With healthcare services badly affected across Uttar Pradesh for the fifth consecutive day on Tuesday, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav met a team of doctors protesting the arrest of 24 junior physicians following a scuffle with a Samajwadi Party leader.
The agitation gathered steam in Agra, Varanasi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur and other places. All out patient department (OPDs) services were suspended, but emergency services continued, even as the number of deaths due to lack of treatment rose to 37.
The doctors are on strike since Feb 28. A protest march was also brought out in Agra on Tuesday. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has threatened an all-India strike from Wednesday.
After a meeting with Akhilesh Yadav on Tuesday, a seven-member delegation of the striking doctors said they were not convinced by the chief minister's assurances of ordering a probe into the allegations by the medical fraternity.
He told the doctors that the probe would be completed within three weeks.
The 24 junior doctors were arrested from their hostel in Kanpur after Samajwadi Party legislator from the city Irfan Solanki was involved in a scuffle with students and junior doctors of B.R. Ambedkar Medical College and Hospital.
A delegation of IMA members also met President Pranab Mukherjee seeking action against Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kanpur Yashaswi Yadav and the legislator.
Health Minister Ahmad Hasan also said the guilty would be booked and urged the agitating doctors to return to work.
"You have to follow the noble profession and are duty-bound to treat patients," he said.
Expressing solidarity with the striking doctors, some of their colleagues at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, and those in Chhattisgarh also joined the protest.
In Agra, emergency services at the S.N. Medical College were badly affected as doctors continued their agitation, forcing hundreds of patients to return home or get admitted to private hospitals.
All wards of the district hospital and the Lady Loyal Ladies Hospital run by the state government were full.
Patients were lying on floors outside the wards, said activist Shravan Kumar.
In Aligarh, doctors stayed away from work in support of their colleagues in Kanpur.
In Ghaziabad, the strike continued for the second day on Tuesday, with dentists and homoeopaths along with members of the National Integrated Medical Association (NIMA) also joining in.
About 500 medical practitioners on Tuesday held a meeting at the IMA Bhawan and marched to the district magistrate's office. They presented a memorandum, addressed to Akhilesh Yadav, saying that merely releasing the medical students from jail was not acceptable.
They demanded that the SSP Kanpur be transferred from his post, a criminal case filed against Solanki, and criminal cases registered against the students be withdrawn.
All OPD services remained suspended, while doctors took out a candle march from Navyug market. However, emergency services were being provided.