Thousands of doctors across India go on strike
NEW DELHI, June 14: Nearly 300 doctors resigned from government hospitals in West Bengal as their protest against an attack on their colleagues earlier this week in Kolkata escalated on Friday.
Demanding better security at hospitals, doctors in Bengal and across India skipped work and held demonstrations. The country's top medical body also announced a nationwide strike on Monday. Blaming the Mamata Banerjee government for the stalemate, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan appealed to her to "not make it a prestige issue".
"Instead of taking action against the attackers, she (Mamata Banerjee) gave the doctors an ultimatum, warned and threatened them because of which doctors of West Bengal and across the country are angry," Minister Harsh Vardhan said, also requesting the doctors to end their strike.
Mamata on Friday stood firm on her charge that "outsiders" were to blame for the doctors' protest that affected medical services in the state for the fourth day and has led to demonstrations and boycotts across the country.
"Outsiders are instigating the doctors. I had rightly said that they were involved in yesterday's protest. I had seen some outsiders raising slogans (at SSKM hospital)," she said.
The doctors in Bengal have set six conditions including an unconditional apology from Ms Banerjee and action against those who assaulted their colleagues to withdraw their four-day-old protest.
Thousands of doctors across India went on strike on Friday to demand better security at hospitals days after junior doctors in the city of Kolkata were attacked, leaving services in many government-run health facilities paralyzed.
The state of West Bengal, of which Kolkata is capital, has been the worst hit by the strike with at least 13 big government hospitals affected.
The protests were sparked by an attack at the NRS Medical College in Kolkata on June 10 that left three junior doctors seriously injured after a dispute with a family whose relative had died.
Doctors demanding better security began a strike but their action was confined to the state until West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condemned them on Thursday, saying police did not strike when one of their colleagues was killed.
Banerjee's remarks, which included a warning that junior doctors would be evicted from their college hostels if they did not go back to work, triggered a nationwide reaction.
The Indian Medical Association said the "barbaric" attack at the NRS reflected a national problem, and called for a countrywide protest. It also demanded legislation to safeguard doctors.
Nearly 30,000 doctors were on a one-day strike on Friday, most in West Bengal, New Delhi and the western state of Maharashtra, according to figures proved by medical associations.
The federal health minister, Harsh Vardhan, tried to calm the furor, promising better security at hospitals and calling on Banerjee to withdraw her ultimatum.
"I urge doctors to end their strike in the larger interest of society. I will take all possible measures to ensure a safe environment for them at hospitals across the country," Vardhan said on Twitter. -REUTERS