New Delhi: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Friday appealed to the protesting doctors nationwide to call off their agitation or carry out only symbolic protests, “I’d like to assure all doctors that the government is committed towards their safety. I appeal to doctors to hold symbolic protests only and continue to carry out their duties.”

Read: All top developments of the day from doctors’ strike nationwide

Vardhan’s appeal comes on the ‘All India Protest Day’ which is witnessing an overwhelming response from government doctors from several states, in solidarity with their counterparts in West Bengal- after two junior doctors were brutally thrashed by family members of a patient at the NRS Hospital in Kolkata days ago.

He added, “I appeal to West Bengal CM to not make this an issue of prestige. She gave the doctors an ultimatum, as a result, they got angry and went on strike. Today, I will write to Mamata Banerjee ji and will also try to speak to her on this issue.”

Vardhan spoke to the media after the Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS met him earlier in the day to discuss the violence against doctors in West Bengal. Condemning the violence in Bengal, the AIIMS RDA urged all the RDAs across the country to join the token strike. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also asked members of all its state branches to stage protests and wear black badges on Friday.

The doctors’ strike that started in Kolkata earlier this week has now spread across India with the doctors’ association of AIIMS showing full support to their West Bengal colleagues. After entire healthcare system in West Bengal was crippled over the past four days, now doctors’ in Delhi, Mumbai and other cities in India, especially AIIMS hospitals in the national capital, Raipur, Patna and Punjab are observing protest shutdown.

Resident doctors in several government hospitals in Kerala and Hyderabad also staged protests as they started their ‘cease work’ demonstrations in respective cities.

Around 4,500 Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) stopped attending to patients in all the 26 government hospitals in the state simultaneously on Friday. Similar protests were also being held in Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur by MARD members who are demanding adequate protection for their counterparts in West Bengal.

Resident doctors at Goa’s biggest government hospital on Friday also staged a protest in solidarity against the brutal attack on a doctor at a major Kolkata hospital. About 15,000 doctors and nurses in private hospitals across Karnataka too joined the nationwide strike.

With IANS inputs