A section of the more than 2,000 healthcare workers, including doctors from three North Delhi Municipal Corporation-run hospitals - Hindu Rao (a former COVID-19 facility), Rajan Babu TB Hospital, and Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women - have started an indefinite hunger strike against non-payment of salaries since July.
Amid the pandemic, five doctors - Dr Siddharth Taara, Dr Manish Chaudhary, Dr Nilchakra Sahu, Dr Mayur and Dr Tejas Chaudhary, all from Hindu Rao - have stopped eating and drinking water to press for regular payment of salaries at a fixed date by the municipal corporation. Other protesting doctors have said they would take turns to fast with these five.
Doctors at Hindu Rao Hospital, who have been on strike since September, were joined by their colleagues from Rajan Babu TB Hospital and Kasturba Gandhi hospital last week.
The BJP-governed civic agency, however, has said they do not have funds to pay the doctors. They have blamed the Aam Aadmi Party for its empty coffers saying the state government owes it almost Rs 1,300 crore. "So, we are unable to pay salaries," chairman of the municipal corporation's standing committee Chhail Bihari Goswami said.
The escalation in protest comes a month after doctors at the Covid-dedicated Hindu Rao stopped work after they were not given salary despite repeated requests. Days later, the Delhi government had ordered shifting of coronavirus patients from the hospital - 20 at the time. The 900-bed coronavirus facility - largest in Delhi - was soon removed from the list of designated Covid hospitals.
The strike by doctors and healthcare workers in government and civic agency-run hospitals has come at a time when Delhi is seeing a renewed surge in coronavirus cases.
The national capital recorded more than 4,000 yesterday - the highest since September 19 - as air pollution worsens amid concerns of a spike ahead of the winter months and festival season.
On Friday, Delhi reported 4,086 fresh cases and 26 deaths in 24 hours. After 3,296 recoveries in a day, the total of active cases was 26,001. The aggregate cases in Delhi is now 3,48,404, out of which 3,16,214 people have recovered. India's coronavirus count has crossed 78 lakh with a jump of 53,370 cases in the last 24 hours, government data shows.