New Delhi: Striking junior doctors in West Bengal on Saturday turned down Mamata Banerjee’s appeal to end their protest and resume duty, saying the ‘chief minister did not take any honest initiative to address their concerns’. The protesting medicos also rubbished Banerjee’s claims that a few of their colleagues visited her at the state secretariat.
“What CM has told in the press conference is not at all true. No junior doctor went to meet her. What she claimed that we are against the solution and conversation, but we want her to come to the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital listen to us and take necessary steps to serve the ailing people,” a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors told reporters soon after CM appealed the doctors to resume their work. (Also Read: Bengal Governor Meets Assaulted Doctor, Summons CM to Discuss Issue)
Furthermore, he asserted,”We are eagerly waiting to rejoin our duty, but from the Chief Minister’s side there is no honest initiative to find a solution (of the ongoing problem).”
(LIVE Coverage on Doctors’ Strike)
The doctors’ statement comes soon after Banerjee said that the TMC-led state government has accepted all the demands of the medicos and was ready to accommodate their additional demands, but that they must resume work.
”We never arrested a single person. We will not take any police action. Health services cannot continue like this. I am not going to take any stringent action. Let good sense prevail.” the West Bengal CM had stated.
Assuring doctors that her government would not invoke ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) against them,” Banerjee had said,”I do not want to invoke Essential Services Maintenance (ESMA) Act in the state. I want the junior doctors to resume work as we have accepted all their demands.”
On being asked, if she would go to the NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the doctor’s movement, as per the demand of the agitators, Banerjee refused to answer.
“I will not tell you whether I will go somewhere or not. I think the state secretariat is the best place to hold a meeting with government officials in a democratic manner. I had gone to SSKM Hospital that day and waited for three hours, but no one came to talk to me,” she said.
Claiming that all actions have been taken by the state administration, to end the deadlock, the chief minister stated,”One should respect institutions. when the government is calling them to hold a discussion, they continue to refuse. I wanted to talk to them over phone after the incident, but they refused to talk. Senior government officials also went to talk and asked them to come, but they refused.”
Banerjee said a few ‘outsiders’ with vested interest are trying to provoke the junior doctors and urged them not to fall in that trap. “Some outsiders are trying to provoke. They are making one-sided comments. We have accepted all their demands and have taken all the necessary action. Please join the work because the patients are suffering. A number of children have died in the last few days,” she added.
Medicos Turn Down Mamata’s Invite
Earlier in the day, agitating doctors had turned down Banerjee’s proposal for talks at the state secretariat – Nabanna, and stuck to their stand that she would have to come down to NRS Medical College and Hospital to listen to their grievances.
Governor Advises Mamata
Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi wrote to Banerjee, advising her to take immediate steps to provide security to the doctors and to take the medicos into confidence. In his letter, the Governor also expressed his sadness over Banerjee’s “non-responsive” stand to his efforts to initiate talks with the Chief Minister.
“The Governor today (Saturday) wrote a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee advising her to take immediate steps to provide security to the doctors and to take them into confidence about the firm and credible assurance of arrangements for their security as well as quick investigation of the incidents of assault on them so that suitable atmosphere is generated to enable the doctors to resume their duties,” a press release issued by the Raj Bhavan said.
MHA Seeks Report
the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued a fresh advisory to the TMC government in the state over the ongoing strike by the doctors. In this advisory, the MHA had said it has received a number of representations from doctors, healthcare professionals and medical associations from different parts of the country for their safety and security in view of the ongoing strike by doctors in West Bengal. “It is requested that a detailed report be sent urgently on the representations and ongoing strike by the doctors,” the advisory read.
‘Punitive Action Against Attackers’
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan called for punitive action against those attacking healthcare professionals, saying ‘strict action must be taken against any one who assaults them.’ The minister also asked the law enforcement agencies to ensure that doctors and clinical establishments discharge their duties professionally without any fear of violence.
In a letter to Chief Ministers of all the states, Vardhan cited recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee in 2017 that suggested that state governments should enact legislation to protect doctors and healthcare professionals. He also forwarded them the draft of the Protection of Medical Service Persons and Medical Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss of Property) Act, 2017, provided by the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Opposition Leaders Attack Mamata
Opposition parties of West Bengal attacked Banerjee for ‘not being serious’ about resolving the situation. The BJP, the Congress and the CPI(M) blamed Banerjee for the ongoing crisis and accused her of being more interested in scoring political brownie points rather than diffusing the tension.
“From the very beginning she was adamant. It is due to her arrogance and ego that the situation has snowballed into such a crisis. Had she been serious about resolving it, she should have apologised and accepted all the demands of the doctors, which are justified,” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said.
Eching similar tone, CPI(M) central committee member Sujan Chakraborty too blamed Banerjee for the crisis and urged her to take action to resolve the crisis.
“Had she gone to the NRS Medical College and spoken to the doctors, the matter would have been solved. But she made it a prestige issue. She should remember that the prestige of the state is bigger than that of her own,” Chakraborty said.
How The Strike Started
Junior doctors in West Bengal are on a strike since Tuesday after two of their colleagues were attacked by the relatives of a patient who died at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. One of them, Dr Paribaha Mukhopadhyay, who was critically injured and has been undergoing treatment at Kolkata’s Institute of Neurosciences. His condition is now said to be stable. Over 300 medicos across various state-run medical college and hospitals in West Bengal have resigned from their services.