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Monday, September 27, 2021

Protest against reduction in NPA: Doctors withdraw their agitation ‘in public interest’

At a meeting between the joint committee and state Health Minister Balbir Sidhu Thursday, the government agreed to link 20 per cent NPA with basic salary.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
Updated: August 6, 2021 12:03:54 am
sixth pay commission, doctors, doctors protests, Punjab health minister, balbir sidhu, indian express, indian express news, punjab newsDoctors protest against cut in the NPA, in Tarn Taran. (Express photo)

After protesting for 47 days over the 6th Pay Commission reducing their non-practicing allowance (NPA) from 25 to 20 per cent and de-linking it from their basic salary, Punjab government doctors on Thursday suspended their agitation “in public interest”.

At a meeting between the joint committee and state Health Minister Balbir Sidhu Thursday, the government agreed to link 20 per cent NPA with basic salary.

Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) doctors, specialists, homeopaths, ayurvedic and veterinary doctors posted in different government hospitals, dispensaries of the state have been protesting under a common platform, by forming a joint coordination committee, since June 21 after the 6th Pay Commission had reduced their NPA.

Dr Inderveer Singh Gill, convener of the joint coordination committee, said, “Our demand was to keep NPA at 25 per cent as before. However, for the time being, we have withdrawn our agitation in public interest. But we will work wearing black badges. We will be waiting till the notification of the orders by Punjab government and hence will plan our next course of action.”

The Punjab government had stated that central government doctors are given 20 per cent NPA and hence they too have kept it at 20 per cent. Doctors however maintained that central government employees have a higher pay scale.

During the agitation, government doctors had gone on a day-long strike on June 25 as well as June 28. On July 1 and 2, they had suspended OPD services but not emergency services, Covid sampling and vaccinations. Dr Gagandeep Singh, president of the PCMS Doctors Association, Punjab, said, “As the issue was not resolved, we went on strike from July 12-14 in which again OPD services were suspended.” He added, “However from July 15-17, we did OPD services within the hospital premises by erecting tents and on the letter pad of PCMS Association, we gave medicines to patients purchased from PCMS funds. Later, from August 2-4 as well, we did OPD in a similar manner. We staged protests in civil surgeon offices in all districts on these days and didn’t allow them to do any work. We refused to sit in the hospital premises as a mark of protest. After Thursday’s meeting, we will be working as normal in hospitals. It is for public interest as we don’t want the general public to suffer.”

Doctors had even organised a mega protest rally on July 23 in Mohali when they had planned to march towards the chief minister’s house, but the health minister came to the spot, due to which doctors suspended the march and instead did a protest rally in Mohali itself.
Dr Ranjit Singh Rai, ENT specialist from Mansa, said, “It had been a long struggle from the medical fraternity, especially the ones who played a crucial role in the first and second waves of Covid. Many of us did not take leave for months together. Hence, we were upset that we had to protest for weeks together to get ourselves heard.”

Meanwhile, Punjab health department is even feeling concerned about rising Covid cases in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. On Wednesday, Ludhiana DC Varinder Kumar Sharma had even appealed to people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour in light of rising cases in neighbouring states.

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