," said Amitasha, a student of Lady Hardinge Medical College (LHMC).
"Our demand remains plain and simple. We want the government to immediately withdraw its proposal to increase reservation by 27 per cent in institutions of higher education," Amitasha said.
The students of the five medical colleges -- LHMC, AIIMS, Maulana Azad Medical College, University College of Medical Sciences and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College -- have been protesting the reservation proposal under the banner of 'Youth for Equality'.
The functioning of five government hospitals in New 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 Human Resource Development 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 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 Other Backward Classes 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.
In Orissa, 1,200 house surgeons and junior doctors in hospitals attached to government medical colleges at Cuttack, Burla and Berhampur stopped work, said B D 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, told PTI, "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 inconvenience to patients," said K K Handa, general secretary of the AIIMS faculty association.
Hundreds of striking medical students had on Friday clashed with police in Delhi when they were prevented from marching to the Prime Minister's Office. Condemning the police action, the Indian Medical Association 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 nation-wide strike on May 25 if the IMA national committee ratifies the proposal at its meeting in Delhi on May 20-21.
The Reservation Issue