New Delhi, Delhi Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung on Friday invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) against the striking nurses of government hospitals in the city, tagging the agitation as completely illegal.
Under ESMA, police can arrest anybody violating the act’s provisions without a warrant.
Around 20,000 nurses of various hospitals including several Delhi government hospitals went on an indefinite strike from Friday, demanding a hike in salary and allowances.
According to the All India Government Nurses Federation (AIGNF), the core demands include that the entry pay grade for staff nurses be enhanced to Rs 5,400 from the existing Rs 4,600 and nursing allowance be raised to Rs 7,800.
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Risk and night duty allowances should be given to all nurses.
“We do not have a problem even if we all are arrested. We are not going to come back to work if the government continues to ignore our demands. Several times we have delayed our strikes listening to the government. But not this time,” Liladhar Ramchandani, spokesperson AIGNF, told IANS.
Earlier during the day, the Health Ministry had said that all demands of the nurses have been acted upon by the government and further demands can also be considered.
The ministry urged the nurses to get back to work and continue the dialogue.
However, the nurses federation said that they have not received any direct communication from the ministry on the issue.
“We are waiting for the decision of the Health Ministry, which it is going to take in the evening. If the decision is not in favour of our demands, we are going to continue with the strike,” said Ramchandani.
The strike comes in the midst of the rising number of Dengue and Chikungunya cases in the national capital. In recent weeks hospitals have witnessed an overflow of patients.
A letter issued by Jung on invoking ESMA stated : ” An indefinite strike notice of nurses was given by All India Government Nurses Federation and Delhi Nurses Federation to proceed on strike from September 2, 2016 due to pending demands with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and Government of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.”
“Pursuant to this, all the categories of regular nurses have proceeded on indefinite strike since (Friday) morning. Due to this strike most of the routine operations were cancelled, OPD timings were curtailed and emergency services were also affected.”
The statement also mentioned that instructions have been received from the Health Ministry to take all possible steps to make the nurses return to work, including invoking of ESMA.