The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Crackdown in hospital

Calcutta, Nov. 7: Police today removed from RG Kar Medical College and Hospital junior doctors and medical students protesting the punishment meted out to four interns and two junior doctors following unruly incidents on Saturday night.

The relay hunger strike continued in front of the hospital’s main entrance even as three of the suspended interns — of the SUCI-affiliated All-India Democratic Students’ Organisation — finalised plans to go to court against the “unjust, illegal and partisan” government order.

Critics of the state government’s handling of the latest healthcare crisis, however, conceded that the suspension of the four “innocent” interns and dismissal of the two “non-CPM” house-staff had all but shifted the public — and media — glare away from the tottering healthcare infrastructure.

“Even if the government loses the battle in the court, it has achieved two big objectives,” said RG Kar alumnus Mridul Sarkar. “It has shifted attention from the almost daily healthcare crises and sent out a stern message to every government doctor and health worker that ‘leaking’ news of shoddy hospital management will not be tolerated.”

However, Malay Patra, the leader of the Indian Medical Association’s Bengal branch — perceived to be CPM-controlled — felt diverting attention would not be easy under the circumstances. “This action against the junior doctors will not succeed in shifting the focus,” he felt and admitted that the punishment was “hasty”.

Patra said “the junior doctors, even if guilty, should have got a chance to defend themselves”.

However, people supporting those punished learnt today that police would not even let them fast in front of the authorities. At RG Kar, arrangements were being made for a 24-hour hunger strike in front of the academic building when policemen lathicharged 10 junior doctors and 10 medical students as they did not heed pleas to leave.

Outside, the protesters decided to take things one at a time. “We will see how the situation unfolds till nine this evening,” one said. “If we feel we may be assaulted again, this time by CPM-backed goons, we will let discretion be the better part of valour,” a protester later said.

That turned out to be the case with the protesters going home at 8 pm.

Junior doctors of other hospitals such as Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital said they would decide on stepping up their agitation — to include hunger strikes — within a day or two.

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