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Saturday, June 12, 2021

More work, less pay: Wage inequity riles GMCH-32 junior residents

Though GMCH-32, is among the two premier healthcare institutes of Chandigarh, the first being PGIMER, its Junior Residents (JRs) receive only half the stipend as compared to the residents of PGIMER.

Written by Pallavi Singhal | Chandigarh |
Updated: May 11, 2021 9:05:08 am
Central Residency Scheme has laid down rules regarding duration, working hours, duties of residents and most importantly remuneration of junior residents, including Post Graduate Junior Residents, and senior residents. (Representational)

They are the frontline warriors, battling the virus with total disregard for their safety. Yet many of them have other battles to fight, the foremost being that of discrimination in remuneration. Though GMCH-32, is among the two premier healthcare institutes of Chandigarh, the first being PGIMER, its Junior Residents (JRs) receive only half the stipend as compared to the residents of PGIMER.

Consistently ranked among top 25 medical institutions of India, an achievement mentioned on the website of the institute, the JRs, 132 per batch, at GMCH are paid only Rs 55440 with a basic pay of Rs 21,000, as compared to those at PGI who receive a stipend of Rs 91,952, including a basic pay of Rs 56000.

This, even though both medical institutes legally follow the same Central Residency Scheme (CRS) which was adopted by GMCH in 1997 and governs the postgraduate junior residents of GMCH-32.

Why are GMCH JRs paid less than PGI?

The Central Residency scheme is a set of consolidated instructions that covers all issues pertaining to resident doctors, both junior residents, including Post Graduate Junior Residents admitted in MD/MS as well as diploma courses in various specialties, as well as senior residents.

Central Residency Scheme has laid down rules regarding duration, working hours, duties of residents and most importantly remuneration of junior residents, including Post Graduate Junior Residents, and senior residents. All medical colleges/institutions which are administered by the Central Government/Union Territories have adopted Central Residency Scheme in totality, including GMCH 32, which continues to be in force to date.

Even as the CRS governs all aspects of junior and senior residency, it was through a letter dated February 14, 2012 issued by the Chandigarh administration, that the remuneration of Post Graduate Junior Residents in GMCH, was selectively reduced by adopting the Punjab Government pattern. Prior to implementation of the Punjab Government pattern, Postgraduate Junior Residents were being paid their remuneration as per the CRS.

This selective adoption of this policy for payment of stipend to JRs since 2012 has resulted in a piquant situation. These JRs get a remuneration much lower than that of their counterparts in other medical institutions administered by Central Govt/Union Territories. What is even more strange is that this policy has resulted in difference of remuneration between JRs working in the GMCH itself.

While those working as JRs in MD/MS courses are remunerated on the Punjab pattern, the JRs not admitted in MD/MS courses are paid as per the Central Residency Scheme. The senior residents, meanwhile, are paid as per the CRS, and their remuneration is at par with that of PGIMER senior residents. Director GMCH, Dr Jaswinder Kaur said, “The senior residents follow the CRS while the JRs are being paid on the Punjab pattern, which is the reason for the disparity in pay scales.”

This pattern continues to adversely affect more than 300 GMCH Junior Residents posted in Covid ICU wards, working tireless shifts for the past more than a year.

Has anything been done to change it?

“It is dismal that they are receiving nearly half the stipend of Junior Residents of PGIMER Chandigarh, who live in the same city and have a similar quantum of work. This disparity is unbecoming of a top-ranking institution like GMCH Chandigarh. Furthermore in the same institution i.e. GMCH, one category of junior residents is being treated differently than others doing the same kind of work. This is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India which guarantees equality before the law and also against many Judgments of Hon’ble Supreme Court of India,” reads a letter written by the United Residents Doctor’s Association (URDA) of GMCH Chandigarh in July 2020 to the then director Dr BS Chavan.

Dr Chavan, as per professors of the GMCH, had even written to the Chandigarh administration to look into the matter, but received no reply. URDA president, Dr Sandeep Singh, says the differential remuneration rankles the JRs who have been working on the frontline for the last one year.

Senior doctors also find the difference in remuneration unjust. “The institution functions on the CRS for non PG-JRs as well as SRs but not for PG-JRs. If you’re adopting any one scheme, it must be adopted in totality. Our students who live here, study here, write their thesis here are paid less than JRs who are not studying here. This disparity is an issue that needs to be resolved,” said a senior doctor of GMCH on condition of anonymity.

Sandeep says, “So many of us have been infected but we are all focused on Covid. We have 12 hour and 24 hour shifts in the emergency but have never once complained. While Haryana doubled the salaries of their doctors and frontline workers, the least we expect from Chandigarh is to pay us what we deserve.”

Arun Gupta, Home Secretary, UT, when contacted, told The Indian Express, “This is not a new thing, it has been going on for ages. PGI operates under the Centre while GMCH is governed under the state rules of Punjab which causes the disparity.” Gupta refused to answer any further questions about the pay differential among JRs of GMCH-32.

Have resident doctors moved court?

JRs of the 2012 batch had filed a case in the Central Administrative Tribunal Chandigarh, which rejected their petition to reinstate their pay as per the CRS stating, “Payment of allowances is a policy decision taken by government and same cannot be interfered by a court of law unless same is shown to be ultra vires to constitutional provisions or is based on mala fide intentions.”

No residents of the following batches ever approached the court again due to several reasons including lack of unity, time, patience and money, points out Sandeep.

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