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No ‘mamata’ for doctors

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What happened to two medical interns in a government hospital in West Bengal a few days ago is highly condemnable. While this incident of assault on doctors is only yet another example of lawlessness in West Bengal, the way in which state chief minister Mamata Banerjee reacted has only further strengthened the charges that increasing lawlessness in the neighbouring state is more due to protection of the perpetrators by those in power and authority than anything else. Mamata Banerjee, instead of looking into the matter as a chief minister should have done, and instead of instituting an enquiry into the gruesome incident, has only tried to side with the hooligans and turn the issue into a political game against the BJP and the CPI-M. Mamata has also gone to the extent of saying that the doctors who have gone on strike were ‘outsiders’ and that her government would not support them in any way. It is also totally unbecoming of a chief minister to condemn the striking doctors. Such an attitude of a person holding the office of chief minister has naturally provoked doctors across the country to go on a strike. While the Indian Medical Association has already started a three-day nationwide protest from Friday which will culminate in a nationwide strike on June 17, government doctors meanwhile are fast getting support of doctors working in the private sector. The common man, who naturally has a lot of complaints against a section of doctors whether in government sector or in private, however have largely sympathised with the two doctors who were brutally assaulted in West Bengal, and have condemned the incident. People from all walks of life are seen condemning the West Bengal incident and displaying solidarity with the doctors’ fraternity. There is no politics behind this. Common people understand that doctors are not gods and that they too work under severe constraints. Common people also know that there are other elements within the healthcare mechanism in the country that cause a lot of problems from within, with the ultimate blame going to the doctor community. It is also a fact that a lot of facilities including machinery and equipment within a hospital either do not always function properly, or are in wrong and untrained hands. Moreover, the common people also know that not all people taken to a hospital return home alive, though the fact remains that most people – including numerous critically ill or injured people – do return home cured and get back to work like before. Yet, it is difficult to prevent certain people from getting unruly and violent. While violent attack on doctors and hospitals is nothing new, reports say that doctors in India face more violence in the line of duty than people in other professions. Going by available statistics, it is likely that at least 70 per cent of all doctors practising in India have faced physical threats from their disgruntled patients. There are reports that refer to studies of this phenomenon of the public turning their ire on doctors. These include poor conditions at public hospitals, poor communication between doctors and patients, lack of faith in the judicial process, rising cost of healthcare and so forth. While one of the reasons fuelling anger against doctors is the cost of healthcare, what could also be surmised is that there is a general psychology of intolerance in all fields that has also found a strong footing among a section of people who always carry a grudge against doctors. When such people get political patronage, as has been the case with the West Bengal incident, the problem aggravates further. There have been numerous such incidents in Assam too, including in hospitals in Guwahati. There have been instances of doctors and junior doctors and other hospital staff going on strike in protest against incidents of attacks and violence in Assam too. But then, unlike in a state like West Bengal, most of these cases have been resolved amicably, with police also promptly swinging into action. Let the West Bengal incident be the last such incident. And let Mamata Banerjee be the last politician on earth to behave in such a condemnable manner in respect to such an incident, irrespective of whether the victim is a doctor, an engineer, a teacher or a rickshawpuller.