Nurses cannot agree on what to wear to work

Jan 09, 2012, 06:49 IST | Priyanka Vora
The government has passed a GR instructing nurses to wear white tunics or sarees; while one group has welcomed the move, another is bristling at being asked to hang up their preferred salwaar kameezes
The long-brewing discord between two groups of nurses at government-run hospitals over what to wear to work, has come to a head, with the state issuing a government resolution (GR) instructing all nurses to wear the conventional white uniforms or white saris, with only caps and belts as accessories.

Wardrobe woes: Nurses affiliated to the Maharashtra Nurses Federation,
want to continue wearing the pink salwaar kameezes, as they feel
uncomfortable in the knee-length white dresses and feel that the white
colour is reminiscent of the colonial past. Representation pic

This has ruffled the feathers of the nurses affiliated to the Maharashtra Nurses Federation (MNF), who insist on wearing pink coloured salwaar kameezes, accompanied by white aprons. They have taken exception to the prescribed white uniforms, insisting that that the white colour is incongruous with Indian culture and skin tones, and reinforces a white supremacist ideology. They claim that the other option - white sarees - is not feasible for them either, as sarees are difficult to handle.  

While the MNF looks unlikely to raise a white flag and change into starched white tunics, there is another equally vociferous group of senior nurses giving them stiff opposition. This pro-white group is represented by a nurse's organisation known as Sarkari Paricharika Pragati Sangathan.

About 700 odd nurses work in the government hospitals -- GT, St George, Cama & Albless and JJ hospitals -- all dressed in pink.

MNF nurses appeared disgruntled by the government's decree. "We wanted the uniform to be converted to the salwaar kameez as it is uncomfortable for us, especially the senior nurses, to wear frocks while at work. We even wore aprons over our salwar kameezes. But the doctors objected to it. They want to reserve the sole right to don aprons. The frocks hark back to British culture, while we want to retain our Indian identity. We are more comfortable in salwar kameezes," said Kamal Waikule, general secretary of the MNF.

Meanwhile, Pramila Thule of the Pragati Sangathan said, "We should respect the fact that nursing was introduced during the British era, and continue with old traditions. Patients don't identify with the salwaar kameez. The dress that we wear makes us look dignified. If patients and nurses wear the same kind of clothes, how are they to be differentiated from each other? Patients will be confused."

The diktat from the government warns that if nurses fail to wear the regulation white clothes, they will have to face disciplinary action. The GR was issued after a three-member committee appointed by the court brainstormed over the matter. The MNF had earlier moved court to make the garb of their choice the official uniform across state-run hospitals.

Dr T P Lahane, dean of JJ hospital, said, "We will have to give some time to the nurses to change over from one uniform to the other. If they fail to change, we will have to take action as per the GR."

However, Kasturi Kadam, joint secretary of MNF said, "We will continue wearing the salwar kameez, as changing into western clothes is not an option for us. The saree is also not feasible, as it is difficult to manage. The authorities have been asking us if we are getting new uniforms stitched, and have threatened to punish us if we don't wear the frocks."

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