Impasse over West Bengal doctors' strike eases as protesting medicos agree for talks with Mamata Banerjee

The impasse in West Bengal showed signs of easing as agitating doctors said Saturday night they were open for talks with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee to end their stir, but they will decide on the venue of the meeting later.

The protesting doctors had earlier in the evening turned down an invite for a closed-door meeting with Mamata at the state Secretariat and had instead asked her to visit NRS Medical College and Hospital for an open discussion to resolve the impasse.

Junior doctors of West Bengal began their strike on the night of 10 June when two junior doctors of NRS hospital in Kolkata were injured in an attack by relatives of a patient who died at the hospital.

 Impasse over West Bengal doctors strike eases as protesting medicos agree for talks with Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee interacts with media over the ongoing doctor's strike, in Howrah. PTI

Late on Saturday night, the joint forum of junior doctors held a press conference. "We are open for dialogue always. If the chief minister extends one hand we will extend 10 of ours... We are eagerly waiting to break the deadlock," the spokesperson said, adding that they will wait for their governing body to decide on the venue for the meeting.

The doctors had also turned down Mamata's request, saying there was no honest effort on her part to break the deadlock. "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)," he had said earlier in the night.

The agitating junior doctors also rubbished her claims that a few of their colleagues had visited her at the state Secretariat.

At a press conference at the state secretariat, Mamata had urged the agitators to resume work and said her government has accepted all their demands.

Mamata rubbishes MHA advisory on 'poor' law and order in Bengal

Also on Saturday, Mamata  rubbished the claims of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) about "poor" law and order in the state, saying the Centre should send such advisories to states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, where "several murders have been reported in the past couple of years".

"In the past three years, since the Yogi Adityanath government came to power in Uttar Pradesh, several people were killed in the name of encounters. They do not allow people to lodge FIRs in Gujarat. How many advisories have they sent to these states?"

About the junior doctors' agitation, Mamata said sometimes such strikes happen in a democracy.

The MHA sought separate reports from the West Bengal government on the ongoing doctors' strike and on political violence that has left 160 people dead in the past four years.  It said it has received a number of representations from doctors, healthcare professionals and medical associations from various parts of the country for their safety and security in view of the strike in West Bengal.

The ministry also told the Bengal government in its advisory that the continued trend of political violence from 2016 through 2019 is indicative of the "failure" on the part of the law-enforcement machinery of the state and asked the administration to inspire a sense of security among the people.

'Talk to the governor if you think I'm incapable'

Meanwhile, Governor of West Bengal KN Tripathi wrote to Mamata advising her to take immediate steps to provide security to the medicos and find a solution to the impasse. The West Bengal chief minister later said she had spoken to the governor and apprised him about the steps taken by the state government to resolve the impasse.

She also pointed out that her government has not invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act against the protesting junior doctors even after five days of the strike.

"We have the laws, but we do not want to use them... We are not going to take any stringent action against any of the agitating junior doctors and hamper their career," she said at a news conference, after the agitators did not turn up for the meeting she had called at 5 pm.

Mamata said, on Friday, she had "waited for the junior doctors for five hours. And today, I cancelled all my programmes for them. You must show some respect to the constitutional body".

On the mass resignation of doctors across the state, she said it was not legally tenable. "If the junior doctors think I am incapable, they can always talk to the governor or the chief secretary... or the Commissioner of Police," she said.

Earlier, Mamata, while addressing the press at the state Secretariat, left it midway, claiming that a few junior doctors had arrived to meet her, but the body of medicos representing the protesting doctors later rejected this claim.

Earlier, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had asked states to consider enacting specific legislation to protect doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence in the wake of the assault on junior doctors in Bengal.

Meanwhile, patients in Delhi faced hardships for the second consecutive day on Saturday as protest by doctors, in solidarity with their striking colleagues in Kolkata, spread to several government hospitals, which could not join a nationwide stir on 14 June.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jun 16, 2019 22:03:36 IST