It appears that the familiar scenes of protesting young doctors and police personnel clashing on the streets of Punjab are going to be reenacted, as long-standing issues remain unresolved. Back in November 2012, the Punjab government and the Young Doctors Association (YDA) had reached a 52-point agreement after months of protests and strikes, which severely affected patients. On Tuesday, the YDA returned to the streets as young doctors across Punjab held demonstrations and blocked roads in Lahore, Sargodha, Multan, Rawalpindi, DG Khan, Bahawalpur, Gujarat and Rahim Yar Khan. They demanded that the Punjab government implement the terms of the previous agreement including a revised service structure. Additional demands included increase in paid seats for postgraduate trainees and promotions, which continue to be delayed despite assurances.

It is true that the government is not paying postgraduate trainees who come from private universities or other countries. This is in contrast to standard practice across the world, and the government must rectify this. It also needs to explain why it has not been able to implement demands despite the agreement made in November 2012. After a period of three years, why has the government been unable to implement a revised service structure and who is responsible for the delays in promotions as per time-scale rules? The condition of hospitals, which the YDA has been complaining about, is before all to witness. The Health Ministry is not exactly overflowing with funds, which makes it all the more necessary to prevent mismanagement and corruption.

While the YDA may be right about several of its demands, it has gained considerable notoriety, even in the medical community, for its strong-arm tactics and troubles faced by the many patients who seek their services. As doctors, members of the YDA have to be mindful of their responsibility towards their patients and the critical nature of their jobs. Patients should not be used to compel the government into accepting reasonable or unreasonable demands. There are also reports that the YDA “enforces” its strikes across medical universities. Joining a protest ought to be a voluntary decision, which is often not the case as YDA members force professors to halt their lectures to the detriment of future doctors. The association should review its methods and consider the implications of its actions. It is possible to fight villains without becoming them.