THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Dental students have begun an indefinite hunger strike in front of the Government Dental College here. This is in protest against the indifference of the State Government to their demands regarding equalising their stipends with that of medical students.
‘’During the last government’s term, the stipend of the medical students was hiked to Rs 23,000, Rs 24,000 and Rs 25,000 for the first, second and third years. We should have been given the same under normal circumstances. However, the order hiking our stipend of Rs 18,500 is caught in red tape at the Finance Department,’’ said Prashanth Soni, a student at the Thiruvananthapuram Dental College.
The students alleged that they get paid a lower amount for the same kind of clinical work as done by the medical students. ‘’If it is an accident case, the patient would need the immediate attention of a medical student as well as a dental student, especially if there is a facial injury. We do the same kind of clinical work and night duty, yet we do not get paid as the non-clinical medical students,’’ they said.
The students who are on a hunger strike represent the three Dental Colleges at Thiruvananthapuram, Kottayam and Kozhikode. The Calicut Dental College is represented by Dr Praveen, the Kottayam Dental College by Dr Rajan Ahuja and the Thiruvananthapuram Dental College by Dr Ashik. All the three said they intend to starve until death if their demands are not met.
Meanwhile, the indefinite strike by the Dental College PG students, residents and house surgeons, that began on Monday, has badly hit the functioning of the three Government Dental Colleges in the State. While the principals of the respective Dental Colleges have taken steps not to let the Casualty treatment be affected, all treatment procedures done by appointments have come to a standstill.
A visibly apologetic Health Minister, while addressing a press conference on Monday afternoon, said that the issue would be taken up with the Finance Minister to find a solution.
Asked why the Minister did not visit the striking students, he said: ‘’They can always come and meet me.’’
With the senior residents, PG students, house surgeons and even undergraduates joining the agitation, as many as 1,000 dental students in the State are on strike. This tools-down strike by the massive workforce has now started to affect the Casualty too.
‘’We no longer believe in talks. What we want is a government order and we shall continue this strike until we get it,’’ said Prashanth.