More than 380 Indian doctors have died from Covid-19, leading to accusations the Indian government has abandoned its healthcare professionals.
The row erupted after Dr Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister of Health said he had no figures on the number of doctors that had died, days after India became only the second country to reach the grim milestone of five million cases.
This caused the furious Indian Medical Association (IMA) - the country’s largest group of doctors - to demand their colleagues be held in the same regard as Indian soldiers killed on the battlefield.
“It appears they are dispensable… To feign that this information doesn’t merit the attention of the nation is abominable,” a statement read.
“Doctors and healthcare workers not only get infected in the line of national duty but also bring home the infection to their families, including children. To treat these martyrs indifferently is a national sacrilege.”
The IMA has recorded the deaths of 382 doctors - more than any other country in the world - with a fatality rate ten times higher than the general population. The youngest doctor to die was just 27-years-old and the oldest was 85-years-old.
Tension has run high between healthcare professionals and the Indian government since the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, and his government only spend £1.50 per citizen on healthcare - one of the lowest figures in the world.
Healthcare professionals say this lack of funding has led to shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE), leaving them vulnerable to infection.
Pre Covid-19, there was already a shortage of 600,000 doctors and two million nurses in India, and healthcare professionals are having to work for two weeks without a break.
An insurance scheme set up for the families of the deceased has been hampered by bureaucratic problems and is allegedly not paying out, while healthcare professionals across India have held regular strikes over unpaid wages.