As the indefinite strike of resident doctors in five government hospitals entered the eighth day Friday, students from Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi joined them to express solidarity.
'We will not give up our fight and the government has to take back the proposed plan of reservation,' said Neha, a protesting resident doctor.
'Our representatives had met the ministers yesterday but nothing concrete came out. But we are quite hopeful that the government will find out a way for the sake of merit. If India wants to keep its growing super power image then the authorities should not compromise on merit,' she added.
Slogans like 'Jati arakshyan pratibha bhakshan' (reservation will kill merit) and 'Arjun Singh murdabad' can be seen all over the protest venue at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Resident doctors of five medical colleges and hospitals in Delhi have been on an indefinite strike to protest the government move, spearheaded by Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh, to reserve 27 percent seats in higher education institutions for other backward classes (OBCs).
At AIIMS, resident doctors are using hundreds of posters and hand-shaped balloons to convey their message to the public.
Scores of drawing sheets containing messages from students from several colleges and schools have also been displayed near the hunger strike venue to show that the resident doctors are 'not alone in the fight'.
They have also arranged for a havan to appease the gods and keep up their 'commitment to the cause'.
'We went for a havan to appease the gods and asked for more support and determination on our part to fight against a socio-political evil,' said a resident doctor.
Sunil Kumar Pati, a research scholar at AIIMS, said that keeping the magnitude of the issue in mind, students, interns, resident doctors and research scholars are now resolved to fight against the move in unison.
Expressing solidarity with the resident doctors, representatives of the AIIMS faculty association Friday began a one-day fast without abstaining from work.
A senior administrator of AIIMS, however, said some protesting resident doctors had joined work.
'Looking at the threat of termination notice, some have joined work,' the administrator said adding that scores of termination notices will be dispatched to resident doctors 'anytime today'.
Even though some army and railway doctors have started helping at government hospitals, patients have been suffering.
'I came to the hospital this morning but no one was there in the OPD to examine my son who had broken his hand late last night,' said Saroja Devi from the neighbouring city of Ghaziabad.
'After waiting for around five hours, doctors plastered his hand. He was crying all that time and it was too painful for me to watch him,' she told IANS standing near the emergency ward of Safdarjung Hospital.
Suresh Singh Badal said he came to AIIMS to get his wife examined by an eye specialist but the guards turned him away.
'Though I took her to the resident doctors running parallel OPDs, we are not fully satisfied with the treatment,' he said.