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Bill shield draws flak

Members of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan Sangharsh Morcha — an umbrella of civil society organisations — held a convention in Ranchi on Sunday to discuss the state of public health and unanimously decided to oppose the Medical Protection Bill 2013.

According to the pro-people Morcha, the Hemant Soren government should focus on primary health care, which is far from satisfactory even in the state capital, rather than protecting doctors.

The Medical Protection Bill, cleared by the state cabinet in May last year, has a provision of three-year jail term and fine up to Rs 50,000 for anyone who damages hospital property or attacks doctors.

“No one favours violence or loss of property. But, when existing laws are sufficient to take care of those what is the need for another?” said Satya Sivaraman, a public health activist from Delhi, to the 100-odd people present on the occasion. He added that instead the government should focus on public health issues.

According to others, private hospitals and nursing homes are owned either by corporate houses or by rich people and these were in no way charitable in nature. “Besides, they have enough money to protect their property by appointing security guards,” said a speaker, adding that the act would be an attempt to patronise such organisations.

Morcha members termed the bill anti-people. Convener Nadeem Khan said: “We have submitted a memorandum to health minister Rajendra Singh last month, seeking his intervention.”

State IMA president Dr A.K. Singh said after the cabinet cleared the proposal, the bill was waiting for an Assembly nod. “We are hoping it will be cleared in the monsoon session. If the act comes into being, doctors will be able to work without fear. It is not any anti-poor bill. It is an attempt to prevent vandalism,” he added.