New Delhi: The strike by junior doctors in West Bengal has taken a political colour with chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also the state Health Minister, threatening the striking doctors of action and blaming the Opposition parties, especially the BJP, for ‘communalising’ the issue, while the Opposition parties hit back at her for ‘politicising’ the matter and demanding her resignation “for not being able to control” the situation.
Meanwhile, the strike by junior doctors in West Bengal drew support from others in the fraternity, as several resident doctors at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) worked “with bandages on their heads” in a symbolic protest and have decided to boycott work on Friday in solidarity with the doctors protesting against an attack on their colleagues in West Bengal, according to PTI.
"AIIMS RDA condemns this in words and in spirit. Residents across the country are deeply hurt by this turn of events. Keeping in view of our commitment towards safe and non-violent working environment for residents, AIIMS RDA stands in support of our colleagues in West Bengal and has decided to hold protest on June 13 which would be followed by one day strike of work on June 14 which include OPD, routine and ward services except for emergency services," said a statement, quoted by PTI.
West Bengal’s public healthcare institutions are seeing a massive shutdown following a brutal attack on junior doctors of NRS Medical College by a patient’s family, after septuagenarian Mohammed Syed passed away. Two junior doctors were critically injured during the attack and had to be admitted to the hospital. Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, one of the two doctors suffered serious injuries to his head and underwent a skull surgery on the same day at the Institute of Neurosciences, Mullickbazar, Kolkata. His condition has been declared as stable, but he will need medication to prevent convulsions in future.
Following the attack, junior doctors, interns, and house staff from government medical colleges and hospitals across the state went on a strike, demanding safe working conditions and proper legal action against the attackers. The senior doctors, and doctors working in several private hospitals also joined them in their protest. This strike led to a complete disruption of medical services in the state.
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As per reports, the 200 people who attacked the doctors on Tuesday were allegedly affiliated to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders in the state have been trying to give the whole incident a communal colour, highlighting that those who attacked the doctors were Muslims the two injured doctors were Hindus.
Talking to Newsclick, Dr. Fuad Halim, a medical practitioner and leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said, “There have been more than 200 such incidents in the last three years, which is quite shameful in itself. However, never before has an attack like this been looked at from a communal angle.” He said that this indicated the rise of the communal politics of the Right-wing in the state.
On the condition of anonymity, a student of Kalyani JNM Medical College, Nadia, told Newsclick, “We have decided to keep the Out-Patient Departments of all government hospitals closed across the state, in protest.” He alleged that protesting doctors and staff in hospitals all over Bengal were being attacked by TMC goons, in an attempt to curb the protest.
A doctor from Burdwan Medical College was severely injured when stones were pelted at the institution by goons. He was treating a patient in the emergency ward when this happened. Four other junior doctors were also injured by the stone pelting. A mob of TMC goons allegedly also shouted rape-threats and threats of acid attacks in front of the women’s hostel of Burdwan Medical College. They allegedly tried to set a section of a hostel of National Medical College on fire, which was stopped with immediate help from the fire brigade.
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The chief minister, who was silent till yesterday and is yet to meet the protesting junior doctors at NRS Medical College even after repeated demands, visited SSKM Hospital on Thursday morning and threatened to take action against the doctors if they do not end their protest.
“Medical services come under the Essential Services Act and the doctors cannot afford to do such protests. If the strike is not called off, we will be forced to take action after 2 p.m. This will be done as per the laws laid down by the Supreme Court," she told the media. She also added, "This strike is a BJP conspiracy. The protesters are disrupting medical services. This should end at once."
A student from Kalyani JNM Medical College said, “She is trying to tell us that we doctors do not have the right to protest. She is trying to provoke the ordinary people against us by portraying all doctors as evil. But ordinary people have also extended their solidarity to our protest.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of the striking doctors reportedly met the state governor and said that they would continue their strike till proper security was granted to them, according to media reports.