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MUMBAI : Around a million doctors in India went on a day-long strike on Friday amid the coronavirus pandemic to protest against a new federal government rule that allows practitioners of the traditional science of Ayurveda to perform minor surgeries.

Thousands of non-critical medical operations and routine consultations across the country were set to be disrupted as the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the umbrella body for all conventional doctors and surgeons, declared a decision to suspend work for 12 hours.

"All non-essential consultations and surgeries from morning until evening on Friday were suspended, " said Rajan Sharma, the head of IMA, adding that the strike would not affect treatment to COVID-19 patients.

"The government's decision to bring in a rule that allows practitioners in specified streams of Ayurveda to be trained to perform surgical procedures trivializes the medical profession," said Sharma.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government introduced a rule that allowed post-graduate practitioners of Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of medicine, to perform certain surgeries.

The notification listed 39 general surgery procedures and around 19 procedures involving the eye, ear, nose and throat.

Sharma said the IMA had written to the government against the new rules but was yet to secure a response. India's AYUSH ministry, which promotes Ayurveda and passed the rule, did not respond to a request for comment.

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