doctors want Mamata to apologise

Kolkata: Demonstrating junior doctors in West Bengal on Friday, in no mood to relent, demanded Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee unconditionally apologise for the violence unleashed on them following the arguably inevitable death of an aged patient some days ago. The doctors set six conditions before the administration for withdrawal of their stir, which has disrupted healthcare services in the State and spiralled to other parts of the country.

Late in the evening, the chief minister met the senior doctors and later invited the demonstrators for talks on Saturday, but they declined the offer.

Over 200 doctors, including heads of departments of medical colleges and hospitals in Kolkata, Burdwan, Darjeeling and North 24 Parganas districts, have sent their resignation letters to the State director of medical education

Dr Arindam Dutta, a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, said that the doctors were demanding that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee unconditionally apologise for the manner in which she had addressed us at the SSKM Hospital yesterday. “She should not have said what she did,” he said.

While visiting the SSKM Hospital on Thursday, Banerjee had contended that “outsiders” had entered medical colleges to create disturbances and the demonstrations were a conspiracy by the CPI(M) and the BJP.

As the medical fraternity from across the country began to rally behind their Bengal peers, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged Banerjee not to make this sensitive matter a “prestige issue” but ensure an “amicable end” to the stir, which entered the fourth day Friday.

Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi said he had called up Banerjee to discuss the issue but got no response from her. “I have tried to contact the chief minister. I have called her up. Till this moment there is no response from her. If she calls me, we will discuss the matter,” he told reporters after visiting injured junior doctor Paribaha Mukhopadhyay at the hospital.

‘Apologise’ and 6 other demands of doctors

The demonstrators listed six conditions to call off their strike over and above asking Banerjee to apologise.

  1. Banerjee will have to visit the injured doctors at the hospital
  2. The CMO must release a statement condemning the attack on the doctors
  3. The State government must furnish documentary evidence and details of the action taken against those who had attacked the doctors
  4. Unconditional withdrawal of all “false cases and charges” that were imposed on junior doctors and medical students across Bengal in the wake of the strike
  5. Improvement of medical infrastructure in all health facilities
  6. Posting of armed police personnel at medical facilities like hospitals and health centres

“We also want an 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.

“We demand documentary evidence and details of action taken against those who had attacked us,” the doctors’ spokesman said.

A senior State health department official said over 200 doctors, including heads of departments of medical colleges and hospitals in Kolkata, Burdwan, Darjeeling and North 24 Parganas districts, sent their resignation letters to the State director of medical education. All of them want the chief minister to apologise.

“We express the 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.

“We strongly stand by the demands of security and protection for all healthcare personnel and we have tried our best to continue life-saving services in the interest of our patients till now,” Prof (Dr) Dipanjan Bandyopadhyay, Head of Medicine department at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, wrote in the resignation letter which contained the signature of 34 other senior doctors.

“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.

The principal and the medical superintendent of the NRS Medical College and Hospital submitted their resignations on Thursday night.

Two junior doctors of the NRS Medical College and Hospital were seriously injured in an attack by family members of a patient who died on Monday night, triggering the stir.

Earlier in the day, several prominent personalities like filmmaker Aparna Sen, rights activist Binayak Sen, actor and theatre personality Kaushik Sen, film director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee and musician Debojyoti Mishra along with senior doctors, visited the demonstrators at NRS Medical College and Hospital showing solidarity towards the junior doctors.

They later participated in a rally holding placards with a message “No more violence, enough is enough”.

Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court refused to pass any interim order on the strike.

Many kin of Trinamool leaders also backed the doctors stir. Among them were Banerjee’s nephew Abesh Banerjee, state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim’s daughter Shabba and son of TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar.

In Delhi, scores of doctors at some government and private hospitals held demonstrations by marching and raising slogans to express solidarity with their Kolkata colleagues.

Junior doctors in Odisha staged dharna with bandages on their foreheads, besides staying away from duty.

Around 4,500 resident doctors in Maharashtra, including some 2,800 in Mumbai, went on a one-day strike.

Doctors in Patiala protest in support of their striking peers in Bengal