| Protesters squat on NH 31 during the blockade. A Telegraph picture
Siliguri, May 17: Over 400 medical students, accompanied by around 150 junior doctors of North Bengal Medical College & Hospital (NBMCH), resorted to a three-hour road blockade on NH 31 at Shivmandir, 8 km from Siliguri, this morning.
The students were protesting against the proposed reservation of seats in higher education, including those in medical colleges, across the country by Union HRD minister Arjun Singh.
The blockade, which began at 10.30 am, lasted till 1.30 pm and took a double toll on commuters and patients alike. While the first group was caught in a traffic snarl on the busy national highway, the latter waited in vain for doctors at different outdoor departments of the hospital. The junior doctors, including interns and house-staff, are usually in charge at the outdoor departments and their cease-work (called from yesterday in support of the anti-quota agitation) has seriously crippled hospital activities.
The situation in the NBMCH campus turned chaotic today as hundreds of patients roamed the campus, waiting for doctors. Arjun Sarkar, who had come all the way from Bongaigon in lower Assam, had to wait for four hours while the doctors were demonstrating. A few senior doctors could be seen going from department to department but apparently none of them could spare time for the outdoor sections.
'I had taken a bus yesterday evening to come here for treatment. But I find no doctors here and don't know whether I will be examined today at all,' a disappointed Sarkar said.
Admitting that patients were facing the brunt of the agitation, the junior doctors regretted the inconvenience but added that the movement aimed at securing future of the students.
The principal of NBMCH, Sangita Bhattacharya, however, could not be contacted.
The students and junior doctors of the NBMCH have supported the anti-quota stir from the very beginning and have started an indefinite class boycott since Saturday. They also organised a rally on Monday and burnt an effigy of the HRD minister yesterday.
'We are continuing our class boycott,' said Swapnadip Sengupta, general secretary of NBMCH Students' Union. 'We feel such a reservation system in higher studies is irrational. We will continue our protests and demonstrations. Today's road blockade is a part of the agitation.'
He said the agitation was being organised in conjunction with the students' unions of medical colleges in Calcutta, Bankura and Burdwan. 'We are unified in our stand and are in constant touch with the others,' said Sengupta.