Kolkata doctors' protest spreads to six other cities

Junior doctors of government hospitals in six major cities across India stayed away from much of their work on Friday in solidarity with their counterparts in West Bengal whose strike entered the fourth day hampering regular services in all state-run medical colleges and hospitals.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has directed members of its state branches to stage protests and wear black badges in solidarity with West Bengal doctors.

The junior doctors in Kolkata have been agitating since Tuesday demanding adequate security in government hospitals after two of their colleagues were attacked and seriously injured by relatives of a patient who died at the state-run Nil Ratan Sicar Medical College and Hospital in the city.

Scores of doctors struck work in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jaipur Thiruvananthapuram and other cities staged protests. Doctors at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical also followed suit. However, emergency services were available at one or two hospitals, including NRS Medical College and Hospital, in Kolkata this morning.

Services were totally disrupted in outdoor facilities and other departments of state-run medical colleges and hospitals and a number of private medical facilities in Kolkata despite Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's warning of strict action if work is not resumed. The spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors in West Bengal Dr Arindam Dutta said protest demonstrations would continue till their demands are met.

"The manner in which the chief minister threatened the junior doctors is quite unexpected... This is an insult to our community. We also condemn this... She has to apologise for what she said yesterday. "We are not outsiders and this agitation is spontaneous... We are contemplating mass resignations," Dutta said.

Expressing solidarity with their junior colleagues, senior doctors said that their demands were quite justified. Meanwhile, the Principal and the Superintendent of the NRS Medical College and Hospital Saibal Mukherjee and Saurabh Chattopadhyay respetively submitted their resignations on Thursday night.

West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi had on Thursday appealed to junior doctors to rejoin their duties. Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged the doctors to hold only a symbolic protests and carry out their duties. A team of doctors had met the Governor at the Raj Bhavan on Thursday and apprised him about the assaults on doctors by relatives of a patient who died at the NRS medical college and hospital on Saturday night.

Doctors at Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) put on helmets and bandages as they attended to patients today. The doctors’ strike has snowballed into a full-blown political faceoff with Mamata accusing BJP and CPI-M of engineering the strike and playing "Hindu-Muslim politics", a charge denied by the latter.

The Calcutta High Court on Friday refused to pass any interim order on the strike by junior doctors at state-run hospitals. A division bench comprising Chief Justice T B N Radhakrishnan and Justice Suvra Ghosh asked the state government to persuade the striking doctors to resume work and provide usual services to patients.

The court also directed the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government to apprise it of the steps taken following the attack on the junior doctors at a city hospital on Monday night. The Chief Justice, during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), reminded the striking doctors of the 'Hippocratic Oath' they take to ensure the welfare of all patients.

Meanwhile, West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chattejree appealed to the striking doctors to "keep aside" misunderstandings and withdraw their agitation. In a Facebook post, Chatterjee said all grievances of the doctors can be solved through discussions with the government.