Kohima: The Angami Students’ Union (ASU), apex student body of the Angami Nagas, on Tuesday said that the state government’s indecisiveness on the superannuation age of doctors has led to the three-day mass casual leave protest by the Nagaland In-Service Doctors Association (NIDA).

ASU general secretary Mhalevilie Medoze told journalists in Kohima that the state government should have taken a “bold and timely decision” when the issue was initially raised by NIDA.

Saying that it is totally unsatisfied with how the state government has handled the issue, Medoze accused the government of further delaying the matter even after the expiry of the written assurance on April 17 last year—that the matter will be resolved within a period not exceeding one year.

The student leader slammed the government for deploying police personnel at hospitals and setting up various control rooms to monitor the issue, while also threatening members of NIDA against going on mass casual leave, rather than resolving the matter.

Medoze accused the state government of provoking the issue and also held it responsible in case of any untoward situation, where patients are denied medical attention due to protest by the doctors, which was to press for their “genuine” demands.

Convener of the ASU’s core committee, Kezhazer Angami, said the student body’s intervention was an attempt to create a smooth path for the association and the government to resolve the matter at the earliest.

He said the NIDA deserves equal privilege and opportunities like their counterparts in the other states, where the superannuation age for medical doctors has been implemented. He pointed out a roadblock to increase the retirement age for medical doctors in Nagaland, as announced by the Prime Minister in 2016, because of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and the state government.

In this regard, the senior student leader said that ASU took the responsibility to table the matter for discussion at the NSF’s Federal Assembly, imploring that a differentiation should be made with regard to the superannuation age of medical doctors and other services.  

He recalled that the meeting was concluded with the decision that the matter will be referred for wider consultation. Subsequently, a consultative meeting with the NSF leaders, and a meeting with presidents of the NSF’s federating units was presided to deliberate on the matter. 

The student leaders expressed displeasure that the matter was not reverted back to the Federal Assembly—the decision making body, for discussion as a resolution was adopted at the NSF’s emergency presidential council. This move, they said, was a violation of the NSF Constitution.

The resolution stated that the NSF had resolved to maintain the status quo till a comprehensive review of the existing superannuation policy governing the state government employees is carried out.

This compelled ASU to launch a non-cooperation move with the present NSF team till its faith in the federation was restored. Kezhazer said that the ASU holds no personal enmity against the NSF and that it was only opposed to the “mismanagement” of the issue by the apex Naga student body. 

ASU President Bisevi Nakhro added that if the Premier or the Central government gives provision for superannuation age for the other services as well, the student body will equally support the matter.

He added that increasing the retirement age of the medical doctors to 62 years is unique, as there is an acute shortage of doctors in the state and also there is a requirement for doctors to manage the two medical colleges in Kohima and Mon, which are expected to be functional in few years time.

Making a comparison of the doctor-patient ratio as per the World Health Organisation, which is 1:1000, he said that at present the ratio of government doctors in Nagaland to that of the patients is 1:4000. 

Commenting on the “standoff” with the NSF, he questioned why the resolutions regarding NIDA was only made public while two other issues regarding the Nagaland Staff Selection Board (NSSB) and the rationalizations of teachers in the school education was also discussed during the meeting.

He also pointed out that the NSF’s decision to maintain a status quo and at the same time assuring that the existing superannuation policy of the state is subject to review, is contradictory and misleading. 

Nakhro also said that the ASU opposed to be a signatory of the NSF resolution, making it a symbolic protest against NSF at that time. With the non-cooperation move that followed, both student bodies are yet to sit across a table to resolve the differences.
In addition, Vimeyiekho Vitso, ASU media cell member, said that the NSF should have confidence on its federating units. He also warned the government not to provoke the issue.

ASU vice president Kevilelhou Zumu informed that a total of 515 patients were denied medical treatment at the government health facilities under its jurisdiction during the first two the mass casual leave protest by the medical doctors in Nagaland.

He said that the student body will not remain mute spectators on the matter and is prepared with various intensive plans to retaliate against the government. However, its next move is yet to be disclosed.

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