Government doctors in Uttar Pradesh have found a novel way to oppose the ban on them doing private practice - several have sought voluntary retirement.
More than two dozen faculty members of the prestigious King George's Medical University (KGMU) - now renamed Chattrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University (CSMMU) - have sought voluntary retirement.
Their abrupt decision follows consistent hammering by a state high court bench headed by Justice Pradeep Kant, who has been livid about persistent violation of the ban by doctors. While hearing the case last week, the judge directed the state government to depute intelligence officials to get a list of erring doctors.
The doctors, who tried in vain to influence Chief Minister Mayawati to withdraw the ban order, decided to use the threat of voluntary retirement as their last resort.
While the government is firm against any roll back on the ban, doctors are trying to put across their arguments in favour of private practice.
"The salary that we get is not even enough to fulfil our basic personal and professional needs; and since we are threatened with persecution it is best to opt out of the service," argued Ashok Chandra, professor and head of the medicine department at the hospital.
Yogesh Govil of the paediatrics department, said: "Just compare our salaries with that of our counterparts in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). Against the Rs.60,000 take home of professors in AIIMS, we do not receive more than Rs.30,000 or Rs.32,000 per month here."
One lobby of practising doctors are of the view that the government should ban only "malpractice".
When a scribe sought to point out that under law every private practice by a government doctor was tantamount to malpractice, a senior professor told IANS on condition of anonymity, "Well, you have to distinguish between fair practice and malpractice, which involves diversion of patients from the hospital to private clinics, fleecing patients and shirking prescribed teaching duties or attending patients in the government hospital."
Asked to comment, CSSMU Vice Chancellor Prof S.K. Agrawal told IANS: "I am surprised that these 26 faculty members have applied for VRS, when they all know that there is no such provision in the university statute."
Principal secretary to chief minister Shailesh Krishna went on to add, "There is no way that we can give them a golden hand shake, which they were probably looking at by seeking VRS. If they really want to quit, let them resign. I am sure we will find suitable replacements for them."
Asked to comment on complaints about "low salaries", Krishna said: "The government is willing to consider their demand for hike in salaries which surely requires a review. But I do not think it would satisfy those indulging in private practice as no government can compensate them for the exorbitant fees that they charge illegally from patients."