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Doctors, Rabri in strike battle

Patna, May 20: The Bihar chapter of the Indian Medical Association has decided to go on an indefinite strike from tomorrow after police failed to meet its deadline for rescuing abducted neurosurgeon Ramesh Chandra.

The Rabri Devi government has responded by declaring the strike illegal. It has sent an SOS to Delhi asking it to send 500 doctors to run emergency wards at all hospitals.

State minister for health Akhilesh Singh said if the crisis continues and doctors do not resume work, the government would be forced to impose the Essential Services Maintenance Act.

Life in the state is likely to be affected in any case as the BJP has called a bandh tomorrow to protest against the increasing abductions in the state. The party alleges that the kidnapping gangs are linked to ruling party MLAs and MPs. State BJP leader Sushil Modi said: “We will intensify our agitation until the ruling party-abductors nexus is broken.”

MP Pappu Yadav of the ruling Rashtriya Janata Dal has also called a separate bandh in Patna tomorrow. This has led to fears of violence in the city.

At an emergency meeting held after its rescue deadline expired this evening, the medical body decided to go ahead with its strike. Health services across the state are certain to come to a grinding halt tomorrow unless the government’s SOS to Delhi helps save the day.

Government doctors will not attend hospital duties while private practitioners will stay away from nursing homes till Chandra returns home, a spokesman said here.

Patients across the state are unlikely to get medical attention from Bihar doctors. But emergency wards will be manned if replacements sent by the Centre make it to Bihar in time. The emergency ward of Patna Medical College and Hospital gets over 150 patients a day from the districts. The 40 district hospitals treat more than 4,000 patients a day.

The Indian Medical Association decided to go on strike despite appeals by state health officers and Laloo Prasad Yadav. The RJD chief had assured the organisation that the “police have been given a free hand and are on the job. Chandra will be released soon,” he said. But it was not convinced.

However, the situation might change now that the government has declared the strike illegal.

The police have raided areas in Patna, Jehanabad and Gaya districts where they suspect Chandra may have been held captive. They arrested seven people from Biharsharif, including Pintu Singh, alleged to be close to an influential RJD leader.

Director-general of police D.P. Ojha has said he is hoping for a breakthrough in the next 24 hours.

The Bihar chapter’s general secretary, Shahjanand Singh, said the doctors had been compelled to strike work. He said at least 21 doctors had been kidnapped in Bihar in the last three years.

“Medical practitioners in the state have been feeling insecure but things have reached a flashpoint with Chandra’s abduction,” Singh said.

Even before the strike call, panicky doctors had hired armed escorts after Chandra’s abduction. Bharat Singh, who had been abducted three months ago, recently obtained a gun licence and is set to buy a gun.

Other doctors like R.C. Ram, who travels with a big gun near his medical box, said his life changed 10 years ago when he was abducted for ransom. “If abductors confront me now, either I’ll shoot them or they will”, he said.

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