Agitating medicos on Wednesday decided to continue their anti-quota strike, setting the stage for a face-off with the Supreme Court, which had indicated that continuation of the 19-day long protest could invite contempt proceedings.
Coverage: The Reservation Issue
The decision came in the wee hours after two back-to-back General Body Meetings of the medicos, which saw sharp divisions among them on the future course of the strike that has paralysed medical services in the capital.
"The Youth For Equality and Resident Doctors' Association will go ahead with the strike. We respect the Supreme Court and its order but we expect the Court to keep in mind public interest...," Dr Anil Sharma, a medicos' representative told reporters after several hours of deliberations.
Sharma said the medical shutdown in the national capital would be observed on Wednesday as planned. "Out Patients Department services in all government and private hospitals as well as clinics will remain closed," he added.
On the Supreme Court direction to call off the agitation, he said, "The stir is on in other parts of the country as well and we cannot take a decision on our own. Representatives from all over the country will come to Delhi on June four and coordination committee meeting would be held the following day. There would be no negotiations before that."
After the Supreme Court order, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the nerve centre of the agitation saw hectic deliberations to chart out the future strategy for the stir.
Differences cropped up among the medicos with a section taking a stand in favour of calling off the agitation to honour the Supreme Court, while others opposing any such move.
Medicos also sought legal opinion and held several rounds of discussions before arriving at a decision to continue the strike, called to oppose the introduction of 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes in elite educational institutions.
Resident doctors and students of five medical colleges in the capital began their indefinite strike on May 12 against the government's quota proposals and had turned down appeals by President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to end it.
Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who had warned of strict action against the striking doctors, is expected to visit AIIMS to take stock of the situation. "It is a political stunt. We will not physically block him. Let him come and go," Sharma said.
Medical students had began the stir on April 26, seeking complete rollback of the OBC quota proposals but later scaled down their demands to setting up of a expert committee to review the reservation policy and an assurance on increasing the number of seats for the general category to offset the present and future quotas.
After the striking medicos held several rounds of talks, with the government, including the President and the prime minister, the Centre had given a written assurance that the total number of seats available in state-run medical institutions for non-reserved category will not be reduced.
The government had said that it would get the issue of an expert committee examined. It had also assured that no action would be taken against the agitating students, interns and resident doctors.