Kolkata: West Bengal’s protesting doctors have refused to call off their strike despite a four-hour ultimatum from Mamata Banerjee and have instead accused the chief minister of threatening them.
Banerjee, who visited the state-run SSKM Hospital on Thursday, asked the doctors against an attack on their colleague to return to work within four hours or vacate the hostels. She added that those demonstrating were not doctors but outsiders who wanted to create trouble in the state. “The government will not support them in any way. I condemn doctors who have gone on strike. Policemen die in line of duty but the police don't go on a strike,” she said.
Amid slogans of ‘we want justice’, Banerjee said, “You have to give service to the people. You cannot be a doctor without providing service to the people. Similarly, police cannot call for a strike. It is their duty. It is unfortunate that the BJP and CPI(M) are doing politics here. They are playing Hindu-Muslim card here. Health minister Chandrima Bhattacharya met junior doctors on Wednesday and requested them to speak to me. I was holding the call but they just refused to talk to me over phone.”
Her visit, however, angered the protesters, who said she should have visited the NRS Medical College and Hospital instead where the junior doctor was assaulted by family members of a patient alleging negligence.
“Instead of meeting us at NRS Medical College and Hospital, she went to SSKM College and Hospital. We are not going to call off our strike. With her language, it seems that she doesn’t want a solution. Instead of showing sympathy towards the junior doctors who often face public wrath, she threatened us to vacate hostels. Do you think that this will resolve issues,” asked Humayun Kabir, a junior doctor.
Another junior doctor identified as Deepak Giri said, “We want her to come here and talk to us. Talking is the only solution here. Nothing can be achieved forcibly.”
The state-wide protest was triggered after Pariboho Mukherjee, a junior doctor at the NRS Medical College and Hospital, was beaten up by the family members of a patient who alleged that he died because of negligence. The doctor suffered a head injury and is in critical care at a private hospital.
A team of doctors met Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi at Raj Bhavan over the issue and said the chief minister's reaction to their protest was unexpected.
"We will continue with our agitation till our demands are fulfilled. We have spoken to the Governor. He listened to us and hopefully will speak to the chief minister," one of the junior doctors told reporters outside the Raj Bhavan after meeting Tripathi.
The delegation reiterated the demands of the striking doctors. "We will continue with our agitation till our demands are fulfilled. Our demands are simple... proper security with armed policemen at all hospitals, arrest of culprits involved in the NRS attack on Saturday under non-bailable sections. We did not expect the chief minister to say what she did. Listening to her, we felt like that we were the culprits," another junior doctor said.
'Take full care of hospitals'
The West Bengal chief minister also wrote to senior doctors of all medical colleges and hospitals in the state and requested them to continue taking care of patients.
Banerjee, in a communication issued with her official letterhead, requested the senior doctors to take full care of the hospitals and run them smoothly.
"Please take care of all patients. The poor people are coming from all districts. I will be obliged and honoured if you all take full care of the hospitals. Hospitals must run smoothly and peacefully. Thanks for your full cooperation," she wrote.
(With inputs from PTI)