Salary cuts leave govt doctors demoralised


Those risking their lives in the battle against coronavirus don’t deserve this treatment, say doctors’ associations

Doctors in the state health service, medical education department and students doing their residentship have been facing pay cuts ever since the government started tightening the purse strings in the wake of falling revenues due the nationwide lockdown. In some cases, it is as much as 50 per cent. The government had earlier announced similar cuts in the salaries of its employees.

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The residents employed in the service of BMC hospitals have also got salary cuts.

Jarmansingh Padvi, president of Maharashtra Association of Gazetted Medical Officers in northern Maharashtra said, “I have spent nearly 20 years in the health department and have been working with dedication. For the month of March, I got a 50 per cent pay cut, and I am yet to get April’s salary. I get a monthly salary of Rs 1.3 lakh. On one side, we are on the frontline of the battle against coronavirus and on other, we are getting lesser pay. This is unacceptable.”

Padvi said the doctors do not have time to confront the department or the government on the issue.

“With the pandemic getting worse by the day, our touring has increased. The nursing union has taken up the issue more aggressively,” he said.

Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik said that all employees of all departments got cuts in salaries from March onwards.

Rahul Wagh, president of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) in Mumbai, said that doctors in the city have also got a 30 to 40 per cent pay cut. He said the association had taken up the matter with the Medical Education Director, TP Lahane, who said that he was trying his level best to redress doctors’ grievances.

Dr Deepak Baid of Indian Medical Association said, “We have heard about this. But yet to get complaints from the doctors.”

A resident doctor, who works in Thane district, said, “I pay a rent of Rs 15,000 per month, and provisions and vegetables have become expensive. I have old parents to look after.”

He said things like salary cuts will certainly demoralise the doctors who are risking their lives by treating Covid-19 patients.

“We have made representations to the government, but everyone there seems to be busy.”

Another doctor, who works in Raigad and did not want to be named, said that he had to dip into his savings this month to meet the expenses. “This reduction in salaries kills the initiative to work. At the same time, it is not right to strike work in the situation of a pandemic.”

Dr Avinash Saknure, president of MARD’s Sion unit, said, “Each doctor gets a stipend of Rs 55,000 and the BMC has cut this too on account of tax and under some other heads.”

Lockdown provides much-needed breather for rail and road repair work in Mumbai

Railways undertake track maintenance work

While the lockdown imposed to curb COVID-19 might prove to be difficult for most, it has provided a much-needed breather to carry out essential repair work around the city. The Railways is utilising this time to complete work such as cleaning culverts and nullahs, maintaining tracks and clearing garbage and muck near tracks before the monsoon hits town. Th Central Railway has begun building a steel tunnel — an extension to tunnels carved out of mountains. The tunnel will protect the tracks from loose boulders during rains. As work continues, the body assures that social distancing norms are being followed. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

Re-girdering of Mithi River bridge

The Western Railways has taken this opportunity to complete the long pending re-girdering work of Mithi River bridge, which is located between Mahim and Bandra stations. The work came to a halt due to busy train schedule. “This would have caused severe hardship to Mumbaikars commuting in Mumbai suburban rail network. We have decided to utilise the period of lockdown to execute this work at the same time duly complying with the norms of social distancing,” said Ravinder Bhakar, chief public relations officer of WR. In a pre-lockdown situation, the construction work would require a complete shutdown of traffic for eight hours on three consecutive days. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

BMC starts pre-monsoon works

Meanwhile, the municipal and development authorities have taken advantage of the lockdown to undertake multiple infrastructure projects. BMC Additional Commissioner P Velarasu, who is overseeing monsoon preparations, said that the civic body hopes to finish all roadwork, water and sewage disposal projects. “We will bring 50 to 55 roads to the completion stage and 180 roads in Mumbai to a safe stage so that there are no problems during the monsoon,” Velarasu said. Over 4,300 are working on sites around town. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

Impetus to infrastructure work

Although the lockdown might be convenient, construction work has stumbled upon some roadblocks due to the drop in economy. But BMC chief Praveen Pardeshi seems hopeful. “Because of the shutdown, the economy is facing a bout of depression. We at the BMC want to give impetus to infrastructure works. This will create jobs, create income and will push the economy. My infrastructure budget is $2 billion. We have to push various projects in the city,” he told Mumbai Mirror. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

Economic depression adds to worries

Adding to the economic depression, Pardeshi said that was no tar available for road contractors. “Cement mix plants were not available so we got plants started in Thane and Raigad districts. The concrete was supplied by Larsen & Toubro,” he said. Work on the metro and other projects associated with it is on full swing. Currently, the MMRDA has 13,000 workers on its site, of which 5,500 are working on the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link connecting Sewree and Nhava. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

Shortage of staff

Another problem authorities are facing would be staff shortages. For instance, BMC staff from the insecticide department living beyond Thane are unable to report to work due to lockdown restrictions. L Ward assistant commissioner Banish Valanju, pre-monsoon work involves de-silting of nullahs, removal of waste articles, anti-malaria and anti-dengue drives. “We are also repairing bad road patches – but we have only 50 per cent staff. We don’t have labourers and bringing them to Mumbai during the lockdown is posing problems,” a civic official added. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

Focus on vector control

Insecticide officer Rajan Naringrekar further said, “The most important challenge we are facing is public participation. People must maintain hygiene and prevent water stagnation at home, otherwise we might see transmission of malaria and dengue. The departmental staff will focus on vector control and additional staff will be deployed to sanitise places for Covid control.” He further added that only those who stay in Mumbai are on duty. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

Dismantling the Dombivali RoB

Despite being understaffed, the civic body has undertaken dismantling the Dombivali road overbridge as well as the Byculla Road overbridge. Under normal circumstances, the construction work would have taken over a month for completion, but authorities are hoping to complete it during lockdown. Photo by Raju Shelar/MMCL

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