All the medical postgraduates, house surgeons, dental house surgeons and dental postgraduates staged a protest on November 8 urging the Kerala government to increase the stipend and slash the hikes in university fees. The Kerala Medical Postgraduate Association (KMPGA) has formed a Joint Action Committee (JAC) consisting of medical and dental postgraduates and residents working together for their demands.
Speaking to EdexLive, President of KMPGA, Dr Ruwise Yea said, “Approximately 2,600 medical postgraduates and 1,300 house surgeons, 250 dental house surgeons and 210 dental postgraduates participated in the protest.” As a part of the protest, all government medical colleges across Kerala conducted protest activities boycotting all emergency services.
The demands of the association and the medical PG’s are:
1) Stipend hike
2) Senior Residentship issues
3) Effective functioning of the committee under the Health Secretary for house surgeons and residents
4) Decrease university fees
What are these problems?
Ruwise told EdexLive that the last stipend hike was in 2019 and “the Government Order in that year guaranteed a 4% hike per year until the next pay revision.” However, later pay revision happened and all state government employees were given a hike neglecting us, he alleged.
With regards to senior residentship issues, he said, “There are only 500 seats as against 900 passing every year. Therefore, our demand is either to increase the number of seats or release the student’s original documents immediately as the colleges are holding the certificates which will take away our precious one year.”
The third concern is the functioning of the committee which was formed after the alleged murder of Dr Vandana Das, Ruwise claims that only one meeting has been held so far without implementing the measures which were discussed.
Lastly, the demand is to decrease university fees. “In 2021, the PGs had to pay Rs 75,000 per annum. There has been an increase again in September 2023 whether first-year PGs have a fee of around one lakh, second and third-year PGs pay around Rs 81,000 and super-speciality residents have around Rs 1,60,000.”
“The state government is unable to increase the stipend from 2019 but has been hiking up the university over the years,” he rebuked
On the protest day, the association met Health Minister Veena George and Finance Minister KN Balagopal and listed their demands. Although all demands were not discussed due to time constraints, Ruwise said that the main concern of the hike in stipend has been discussed. “The finance minister has asked for a one-month window to address our issues.”
Reacting to the response of the minister’s assurance, Anandhu JB, representative of the PG Doctors Association, Kottayam Medical College said, “Even after repeated meetings and protests, the response from authorities is not quite satisfactory. We are now forced to carry forward our protests.”
With only one demand discussed in the meeting, the association president plans to meet the health minister tomorrow (November 111) or later in the week to discuss other demands. “However, since the finance minister has asked for some time, we will plan another protest in December,” Ruwise told EdexLive.
The fight for a stipend is not new. It has been going on for months. To recall, KMPGA had conducted a token strike on September 29 to draw the government’s attention. Additionally, “We had discussions with the Health Secretary, Health Minister, and Finance minister on October 31st and November 1st,” JAC said in a statement. However, with failed attempts the association had resorted to a protest on November 8 and with no option left, plans to stage one more very soon.