Even as nearly 100 striking medicos here have collapsed due to fasting in the past three days, resident doctors Thursday said their fight against reservation for backward classes would continue till the government rolls back its decision.
"Ninety-four doctors have so far collapsed but fresh protestors have joined the hunger strike. Currently 35 of them are still sitting on protest," said Harshit, a resident doctor at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
"We have placed a donation box to collect money for their treatment and people (both doctors and the public) are generously donating. We have decided to continue our fight against the government plan (of reservation), which is motivated by vested interests," Harshit told IANS.
Resident doctors at the five medical colleges in New Delhi have been on an indefinite strike since Friday evening to protest against the government move to reserve 27 percent more seats in higher education institutions for other backward classes (OBCs).
On termination notices issued to the strikers by the government, Harshit said they had already burnt 200 such notices.
"If the government wants quality work force, there should not be any reservation. All are equal and merit should be the basis for any success," said Ritesh Gupta, a resident doctor of the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS).
The doctors said those who were on the sponsored category have returned to work.
"We are not forcing anyone to join us, everyone is free to decide. At the same time, we will not oppose those who are returning to work. There must be some limitations on their side," said a resident doctor.
Rakesh Kumar, a research scholar at AIIMS, said with more support pouring in from all parts of the country, medicos in Delhi are feeling charged up and have called for a public gathering on May 20.
"On May 20, we appeal to all - resident welfare associations, parents of students and public in general - to gather near India Gate to express solidarity with the protesting doctors," Kumar said.
"We have received support from over 80 colleges - both medical and non-medical - and a list of all those colleges has been prepared for public knowledge."
The protesting doctors may have set up some temporary camps to treat patients but it is clearly not enough for the poor who cannot afford private medical care.
"Since Wednesday afternoon, I have been in the campus of Safdarjung Hospital for my husband's treatment, who is having some chest complications. But so far I have failed to get an appointment," said Sagarika Yadav from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh.
Sunil Singh, standing in front of the emergency ward of AIIMS, has also a bad experience to share.
"When some of your relatives are ill, waiting becomes too frustrating. I have to wait for four hours before a doctor looked at my six-year-old son, who has been suffering from fever and vomiting since last evening," Singh said.
"In big hospitals, the government needs to arrange for more doctors during emergency situations. For the past seven days, it's not the politicians or rich people who are suffering. Whenever there is some problem, it's the poor who face the brunt."
Meanwhile, students from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and IIT-Delhi have joined the ant-reservation protest at AIIMS. While some IIT students have joined the hunger strike, around 60 JNU students marched in a rally at the AIIMS campus denouncing the reservation move by Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.