Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss Friday warned of "stern action" against doctors who went on strike at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to protest its chief's sacking.
"It is really painful to see doctors neglecting their duty. What happened to their promise of serving society at any cost? Stern action awaits the protesting medicos," Ramadoss said.
"No doctor will be spared for taking poor patients for granted," the minister told IANS in an interview at his Nirman Bhavan office.
The AIIMS resident doctors were on a flash strike since Wednesday after the institute's governing body passed a resolution recommending the government to sack its director P. Venugopal on charges of violating the code of conduct.
The decision followed a public spat between the minister and the director, though Ramadoss insisted that the current controversy was not a feud between him and Venugopal.
"The resolution was passed by 12 members favoring it and three against it," he said.
Venugopal, a renowned heart specialist, filed a suit in the Delhi High Court that Friday stayed the execution of the resolution till its next hearing in August.
The strike caused immense hardship to thousands of patients who come to the country's premier healthcare institute.
"Three people have died in last three days. We will enquire into the matter. Any doctor found guilty will be dealt with strongly," the minister said adding that he was shocked to learn that the emergency gate of the AIIMS campus was locked by resident doctors and students.
"If Venugopal believes in human values, he should have told doctors to return to work on the very first day of the protest - at least for the sake of those poor souls," said Ramadoss, who is also the president of the institute.
Defending the decision to pass a resolution against the director, Ramadoss said: "Venugopal's appointment for a period of five years was inappropriate. He is 64 but is still the director. His appointment letter empowers him to work till the age of 66, which is completely inappropriate."
The minister also said that striking doctors will not receive any salary for the period of protests. "According to the law of the land, no one would be given any salary for the period of their protests," he said.
The health ministry's move to cut salaries of those doctors who struck work in May - to protest the government policy of hiking caste-based quotas in higher education - was opposed by the medical community and a petition was filed in the Supreme Court, which asked the government this week to be a "model employer".
Ramadoss, however, said the court's observation was merely a comment, while the final order was still awaited.
"The administration of the AIIMS has been going down the drain," he said, adding the current action was a step in bringing things into order.
The minister said those AIIMS faculty members who were against him had earlier complained to him about the director. "Two months ago, 99 percent of the faculty were against Venugopal and I have piles of complaint letters from them against him."
"The governing body's resolution is now with the cabinet and till it receives the final nod Venugopal is the director," Ramadoss said adding that if the cabinet rejects it he will accept it in true spirit. "There is no other option."