During the past twenty-five years of my association with the medical field in capacities as a student, qualified professional, and private practitioner, I have witnessed numerous strikes by the members of my fraternity. They all had but one commonality, premature ejaculation (pardon my trenchant analogy). More than ninety percent have failed, and the rest were either partially successful or resulted in rebound tenderness. They also had one more point of coherence, hundred percent of them were within the realms of realism and asking for mercy almost to the point of begging. The strikes were organized for one, and only one reason, asking for better and safe working conditions for the doctors. Is it too much of an ask? Is the demand unjustified?
During the nineties, when I was doing my internship in Mumbai, MARD (Maharashtra Association of resident doctors) went on strike, demanding an increase in their wages. That was a piddle shit, about eight to ten times less than what the residents in Delhi were getting. After forty-five days of torture, a lollipop was thrown and the strike was called off. Resident’s salaries were raised but were still less than half of what the central government was paying in Delhi. The story didn’t end here, the authorities played smart and vengeful. The tuition fee was exponentially raised during the same period to recover the cost. So, why am I telling you all this today? To highlight the fact that in twenty-five-plus years we have learned nothing. Neither the art of organization nor of protest, not even the art of practice.
IMA is our apex organization, our facade of identity, but in its present form is a messy quagmire consisting of loosely suspended particles of state bodies and specialty chapters in the medium of indifference. I feel, that besides academics we need to focus on team-building exercises.
Participation in these exercises should regularly monitored by a system akin to the credit hours for academic sessions, minimum number of credit hours requirement for continuation of membership/practice license.
These activities should include crisis management drills and communication workshops.
Membership should be mandatory with a well-defined fee structure. Something similar to the way we pay the Nagar Nigam license fee/commercial taxes based on the size of the organization. We pay hefty amounts as ‘Hafta’ to numerous goons(officials and the public) but when it comes to paying for the organization we are never short of excuses. All we care about is the sponsorship and cocktail parties.
One of my very dear friends said today that an organization is as good as its members. Well, I do agree, but not completely. Leaders should also bear their share of the blame. Not everyone is born to lead. So, we need to choose them wisely.
The problem with our leaders is that they have high political ambitions but without a clue about their execution. They lack the shrewdness and tactical acumen necessary to orchestrate a high-yielding drama. Asking members to stage candle marches in their clinics or small oblivious groups, and wearing black badges in OPDs can only be viewed as bankruptcy of leadership ideas.
When ‘Rawans’(Bhim Army) and farmers protest, their demands are accepted while our’s thrown into the bin. Why? Because we do not have the success formula with us, theNuisance value. So. either we engender a high nuisance value or improvise our tactics.
A protest or a strike is effective only if it hurts a significant number of people.
Instead of stopping our work and losing our income, I suggest charging a double fee on strike days as a mark of protest, it should be mandatory, observed by all ( most will be willing, I guess). If you think it is legally not possible, then I suggest, we double our fee permanently and run a fifty percent discount sale. Obviously, no discounts on protest days. And, the excess fee thus collected should be transferred to the martyr relief fund and benefits passed on to the needy.
The Dharnas should be organized at the scene of activity/crime scene, not in the comfort of one’s local meeting place. All the leaders and office bearers of central and state branches along with office bearers of specialty chapters should be compulsorily asked to move for a dharna at short notice. If these icons of success, these celebrities can flaunt their style, boost their egos, and enjoy leisurely benefits at the conferences, why can’t they sweat it out for the rights of their fraternity?
Despite decades of victimization, beating, and unjustified litigations we still can be and are lured by this gibberish of nobility. Even if people are igniting dynamite at our back with their one hand we will accept it joyously(and foolishly) because we are lured by the lollipop of nobility in their other hand. After all, medicine is a noble profession. Why can’t we come out of this veil? The sooner we recognize this the better it is going to be. In my opinion, we should be pragmatic enough to accept our practice as a legal business and run accordingly-charge for our labor and wisdom without any heed to this mousetrap of nobility. We should demand and command nobility, Aristocrats were rich people, and ranks are highly paid.
For a machine costing just one lakh rupees the GE service engineer demand 5000 rupees as his visit charges the cost of repairs extra while a doctor’s consultation is only 500-1000 rupees. A lawyer has no capping on his fee, his charges may be in lakhs per sitting. The hearing may be delayed for months as per the convenience of the lawyer and the judge even if it means keeping an innocent in jail for an undefined number of days. A doctor will be woken up in the middle of the night, made to work like a bonded labor, and still can be refused his two cents in the name of misgivings, mercy, or mobocracy. He may even be prosecuted for unfavorable results.
Increasing your charges will not only eliminate the unjustified difference between your charges and that of other professions, but it will also increase your social status. Plus, it will create a contingency fund that could satisfy the unlawful demands of government officials and the police.