Beginning May 18, close to 3,000 government nurses from across Chhattisgarh went on strike, for better pay. On June 2, 607 nurses were arrested. With the government promising to set up a committee, the protest was called off the next day and the nurses released. Sahu was among the protesters.
Since when have you been working?
This September, I complete five years working as a nurse. I’m posted at Bhimrao Ambedkar Government Hospital in Raipur.
Why did you join the protests?
Nurses working for Central government-run hospitals get Rs 4,600 a month; in Chhattisgarh, we get only Rs 2,800. We all have BSc Nursing degrees and our work is the same, but why this salary difference? I have a home loan of
Rs 8,500 a year. Other nurses have school-going children and school fees are so high these days.
Do you feel the low salary reflects a lack of pride in you?
I joined this protest because there is no respect for us. Look at what happened when we went on strike. At the hospital I worked, surgeries got cancelled, chemotherapy stopped. Humaare bina hospital ka banta dhaar ho gaya (Without us, the hospital was a mess). When we went back, the doctors told us, ‘We struggled without you’.
Were you arrested too?
Yes. Out of 3,000 nurses who were protesting, they arrested 228 because the Central jail doesn’t have more capacity. Breastfeeding mothers were among those who were arrested. That is why we had to call off the agitation after two days.
What has the government promised you?
They said a committee will look into our demands. They said give us two months. But Chhattisgarh will soon have elections and the Model Code of Conduct will be in place. If that happens, all our efforts will go waste.