States need to encourage healthcare workers who are the frontline in the war against Covid, not withhold or cut their pay
At a time when the healthcare workforce in the country needs to be celebrated for its fight against the pandemic, state governments seem to be holding back salaries for healthcare workers or going back on their promises. While it took a High Court order for the government healthcare staff in Delhi to receive pending salaries, the Kerala government has backtracked on payments to the junior doctors recruited specifically for the Covid-19 fight.
As per a report in the Times of India (ToI), nearly 870 doctors of 1,080 appointed in first-line treatment centres have tendered resignation as the state government has been giving them Rs 27,000 per month as salary, instead of the Rs 42,000 promised at the time of recruitment. The state government had appointed these 1,080 medical graduates for temporary Covid duty. While the government may be justified in deducting profession tax and TDS, the ToI report indicates that it has also been deducting Rs 8,400 from the salary in the name of the state government’s salary challenge.
As per the Union government’s reply in Parliament last year, India had 0.68 doctors per thousand people as against the WHO prescribed norm of one doctor per thousand. In terms of nurses, India had 2.2 nurses per 1,000, as against the prescribed ratio of 3. Given how during the pandemic, healthcare workers have been on the frontline fighting the battle, the least can be expected is for the states to honour their commitments to the corona-warriors.