Kolkata: With the stand-off with striking doctors escalating, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday fired a fresh salvo at ‘outsiders’. Reiterating that outsiders were involved in the hospital protests, she said, “We have to bring Bangla forward. When I go to Bihar, UP, Punjab, I speak in their language, if you are in Bengal you have to speak Bangla. I will not tolerate criminals who stay in Bengal and roam around on bikes.”

Alleging that the BJP had pitted Hindus against Muslims, Mamata’s pitch for bringing ‘Bangla’ forward comes at a time that the healthcare system stands crippled in the state. While the strike by junior doctors has continued, other states have also joined in the protest, putting the agitation firmly on the national stage.

So much so, that Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has had to appeal to Banerjee. He said, “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.”

On Thursday afternoon, Banerjee had given the agitating doctors 4 hours to return to work. However, they went ahead with their strike and even met with Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi with their demands. The doctors stuck to their guns, leading the CM to write a letter to them, beseeching them to get back to work and not let healthcare services suffer.

The agitation has its roots in the assault on two junior doctors at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata at the hands of family members of a patient on Tuesday.

A complete shutdown of all outpatient departments (OPDs), routine operation theatre services and ward visits, in some hospitals till 5 PM today has been imposed. (As part of contingency measures, emergency services will continue in all hospitals.) From Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad to Nagpur, Jaipur and hospitals in Kerala, Karnataka, government doctors are out on the roads.