600 nurses demanding pay hike arrested
Over 600 nurses, who were on strike for the last two weeks to demand pay scale revision and promotions, were arrested here today after they defied a government order to resume duty.
As many as 607 nurses were arrested as they continued their strike even after the Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1979 (ESMA) was invoked by the government, Raipur Additional Superintendent of Police Vijay Agrawal told PTI.
The government had invoked the Act on May 28, asking the nurses to resume duty, he said.
The nurses were arrested when they defied the orders and tried to take out a march, the ASP said.
All of them were sent to the Raipur central jail, he said. Nurses working at government hospitals across Chhattisgarh had proceeded on strike on May 18 to press for demands, including pay scale revision and promotions.
Authorities at the Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Hospital, Raipur, the biggest government hospital in the state, roped in MBBS students to fill in for the protesting nurses.
Raipur district collector O P Chaudhary said that the action was taken when nurses defied the order to resume duty.
Of the arrested nurses, 227 have been lodged inside the jail, while others are put on the jail premises. The nurses kept on the jail premises were being released and asked to resume duty, he said.
Chhattisgarh Paricharika Karmchari Kalyan Sangh (CPKKS), an association of nurses, accused the government of suppressing a peaceful protest using the police.
The association has been demanding a revision of pay scale for the last three years but the state government gave only assurances, CPKKS's media in-charge Tikeshwari Sahu said.
Nurses were on strike since May 18, but there was no response from the government, she said. Some of the nurses who were arrested today are pregnant and yet they have not been released, Sahu said.
Opposition Congress accused the ruling BJP of acting as a "dictator". "For the last 15 days, nurses were on strike for their legitimate demands. Medical services were badly hit, but instead of paying attention to their demands, the state government is sending them behind bars," state Congress's communication wing chief Shailesh Nitin Trivedi said.
The state government was neither concerned about the patients nor the nurses, Trivedi alleged.