Jaipur, Dec 16 (IANS) Medical and health services were crippled in government hospitals and district community centres across Rajasthan as around 10,000 doctors declared they were going on indefinite strike from Saturday, advancing their stir which was earlier scheduled to begin on Monday.

The Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government had on Thursday invoked the Rajasthan Essential Services Maintenance Act (RESMA) for three months from Sunday as the state government doctors had warned to go on indefinite strike from December 18 in support of their demands. However, nearly 48 prior to the start of RESMA period, the government started random arresting doctors from different districts of the state.

According to informed sources, the arrested doctors included the doctors' association patron and president from Alwar. A total of five doctors were arrested from Sawai Madhopur, four doctors from Gangapur City, three doctors from Jalaur, two doctors from Jodhpur, taking the total count to 20.

In response to the government's crackdown, the All Rajasthan In Service Doctors Association (ARISDA) President Ajay Chaudhary gave a call to begin the indefinite strike from Saturday morning and doctors across the state boycotted work.

Earlier, the government, to check the doctors from going on strike, had issued an official notification warning the doctors to avoid going on mass leave, staging protests, or going on strike.

Meanwhile, the doctors said they were quite surprised and perturbed by the sudden strict action by the government, which had started randomly arresting doctors. We had planned to stage a peaceful protest, however, the government is not allowing us to do that, said one of the agitating doctors.

Work remained suspended on Saturday in hospitals, primary health centres, community health centres, district and referral hospitals and medical college hospitals across the state.

Chaudhary told media that the government is adopting an autocratic stance, and the "this era seems worse than the British rule".

A serpentine queue of patients could be seen at district primary centres and district hospitals though there was no one to look at them. Even emergency services are not available for patients.

Meanwhile, none of the officials concerned from the Medical and Health Department were available for any comments. Even the phone of Health Minister Kalicharan Saraf remained unreachable.

The doctors are demanding hazardous service allowance, increase in rural allowance and single shift hospitals. Health officials said most of the demands had already been met and the remaining ones were in the pipeline.

The doctors are also demanding the cancellation of the transfers of 12 doctors as well as cases registered against the protesting doctors during their stir last month and others.

--IANS

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