For over a year now, forensic surgeons Dr Bale Patil and Dr Shantanu Chavan have been waiting to receive the raised salaries that had been promised to them by the state government in a government resolution (GR) passed back in December 2011. The increments that are owed to them have been delayed on flimsy excuses such as mandatory submission of documents certifying their knowledge of computers, and the languages Marathi and Hindi.
Ironically, the doctors’ duties do not involve the use of computers. Rendering the state’s demand for the papers even more absurd is the fact that the government is yet to computerise the post-mortem centres where the doctors work. Not a single computer adorns any of the post mortem labs where the doctors work.
The GR passed by the state government in December 2011 had promised to raise salaries of postgraduate doctors (degree and diploma) working for the public health department by about Rs 6,000 per month, evidently to woo more doctors to the state-run department.
Patil and Chavan are both postgraduates in forensic medicine and are posted at Cooper and Bhagwati post-mortem centres. The police surgeon is in charge of the city’s four government-run postmortem centres - at JJ, Rajawadi, Cooper and Bhagwati - and of the 16 medical officers working in these, only Patil and Chavan are postgraduate degree holders, and fall under the increment slab.
They were thus shocked when they were asked by their superiors to submit their certificates proving their basic knowledge of computers and the languages.
Dr Patil said, “Being a forensic expert, my main role is to certify the cause of death, and hence computer knowledge is of no use to us; moreover, none of the post mortem centres has a computer. We have also found out that the certification for basic computer knowledge is a must only for clerical staff and not for class I officers like us. Our plea before our superiors have fallen flat.”
Speaking on the issue of language proficiency, he added, “We are both Maharashtrian and have studied Marathi and Hindi as our main languages during our SSC examinations. In spite of this, we were being asked to furnish certificates proving our knowledge of Marathi.”
Another medical officer added, “It has been over a year that we have not been given the increment. Even after we submitted the required documents, the superiors say that the papers have been submitted for verification and that the increment is on hold till then.”
Dr S M Patil, police surgeon, clarified, “I am following the government rules and as per the conditions laid down by the state government, which include knowledge of computers, Hindi and Marathi. These are basic requirements for all government employees and the doctors will be eligible for increment only on submission of certificates.”
Responding to the fact that the post-mortem centres do not have computers, he said, “The state government is in the process of computerising all departments and hence knowledge of computers is a must. The government even paid special allowances for employees to attend an MSCIT course.”
Dr Patil explained that as per the December 2011 GR, only those postgraduate doctors whose basic salary is around Rs 5,400 are entitled for the increments. “Both Dr Bale Patil and Dr Shantanu Chavan fall in the eligibility criteria and once they submit the required certificates, we will give them the increment.”
Unfair salary system
“There is a vacancy of 530 odd postgraduate doctors across the state government, but because the salary range for doctors with the basic MBBS degree is the same as that given to postgraduate degree and postgraduate diploma holders, many doctors are not keen to join the public health department,” said Dr Sunil Jawale, who has moved a petition in the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) in December 2012, after failing to convince his superiors to help him receive the increments promised to him.
Dr Jawale holds a postgraduate degree in forensic medicine and a PG diploma in toxicology, and served various post-mortem centres during a seven-year-long posting in Mumbai, but his pleas for the promised raise have gone unheard. Fed up, Jawale has quit his service in the public health department and has joined the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) as a lecturer for Grant Medical College.
Jawale said, “MBBS and postgraduate doctors were paid equal salary prior to the December 2011 GR. Postgraduate diploma holders were entitled to three increments of Rs 3,000 in their monthly salary, and postgraduate degree holders to six increments of Rs 6,000 in their monthly salary, but this was not implemented across the public health departments.”
Advocate Tejesh Dande, representing the Dr Jawale case in MAT, said, “My client possesses both a PG diploma and a PG degree, and hence he is entitled to nine increments. He is entitled to arrears, even though he has shifted from public health to DMER. The government is not following its own policy.” Responding to this allegation, Dr Patil clarified that Dr Jawale’s basic salary is over Rs 6,400, and hence he is not eligible for increment. “His matter is pending before MAT and we will only follow the court or government order in his case,” he said.
Public Health Minister Suresh Shetty said, “The first GR that we issued was confusing as it was believed that the increment was being referred only to new recruits. However, in the 2011 GR, we clarified that existing postgraduate doctors and new recruits would both be entitled for the increment.”
Referring to the matter of long-pending increments, he said, “It is unfortunate, they [the doctors] should write to their superiors or the secretary or even approach me in case of any such difficulty. I will personally look into their grievances.”
Speaking about the 530 postgraduate vacancies, Shetty said, “We have received tremendous response to the ad that we published this time. Over 2,000 applicants have already responded. We will be able to fill all the posts shortly.”