Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday hailed the efforts of doctors and frontline workers in India's Covid-19 battle and said that any violence against them was not acceptable.
“Doctors and medical workers are soldiers without uniforms. It is the battle of invisible (virus) against invincible (doctors and health workers)," Modi said while addressing an event at the Rajiv Gandhi Health University in Bengaluru via video conference.
“Due to mob mentality, those workers (safai workers, doctors and nurses) on the frontline are subject to violence. I want to state it clearly that violence, rude behavior is not acceptable," he said.
The prime minister said at the root of India's brave fight against COVID-19 is the hard work of the medical community and the corona warriors and steps have been taken to protect healthcare personnel. He added that the Centre would be passing a law to deal with the shortage of paramedical personnel.
"Steps have been taken to protect you against any form of violence. We have also provided an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh for those on the frontline (of fighting the pandemic)," he said.
In April, the government had issued an ordinance making acts of violence and harassment against healthcare personnel deployed in combating COVID-19 a non-bailable offence, meeting a key demand of health professionals in the wake of recent attacks on them while discharging their duty.
The maximum sentence under the new provision is seven years imprisonment and Rs five lakh fine. A person can be sentenced to anywhere between three months and five years of jail, besides a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakh, for such crimes.
In cases where injuries caused are serious, the punishment will range from six months to seven years, and carry fine between Rs 1-5 lakh.
The ordinance had amended the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, and the tweaked law will also be invoked if health care personnel face harassment from their landlords or neighbours over suspicion that they may carry the coronavirus infection due to the nature of their work.
The prime minister also sought a discussion on advances in telemedicine, use of "Make in India" products in the healthcare and IT tools in the medical sector.
Speaking at the event, he said he was also looking for a discussion on whether new models can be created that make telemedicine popular at a bigger level.
Referring to the "Make in India" programme, he said the initial advances made in this field give him hope.
"Our domestic manufacturers have started production of personal protective equipment and have supplied about one crore PPEs to those in the frontline of fighting COVID-19.
Modi also said that the Arogya Setu application was downloaded by twelve crore people and it had proven helpful in India's battle against the viral infection.
(With inputs from PTI)