In 2011, a few like-minded friends came together to start a Facebook community to empower nurses and bring them together on a single platform. The community was named United Nurses Association (UNA) by its founder M V Sudheep and his associate M Jasminsha. And the rest is history.
A native of Tirur, Jasminsha was the face of the nurses’ protest. His association with the SFI stood him in good stead while leading the agitation. After completing studies at West Fort College of Nursing in Thrissur he worked for a while as an intern before moving to Qatar. He was in Kerala on vacation in 2011 when Malayali nurse Beena Baby hanged herself in a Mumbai hospital. T
Jasminsha’s college mates had organised a get-together around the same time and one of them took part in the protest rally in Mumbai to condemn the death of Beena. “She said something had to be done for nurses. Otherwise, she too would be forced to commit suicide as she had to repay a loan while her salary was a pittance. This made us sit up and take notice,” he said. This prompted them to start the Facebook group which later became UNA.
Liju Vengal, an industrial nurse, had just returned to Pathanamthitta from Abu Dhabi in 2011 when he came to know of the suicide of Malayalee nurse Beena Baby in Mumbai.
This prompted him to visit the Mumbai hospital and take note of the working conditions of nurses. “I was shocked by the incident and realised the nurses were working under abysmal conditions,” said Liju who graduated in 2007.
After a round table discussion at Pathanamthitta, the Indian Nurses Association (INA) was formed and it was registered as a trade union. They first took up the problems of nurses at Muthoot Medical Centre in Pathanamthitta and staged a strong agitation. A series of strikes later followed.
However, the association decided to intensify the strike in Kannur and Kasargod to grab the attention of the government. Liju said the protest gave confidence to nurses and they started joining the association. Today, it counts more than 2,000 members and has spread to other states as well. Life has been a struggle for him ever since. “No hospital was ready to employ me. Even my wife - who is a nurse - failed to get a job. It is a struggle for existence,” he said.