SKIMS curtails maternity benefits for resident doctors

GK File Photo

In a stark violation of women and child rights, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) has allegedly been curtailing the maternity benefits for its resident staff.

As per SRO 225 issued in July 2012, a J&K government servant is entitled to maternity leave of 180 days with full pay upon birth of a child. In 2015, the government amended Rule 41-A of Civil Service (Leave) Rules 1979 to include childcare leave of 730 days for two eldest children of a woman.

Although there have been many amendments in laws and a number of initiatives to help women take care of a newborn and growing up children, at SKIMS, resident staff has been struggling to avail even parts of these.

A senior resident working with SKIMS said that she was given 45 days leave when she gave birth this year with a rider to resume duties when it expires. “I was denied an extension of leave and have been met with hostility for demanding what is my right as a woman and a mother,” she said.

Another resident doctor narrated the same ordeal and said that while the SKIMS authorities, after ‘incessant pleading’ agreed in extension of 45 days maternity leave with another 45 days, she had to part with her stipend for the period. “What kind of laws differentiate between mothers based on the permanency of their posts?” she lamented.

Many other resident doctors, past and present, that Greater Kashmir spoke to narrated similar experiences.

Dean academics SKIMS, Prof Omar Javed Shah said that resident doctors are of two categories – those recruited through the Public Service Commission and those enrolled at the Institute for studies. “The former come under Civil Service Rules, while the latter are governed by Medical Council of India (MCI) rules,” he said.

He said the MCI has the provision for only three months leave for residents.

Prof Shah said maternity benefits must be extended to all and Institutes need to adopt a practice that secures child and women rights. “We are following all laid down rules,” he said.

A senior female faculty member at SKIMS said it was the responsibility of institutions to secure the welfare of women they employ or they avail services of. “In our case, we have been coming across as granting some favour to women whose right is to get at least 6 months maternity leave,” she said.

Another senior faculty member said SKIMS being a government hospital, its employees cannot be treated differently than other government employees. “It is the responsibility of the Institute to ensure that the basic rights of women are not violated, even while J&K has mandated that all its departments do the same,” he said. He termed the practice adopted by SKIMS as “discriminatory”.

In many states of India, there are multiple litigations resulting in amendments to rules. Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that women employees cannot be denied childcare leave due to staff shortage. Many other courts have passed similar judgments, a lawyer said.