Indian doctors continue strike for fifth day

Hundreds of doctors from public hospitals ignored a warning from health authorities Thursday and continued their strike in the Indian capital for a fifth day to protest an affirmative action program for lower caste students.

The doctors set fire to a pile of notices served by the Health Ministry on Wednesday that threatened dismissals if they didn't resume work within 24 hours, said Arnab Pal, a spokesman for the Resident Doctors Association.

With the strike crippling health services in government-run hospitals, impoverished people turned to expensive privately run medical facilities in the Indian capital.

"My father suffered a brain hemorrhage ... We had no option but to take him to a private hospital," the Hindustan Times quoted bank officer Gyan Singh Verma as saying.

The protests started last weekend because of government plans to increase quotas for lower caste students in state-funded medical, engineering and other professional colleges from 22.5 percent to 49.5 percent.

The focus of the strike is the prestigious state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the New Delhi hospital where nearly 100 students from five medical colleges in the Indian capital began a hunger strike on Sunday.

Their numbers dropped to 35 on Thursday, as many fell sick and temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

On Thursday, a group of striking doctors also joined a hunger strike being staged by medical students, Pal told The Associated Press, reports the AP.

I.L.