The Centre has brought in an ordinance which could give up to seven years imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs. five lakh to those attacking doctors and health workers.
Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said on Wednesday that the ordinance was promulgated in view of the rising incidence of attacks on healthcare workers in India. Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had met senior doctors and health functionaries and said their safety at work place was non-negotiable.
As per the ordinance, any attack on health workers would be considered a ‘non-bailable’ offence, Javadekar said.
In an order passed after a cabinet meeting on the day, the Minister said the attackers will be liable to pay a penalty of ₹50,000 and ₹2 lakh in non-serious cases and ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh for serious offences.
“While people across the nation salute the health workers and those in the field helping battle COVID-19, there are few who are attacking them, thinking they are spreading the virus,” Javadekar said after the meeting.
He said such behaviour was unbecoming of a civilised society. “We have zero tolerance and will not allow this in a civilised society,” he said.
Javadekar said the amended 120-year-old Epidemic Act will protect doctors, nurses, health workers, attendants and also ASHA workers. Earlier, the Indian Medical Association withdrew its planned protest after the Centre’s assurance.
Safety and dignity of our doctors at their work place is non-negotiable. It is our collective responsibility to ensure conducive atmosphere for them at all times.
I have assured doctors that Modi govt is committed to their cause and appealed to reconsider their proposed protest. pic.twitter.com/AJcxghGRkx
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) April 22, 2020
In the past weeks, several cases had been reported across the country where on-duty healthcare workers were ruthlessly assaulted.
In Haryana, five people were arrested for allegedly attacking ASHA worker during a door-to-door survey on behalf of the district administration on Tuesday (April 21).
On Sunday (April 19), a mob allegedly attacked a healthcare team in a Bengaluru’s Padarayanapura, who had come to take primary and secondary contacts of COVID-10 patients to a quarantine facility.
Earlier this month, in New Delhi, two female doctors from Safdarjung Hospital were attacked by a man, who accused them of spreading the infection. In UP too, a health team was attacked as they moved into an area in Moradabad.
Not just this, a doctor in Chennai, who died of COVID-19, was denied a dignified funeral fearing the spread of the virus.
(With inputs from agencies)