West Bengal faces unprecedented healthcare crises as Mamata loses plot

Protest, The Federal, English news website
Members of Doctors Association show solidarity and stage a protest against assault of an intern doctor in West Bengal, in Ranchi, Friday, June 14. Photo: PTI

The four-day long healthcare crises in West Bengal deepened further on Friday (June 14) with around 200 doctors of state-run hospitals tendering their resignations citing the “prevailing situation”, a day after chief minister Mamata Banerjee intervened to break the logjam.

Many more doctors are expected to follow suit, said a senior doctor-professor of the Kolkata-based National Medical College and Hospital.

Banerjee on Thursday had warned the junior doctors, who were on strike since Tuesday demanding adequate security for the medical practitioners, to resume work within four hours or face action.

The mass resignation followed comments made by the chief minister during her visit to the SSKM hospital here to meet patients who were bearing the brunt of the ongoing strike.

Also read: Bengal docs on strike defy Mamata’s deadline, get national support

“You all have voted for the BJP this time (in reference to the just concluded Lok Sabha elections). Now face the consequence… Doctors cannot differentiate between Hindus and Muslims. But here, attempts are being made to create a communal divide,” Banerjee said, without being specific.

Doctor Protest against attack on intern doctor, The Federal, English news website
Medical students raise slogans during a demonstration protest to show solidarity with their counterparts against the assault in Kolkata, in Bengaluru, Friday, June 14. Photo: PTI

She further went on to claim that the agitating junior doctors were ‘outsiders’ and that the BJP and CPI(M) were behind the stir. Her comments irked the entire medical fraternity and several senior doctors took serious exceptions to her remark.

Soon after her comments, the principal of Nilratan Sarkar (NRS) Medical College and Hospital Saibal Mukherjee and medical superintendent Saurabh Chattopadhyay resigned, citing their failure to overcome the prevailing crisis.

Also read: Docs put forward six conditions, demand Didi’s apology to end stir

The NRS medical college and hospital is the epicenter of the standoff. It was on the premises of this state-run hospital that two junior doctors were brutally assaulted on Monday by a mob of goons after an octogenarian patient died in the hospital

By Friday morning, several doctors across the state had started resigning en masse, in an unprecedented development.

Protest against attack on intern doctor, The Federal
Veteran actor and filmmaker Aparna Sen addresses junior doctors during their strike in protest against an attack on an intern doctor, at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, Friday, June 14. Photo: PTI

As both junior and senior doctors hardened their stand, a group of intellectuals led by director-actress Aparna Sen met the agitating doctors and appealed to them to find a solution to the deadlock.

Refuting the charges of communal prejudice levelled against doctors by the chief minister, Sen appealed to Banerjee to immediately hold talks with the protesters to amicably resolve the problem.

Many in the ruling TMC believe that Banerjee, who also holds the health and family welfare portfolios, miserably failed to handle the situation. Incidentally, Banerjee is also the home minister.

CM losing balance?

It was not only this medical crisis, which the chief minister mishandled. Several TMC leaders and supporters in private admit that the way she recently reacted to the ‘Jai Sree Ram’ sloganeering by some BJP functionaries only gave the saffron party the much-needed handle to further polarise the atmosphere in the state.

The BJP is already trying to corner the state government over the unabated political violence in the state since the commencement of the Lok Sabha elections, demanding imposition of President’s Rule.

Now with her kneejerk and impulsive reaction, she again played into the BJP’s hands. In the present standoff, she is seen as the one siding with the attackers, and not addressing the serious security concerns raised by the doctors, much to the delight of the BJP, pointed out a TMC leader requesting anonymity.

The BJP, as expected, grabbed the opportunity to accuse the TMC government of not taking action against the miscreants who attacked the doctors inside the NRS hospital because they were the party’s “vote bank.”

“Providing security to the doctors is the responsibility of the chief minister the state. Mamata Banerjee is not controlling or arresting the anti-social elements because they are her voters,” said Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.

Kin of TMC leadership support docs

Much to the embarrassment of the ruling party, doctor-children of two TMC leaders took to social media to criticise the government’s handling of the situation.

Kolkata mayor and senior West Bengal minister Firad Hakim’s daughter Shabba Hakim, in a Facebook post, criticised the inaction of the ruling party’s leadership in addressing the issue raised by the doctors.

Baidyanath Ghosh Dastidar, son of TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, in a social media post wrote: “I STAND WITH NRS. BHAR ME JAYE POLITICS (sic).”

Both Shabba and Baidyanath are doctors.

“I wish to clarify that it was a completely unacceptable how a mob of 200 Urdu speaking goats could enter into a government hospital and literally kill a 23 year old doctor (sic),” Baidyanath wrote on his Facebook post on Friday morning.

Arrest of just five out of 200 attackers was unacceptable, he added, echoing the sentiment of his other doctor colleagues.

Even the chief minister’s nephew Abesh Banerjee, a MBBS student, took part in a rally in support of the agitating junior doctors on Thursday.