New Delhi: The strike by junior doctors in West Bengal in protest against violence against their colleagues in NRS Medical College following a pateint’s death has snow-balled into a nation-wide issue, with doctors across states, such as Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Kerala among others demanding security and holding solidarity actions in their support.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA0, too, launched a four-day nationwide protest from Friday to express solidarity with the doctors agitating against the attack on their colleagues in West Bengal and has written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding enactment of a central law to check violence against health care workers in hospitals.
In Bengal, over a 100 senior doctors of various state-run hospitals resigned from their services on Friday, pushing the Mamata Banerjee government into a corner.
The doctors, including heads of departments of medical colleges and other hospitals in Kolkata, Burdwan, Darjeeling and North 24 Parganas districts, sent their resignation letters to the state director of medical education, a senior health department official told PTI.
"We express fullest solidarity to the current movement of NRS Medical College and Hospital and other government hospitals agitating to protest the brutal attack on them while on duty," Dr P Kundu, director of the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine, said in the resignation letter.
The senior doctors, who were till now manning the emergency services, said
"Under the present circumstances, it is not possible for us to continue our services indefinitely without minimum manpower resources. In the absence of any constructive development to end this crisis, we are pained to offer our resignation and request you to relieve us of our responsibilities," the resignation letter read.
Meanwhile, the protesting doctors have demanded chief minister Mamata Banerjee's unconditional apology and set six conditions for the state government to withdraw their four-day-long stir that disrupted healthcare services across West Bengal.
Also Read: Medical Services in Bengal Disrupted As Doctors Go on Strike Following Attack
"We want unconditional apology of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which she had addressed us at the SSKM Hospital yesterday. She should not have said what she had," a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, Dr Arindam Dutta, said.
While visiting the SSKM Hospital on Thursday, Banerjee had contended that "outsiders" had entered medical colleges to create disturbances and the agitation was a conspiracy by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M) and the BJP.
Reacting to the CM’s statement, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury Friday accused Banerjee of “politicizing” the issue of doctors' agitation and the BJP of “communalising” it.
"West Bengal govt must invite health workers & resolve this humanitarian crisis on a war footing. CM is trying to politicise instead of discharging basic responsibility. BJP wants to communalise by highlighting the religious identity of victims of a tragedy," Yechury weeted.
Listing the six conditions, the agitators said the chief minister will have to visit the injured doctors at the hospital and her office should release a statement condemning the attack on them. "We also want immediate intervention of the chief minister. Documentary evidence of judicial inquiry against the inactivity of the police to provide protection to the doctors at the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital on Monday night should also be provided," Dutta said.
The protesting doctors also demanded unconditional withdrawal of all "false cases and charges" which were imposed on junior doctors and medical students across West Bengal in the wake of their strike. They also stressed on their demand for improvement of infrastructure in all health facilities as well as posting of armed police personnel there.
Meanwhile, noted film director and actor Aparna Sen, met the striking doctors along with several members of her fraternity and urged the CM to invite the doctors for talks. She also insisted that the TMC supremo should apologise to the agitating doctors for the alleged threats she issued to them.
"There is no harm or no shame in saying sorry. That will not hamper her popularity," Sen told PTI. The filmmaker appealed to Banerjee to talk to the junior doctors face-to-face and end the impasse. "The chief minister is the guardian of the state. She is not just the guardian of the patients waiting outside, but also of those young brilliant doctors who are working day in day out throughout the year. I think, all she needs to do is to sit and talk face-to-face with the protesters to solve the crisis," she said at the state-run Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital.
The ruling Trinamool Congress also drew flak from its own members’ kin as the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister and children of two top TMC leaders are among the doctors agitating in West Bengal over the assault on their colleagues.
Abesh Banerjee, son of the TMC supremo's brother Kartick Banerjee, is a doctor at KPC Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, and was seen with a poster in hand at the protest in his college.
Kolkata Mayor and state urban development minister Firhad Hakim's daughter Shabba, also a doctor, had on Thursday criticised the state government on social media for its alleged inaction in the matter. "As a TMC supporter I am deeply ashamed at the inaction and the silence of our leader," Shabba Hakim posted on Facebook.
Baidyanath, the son of senior TMC leader and MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, also showed solidary with the agitators at NRS Medical College and Hospital.
In the wake of the protests, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday wrote to the West Bengal Chief Minister urging her not to make this sensitive matter a "prestige issue" and to ensure an "amicable end" to the stir.
He also appealed to the agitating doctors, particularly in West Bengal, to hold symbolic protests and resume work so that patients do not suffer.
Also read: West Bengal CM Threatens Action Against Protesting Junior Doctors