The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Interns put future on line, dare govt

Calcutta, Nov. 4: Three of the four interns of RG Kar Medical College and Hospital facing suspension today came out to challenge the government to prove their guilt as the healthcare crisis rolled towards a phenomenon all too familiar in Bengal: strike and boycott.

Students of medical colleges will observe a token strike on Thursday and junior doctors will boycott outdoor duty in protest against the sacking of two junior doctors and recommended suspension of four interns of RG Kar following a death due to alleged negligence of a patient and an altercation on Saturday night.

More might follow with the Medical Service Centre, an association of doctors not affiliated to the CPM and to which the three interns belong, issuing a seven-day ultimatum to revoke the decision or face a ceasework.

The three interns paraded themselves before the media, armed with video footage and photographs of the night when there was violence to which sections of the media, too, fell victim.

Yesterday, the government acted against the six without even holding an inquiry and giving the punished a chance to tell their version, an omission for which it is now coming under attack from doctors’ organisations close to the ruling CPM.

For instance, the Indian Medical Association (Bengal branch), the West Bengal Junior Doctors’ Council and the Association of Health Service Doctors called the punishment “hasty and unfortunate”, though they stopped short of supporting the threat to strike.

They either met health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra or sent him messages communicating their feeling and arguing that action should have followed an opportunity to the accused to speak.

Biplab Chandra, Subhajit Ray and Subhankar Chatterjee — the three interns — said if the charges, even these have not been spelt out by the government, against them were proved, they would voluntarily leave their profession. According to health officials, the charges are attacking journalists and patients’ relatives and medical negligence.

All three said they were being framed on suspicion that they were part of a group which told the media what ailed hospitals. The fourth intern, Rakesh Sharma, has not come forward not because he has admitted his guilt. He is in a worse position than his three colleagues because he does not belong to an association with its obvious political benefits. The two dismissed junior doctors are in the same boat.

Subhankar said: “I was at my residence in Baruipur (on Saturday) and my claim can be verified with hostel records.”

The second intern, Biplab, said he reached RG Kar only at 2.30 am on Sunday when the incident was over. He went there from his hostel at Maniktala on hearing the news.

“Instead of beating up media representatives, I helped them know the facts about Nityagopal Banik’s death (the incident that sparked off the trouble),” he said.

Subhajit reached RG Kar before Biplab. “As part of the All-India Democratic Students’ Organisation, which does not have a single seat in the students’ union, my capability to lead an attack on the media must be well-known,” he said with sarcasm.

Saturday night’s violence, as evidenced by The Telegraph reporter present there, was perpetrated by local hoodlums and RG Kar’s group-D staff.

News from Calcutta University, which has to act on the government’s recommendation, suggested rocky sailing for the health minister. The dean of the medical faculty, Manoj Bhattacharya, said, according to the rulebook, the university can take disciplinary action only against examination-related offenders. “The rules do not say anything about other charges,” he added.

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There is also confusion about who can recommend action.

In pre-emptive action, the administration today employed police to foil any possible agitation at RG Kar. At NRS Medical College, some junior doctors worked without aprons as a mark of solidarity and at Calcutta National Medical College, they wore black badges.

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