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22.05.2006 Health

'Turn off your lights', protestors on mission 'black out'

By New Delhi
'Turn off your lights', protestors on mission 'black out'

The medicos' hunger strike against the government proposals for OBC quotas in educational institutions entered its ninth day on Monday, but the protesting students scaled down their demands to resolve the impasse.

"We are now demanding that the proposal for OBC quotas should not be implemented unless the expert committee submits its review report on the existing reservation policy," said student leader Amitasha Sinha, whose 'youth for equality' grouping had insisted on a complete withdrawal of the reservation proposals.

The striking medicos are also expected to meet Union health secretary P C Hota later in the day for a second meeting with him in as many days.

The Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS made an appeal to the people to observe a "10 minute dark period" on Monday evening in protest against the darkness prevailing in the country".

"From 8:00 pm to 8:10 pm on Monday we have appealed people to switch off their lights in protest of the dark situation in the country," said Dr Harsh from the AIIMS Residents Doctor's Association said.

Incidentally, it's during this time that the two-year celebration of UPA govt is to be broadcasted, said reports.

The protesting students have already turned down Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appeal to call off their strike, even as the Union Health Ministry gave resident doctors in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) 24 hours to vacate hostel rooms, if they are to continue with the strike.

However, striking senior resident doctors remained defiant to notices to vacate the hostels, saying they would continue with their agitation till their demands were met. Residents said after their meeting with the Health Secretary that they will not back out. "We don't know where we can go, but our stand is clear. We will come up with a plan tomorrow."

A new batch of medical students replaced their colleagues, who had been on the hunger strike at AIIMS for eight days to protest moves for 27 per cent OBC reservations in elite educational institutions.

Junior doctors of medical colleges and hospitals also continued their strike that has paralysed health services in the capital.

After the meeting with the health secretary on Sunday, student leaders said the government has not offered anything new to resolve the issue except for increasing the number of general seats in educational institutions, therefore they would continue as the appeal did not take into account their demands.

The meeting was attended by students from city colleges, along with the medical superintendents of the hospitals and AIIMS authorities.

Dr Kumar Harsh, spokesperson for students group Youth for Enlightenment said the striking medicos had three demands — rollback of proposed OBC quotas, review of the existing reservation policy by a non-political committee and a concrete statement by the Prime minister on the issue. "The appeal does not address these criteria," he said.

A three-member Group of Ministers had recommended a gradual increase in the seats in higher educational institutes to accommodate the proposed 27 per cent quota for OBCs.

But doctors, after a meeting of the Indian Medical Association in Mumbai, said it was not acceptable.

Hospitals in the Capital continued to operate with minimal staff with resident doctors refusing to join their duties for the eighth day running. Army doctors have been called in to help and hospitals will be holding walk-in interviews on Monday for replacements on an ad-hoc basis.

"Unless the government gives us an assurance on the issue, our stand is clear, and the strike will continue," said AIIMS Student Union President Anmay Narayan.

Students also said a fresh batch would continue with their indefinite hunger strike at the premier health institute.