These Corona Warriors in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan are fighting a different battle

A day’s stipend of a medical intern in Uttar Pradesh is Rs 250 while in Rajasthan, it is only Rs 235. The stipend they get is much less than the standard pay fixed for unskilled labourers

Daya Sagar
| Updated: May 13th, 2020

“A corona patient comes to us first, but if we have to buy N-95 masks, we have to put up our two-day stipend,” said Hemant Rai, 25, who is, at present, interning with the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.

He is one of the millions of Corona Warriors who are fighting this battle against the novel coronavirus. He has no significant issues with the pressure of an increased workload due to the ongoing crisis; he feels it’s his duty and he is doing his job. However, he is upset with his remuneration – called ‘stipend’ in medical parlance.

Like Hemant, Dinesh Chaudhary, 26, is an intern at the SN Medical College of Jodhpur, Rajasthan. During this existent corona crisis, he is sent for duty in villages that are 200-250 kms away from Jodhpur. He too does not have any problem with it because he believes it to be a part of his duty. But he is also outraged by the government stipend that he is being paid.”

Doctors and health workers like nurses, paramedical staff, lab technicians, medical interns and ASHAs are also playing pivotal roles in the battle against coronavirus in the country. But they do not see their salaries justifying their role. Due to this, about 4,000 medical interns from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have actively rallied against it.

While serving the nation during this crisis-ridden period they are also registering their protest over their inadequate stipend. In Uttar Pradesh, a medical intern gets a monthly stipend of Rs 7,500, while in Rajasthan it is only Rs 7,000 per month. These medical interns say that the stipend they get is much less than the government standard pay fixed for the unskilled labourers, while their job involves both, expertise, and ability to take a risk.

Dinesh Chaudhary, a native of Jaipur, Rajasthan, explained: “Our workload has increased manifold due to the coronavirus pandemic. We are being sent to villages 200-250 kms away without any special facility and where there is no hospital or other medical facility. Last week, I was sent to Sirohi, which is 200 kms away. We also have to arrange for our own food at such places. Tell me, from where we will be able to arrange food when everything is closed due to the coronavirus lockdown. It is solely due to the kindness of the villagers that we do not sleep hungry.”

Hemant said: “Any patient entering the medical college is first brought before us for a checkup. We examine their body temperature, blood pressure, sugar, etc, and then send them to the concerned departments according to their difficulties and symptoms.”

He added: “We are also deployed in all the other departments and labs to assist the doctors. By and large, we do all the things that nurse, doctor or a paramedical staff does. When our duty of eight hours stretches to 12 and further to 14 hours, we seldom come to know, but the stipend that we receive for all of this is insufficient for keeping ourselves afloat financially. This is a bitter truth.”

For the MBBS students in the country, a one-year internship is to be followed by a four-and-a-half-year medical course; only after this, they get their MBBS degree and a license to practice. This internship is done in their medical college or in the nearest government hospital. These trainee doctors get a stipend every month from the government in lieu of their internship. But there is a wide parity among the value of stipend that an intern receives across different states of the country.

A medical intern in the central medical colleges is given a stipend of Rs 23,500 per month. In Assam, it is 30,000, 20,000 in Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Karnataka and Odisha, 18,000 in Tripura, 17,000 in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 16,590 in West Bengal, 15,000 in Punjab and Bihar, 13,000 in Gujarat, 12,300 in Jammu and Kashmir and 11,000 rupees in Maharashtra. It is two to four times more than the stipend that is given in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

The BJP-ruled state of Karnataka has also increased the stipend for the medical interns on May 10 to Rs 30,000 per month. Farhan, 24, a medical intern and a resident of Anandnagar, Maharajganj, Uttar Pradesh, said that the difference between the stipend is beyond comprehension as all the interns have to do almost the same thing. “I have many colleagues who are doing the same kind of job at BHU, Varanasi or AMU, Aligarh, but being a central medical college, they are getting Rs 23,000 for their work. Tell me, is it justified? Although no one may express it, this difference irks us all.”

The condition of interns studying in private medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh is even worse. These intern doctors, on the condition of anonymity, said that while some private medical colleges give only Rs 6,000 stipend, many private colleges are taking services from these intern doctors for free.

On this, the Indian Medical Association, Medical Students Network and All India Medical Students Association have written a letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath in which they have demanded to increase the stipend of medical interns. The letter also tries to bring to the notice of the chief minister the problems and general difficulties faced by the medical interns during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The demand has also been endorsed by the United Resident and Doctors Association and Federation of Resident Doctors Association, organizations of senior doctors.

The state President of the United Resident and Doctors Association (Uttar Pradesh), Dr Neeraj Kumar Mishra, has stated in his letter to the chief minister that the interns face the highest risk of corona because the patient first goes to them. He notes that braving all risks, they are doing their job remarkably at the ground level. So, Dr Mishra has appealed to the government to increase the stipend to at least make it par with the central medical colleges, in view of the risk involved and to boost their morale and enthusiasm.

Farhan said the same and insisted that all must get the stipend fixed by the central government. There are more than 50 medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh comprising private and government institutions, having about 2,500 medical interns. There are about 1,300 medical interns in a total of eight government medical colleges in Rajasthan. Earlier, in Uttar Pradesh, the stipend of a medical intern was Rs 2,100, which was increased to Rs 7,500 by the Mayawati government in 2010. But, since then, it has been 10 years and with the change of time, the cost of living has gone up too.

In Rajasthan, the stipend was last raised in 2017 when the state government had increased it from Rs 3,500 to Rs 7,000. At that time, these intern doctors had to take to the road and go on strike. However, these intern doctors cannot go on a strike during the corona pandemic. So, they have resorted to protesting on social media regarding the issue. They have tagged the chief minister, the health minister and the Prime Minister with the hashtag #WeDemandstipendincrement on Twitter through videos, photos and posts.

However, the reply to their letters and tweets has not yet been furnished by the government yet. We also tried to contact the Directorate of Medical Education and Training, Uttar Pradesh (UPDGME) in this regard, but there was no satisfactory response. The news will be updated when the UPDGME responds.