Mamata says ready to fulfil demands, asks them to resume duty, but says no ESMA yet
Even as the striking junior doctors defied Mamata Banerjee for the second time on Saturday turning down her offer for talks, the Bengal Chief Minister swore by her “patience” saying like the other State Governments she had all the legal means to invoke the coercive Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) but had thus far desisted from taking the extreme step on humanitarian grounds.
“The Government is showing patience, sympathy for the doctors but now it is time for them to act and resume duty. We have conceded to all the demands that the doctors had made,” she said, wondering why the doctors refused to meet her at the State Secretariat.
In Kolkata, a representative of the striking doctors said, “This is an issue relating to thousands of doctors who are being attacked every day. The Government is calling a few of them to hold closed-door meeting. We are not ready to accept that. We want the CM to come here at the NRS Hospital and see for herself the condition we work in and give assurances in public to rectify them.”
“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.
Meanwhile, after giving a 48-hour ultimatum to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, doctors of Delhi’s AIIMS said they have resumed work for now but they will go on an indefinite strike if no action is taken against the attack on the doctor in Kolkata. “We condemn the hostile and unapologetic attitude of the Government of West Bengal. Our protest at AIIMS, New Delhi continues until justice is meted out,” they said.
In what the striking doctors of NRS Medical College and Hospital saw a “veiled threat”, the Chief Minister said, “Though we have Supreme Court verdict in our favour and though we have previous instances of other State Governments invoking the ESMA, we have desisted from taking such strong actions as we do not want to take any coercive actions on the young boys and girls who are like our own children.”
Mamata’s renewed appeal to doctors to resume duty came close on the heels of a letter from West Bengal Governor KN Tripathi, who directed the Government to take adequate security measures for the doctors and restore normalcy in the health sector.
Referring to the earlier instances of ESMA being invoked, Mamata said, “In 2008/2009 the Narendra Modi Government of Gujarat had enforced ESMA and even arrested 150 doctors while in 2015 the AAP Government of Delhi too invoked the same Act. Again the BJP Governments of Rajasthan and Haryana implemented ESMA and the Government of Jammu & Kashmir too did the same thing. But here our Government is taking a soft approach towards the young doctors who have bright future ahead of them.”
She said, “We believe in humanism and expect the doctors to do the same. They are into a noble profession,” and reminded, “despite they heckled and abused me at the SSKM Hospital where I had gone to see whether the Emergency was functioning or not I did not take any action. Any other person in my place would have taken strong action as they did in the other States earlier.”
The doctors’ campaign earlier spread like wildfire after on-duty junior doctors of NRS Medical College were on Monday night brutally beaten up by hooligans following the death of a patient.
Even as the NRSCH doctors struck work demanding adequate security measures and arrest of all the 200 people who had attacked the hospital, the protest spread and their colleagues from other hospitals and medical colleges struck work.
Sunday, 16 June 2019 | Saugar Sengupta | Kolkata
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