On January 4, a 24-year-old doctor in the government-run Gandhi Medical College (GMC) in Bhopal committed suicide in her hostel room, after sending a message to her father on his mobile, saying: "If I had money, I could have left the seat."
By "money", Dr Akankasha Maheshwari, who was pursuing post-graduation in paediatrics, was referring to the amount of Rs 30 lakh, which a medical student has to pay if he/she leaves the seat in middle of an academic year, and is termed "seat leaving bond money".
This "seat leaving bond money" was one among several such demands for which over 10,000 doctors associated with government-run medical institutions across Madhya Pradesh had staged a protest on Friday morning.
The protest, which was supported by all associations of government doctors, was organised at Bhopal's GMC and all medical services, including emergency, were suspended. However, before the situation went out of control, the state government assured that their demands would be accepted and the strike was called off in just next two-three hours.
The doctors called off their strike after getting assurance from Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan that a high-powered committee would be set up in the next few days. The committee, which will also involve doctors as members, will be tasked to discuss on each demand raised by doctors at different times, and will hand its report to the government for consideration.
Sources in GMC told IANS that just a week after Maheshwari committed suicide, one male doctor, who was also pursuing post-graduation in the paediatrics stream, left the seat after paying Rs 30 lakh 'seat leaving bond money' to the state government. "His family was able to pay R. 30 lakh, but there are very few who can pay such a huge amount of money. And if a student fails to pay Rs 30 lakh, hehe has to deposit all original documents, which is a serious issue," said Dr Akash Soni, the President of Junior Doctors association in GMC.
The government has stood firm on this "seat leaving bond money", saying that it spends around Rs 2 crore for one medical student, and if one leaves the seat in the middle of academic year, it is not only the loss of government money but the loss of a doctor also.
The doctors, who were on protest on Friday, however, countered saying this system was introduced when there was shortage of specialists, but now things have changed and every department has enough doctors.
In this context, it would be worth mentioning that the Supreme Court, while hearing a plea on this particular issue on October 4 last year, had observed: "It is reasonable for having a higher bond amount to compensate for the loss of seat. But Rs 30 lakh is too much."
Dr Rakesh Malviya, Secretary of the Medical Education Officers Association, told IANS that the protest was called off after CM Chouhan himself assured to set up a high-power committee, which will be empoweedr to take prompt decisions on issues related with doctors fraternity.
"A notification regarding setting the committee has also been issued later in the evening. As he has assured, we will be waiting for the further decisions from the government till next one month. We are hopeful that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will ask his officials to streamline the process soon. If not, then we have no other option except to suspend medical services and stage massive protest again," he said.
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