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As many as 5,000 nurses here at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) went on an indefinite strike on Monday over their long-pending demands, including those with regard to the Sixth Central Pay Commission and against contractual appointments.

AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria appealed to the nurses to call off their strike and return to work, stating that "a real nurse will really never abandon her patients".

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Harish Kajla, President of AIIMS Nurses Union informed: "Very sadly, we are announcing that the about 5,000 nurses at AIIMS are going on indefinite strike from Monday onwards regarding the redressal of their demands, including that related to the Sixth Central Pay Commission (CPC)."

"For the last six months, we have been requesting the Central government to consider our demands, but the government has turned down our demands. Our demands were even agreed by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in the meeting held last year," he said.

The President of AIIMS Nurses Union said that it is also "shocking to us" that the AIIMS administration decided to recruit nursing officers immediately on a contractual basis.

Reacting to the strike demonstrated by the nurses union at the institute, Dr Randeep Guleria, AIIMS, Director said: "I, therefore, appeal to all the nurses and nursing officers to come back and work and help us get through this pandemic. Whatever issues you (nurses) have we will try and resolve amicably and try and be sympathetic to your demands but as the time of hardship and this time of trial and tribulation please do not go on strike."

Guleria further informed that the nurses union had actually put in 23 demands. He claimed that almost all of the demands have been met by the AIIMS administration and by the government.

"The nurses union had actually put in 23 demands. Almost all of the demands have been met by the AIIMS administration and by the government. There is one demand which they have insisted upon and this is basically a perceived anomaly in the fixation of the initial pay as per the sixth CPC is concerned," he said.

"We are currently having the 7th CPC which is being implemented and multiple meetings have been held with the nurses union with the representatives not only by the AIIMS administration and but also by the economic adviser in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," explained Dr Guleria.

He further highlighted that the country is going through a difficult phase due to the COVID-19 outbreak and people are facing pay cuts and even many have lost their jobs.

"It, however, seems inappropriate when a country is fighting a pandemic and when we are fighting for near and dear ones to save lives and we know that we need to work only after for two more months and vaccine may provide a solution. Unfortunately, at present, the nurses union has gone on a strike and the country is going through a lot of hardship. People are facing pay cuts and even lost their job. The nurses union is asking for a pay hike which seems very inappropriate," he said.

This year in honour of Florence Nightingale's 200th birthday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared 2020 the "Year of the Nurse and Midwife".

"Today in war against the pandemic, we look at the nurses to really work tirelessly to look after those who have suffered during this pandemic. Hence, I am sure that in the phase of COVID-19, real nurses will never abandon their patients," Dr Guleria said.

Meanwhile, R Bhushan, Secretary Ministry of Health said that there should be no cessation or disruption of nursing functions in AIIMS nor such an action aided or abetted.

"It is hereby directed that AIIMS Delhi should ensure that directions of Delhi High Court are strictly complied with without fail and there should be no cessation or disruption of nursing functions in AIIMS nor such an action aided or abetted," he said.

Bhushan said that non-compliance will be treated as an offence under the Disaster Management Act read with the Indian Penal Code and action will be taken accordingly against defaulting authorities/employees.

With ANI inputs

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