Kolkata: Agitating doctors Saturday turned down West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s offer for talks and assurance that all their demands would be met at the State Secretariat saying they fear about their security and rejected her appeal to end their stir, which entered the fifth day.
As medical services in the State remained paralysed, Banerjee urged the agitators to resume work and said her government has accepted all their demands.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory seeking a report on the stir. But Banerjee reacted sharply to it and said such advice should be “sent to States like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat where several murders are reported since the last couple of years”.
Bengal Governor KN Tripathi wrote to Banerjee advising her to take immediate steps to provide security to the medicos and find out a solution to the impasse.
Banerjee later said that she had spoken to the governor and apprised him about the steps taken by the State government to resolve the impasse. She said further that her government had not invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) even after five days of the strike by the junior doctors.
“We have the laws, but we do not want to use them… We are not going to take any stringent action against any of the agitating junior doctors and hamper their career,” she told a news conference after the agitators did not turn up for a meeting at 5 pm.
The strike began on Monday night when two junior doctors of NRS hospital were injured in an attack by the relatives of an old patient, who had died.
Banerjee said, on Friday, she “waited for the junior doctors for five hours. And today, I cancelled all my programmes for them. You must show some respect to the constitutional body”.
On the mass resignation of the doctors across the state, she said it was not legally tenable.
“If the junior doctors think I am incapable, they can always talk to the governor or the chief secretary… or the commissioner of police,” she said.
The agitating doctors had earlier turned down an invite for a closed-door meeting with Banerjee at the state secretariat and instead asked her to visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital for an open discussion to resolve the impasse.
The agitating doctors turned down her request saying there was no honest effort on her part to break the deadlock.
“We are eagerly waiting to start our duty, but from the Chief Minister’s side there is no such honest initiative to find a solution (of the ongoing problem),” a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors told reporters.
The agitating junior doctors also rubbished Banerjee’s claims that a few of their colleagues visited her at the state secretariat.
Earlier, Banerjee, while addressing the press at the state secretariat, left it midway, claiming that a few junior doctors have appeared there in order to meet her.
In its advisory, the MHA 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 strike in West Bengal.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence in the wake Bengal assault on junior doctors.
Patients in Delhi faced hardships for the second consecutive day as protests by doctors, in solidarity with their striking colleagues in Kolkata, spread to several government hospitals, which could not join a nationwide stir on 14 June.
Doctors, opposition to settle for nothing less than Mamata saying ‘sorry’
Opposition BJP, CPI(M) and Congress in Bengal lashed out at Banerjee “for not being serious in resolving the impasses over doctor’s strike” and asked her to keep aside ego to resolve the crisis.
Opposition parties of West Bengal on Saturday attacked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for “not being serious” about resolving the situation arising from the protests by junior doctors and asked her to apologise to them.
The BJP, the Congress and the CPI(M) blamed Banerjee for the ongoing crisis in the state’s health sector 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.
The agitating junior doctors have demanded an unconditional apology from the chief minister for her remarks at the SSKM Hospital on Thursday. She alleged that outsiders had entered medical colleges to create disturbance and that the agitation as a handiwork of the CPI(M) and the BJP.
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.
The junior doctors have demanded that the chief minister come to the NRS Medical College and Hospital where two of their colleagues were assaulted and seriously injured on Monday night by relatives of a patient who died.
State Congress president Somen Mitra said Banerjee should stop threatening doctors.
“She has got it all wrong in her basics. From the very beginning, she started threatening the doctors. She should remember that her politics of threat and intimidation will not work in all cases,” Mitra said.
The chief minister on Saturday said her government has not invoked the ESMA even after five days of agitation by the junior doctors, and appealed to them to rejoin duties.
The agitators turned down her appeal saying there was no honest effort on her part to break the deadlock.