The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Doctors protest, do not strike

Calcutta, Nov. 6: Junior doctors today handed a lesson to politicians by choosing to protest without disrupting work as the government’s pursuit of punishment of four interns took another step forward.

Despite attacking the government’s decision to penalise six of their colleagues from RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, an overwhelming majority of junior doctors and medical students refused to respond to a strike and boycott call.

In every medical college, they lodged their protest against the suspension of the four interns and dismissal of two junior doctors after classes and outdoor duty. Only at RG Kar, where unruly incidents on Saturday night have led to the punishment of the six without trial, did the call for a student strike and boycott of outpatients’ department evoke some response.

RG Kar principal Basudeb Banerjee issued a one-liner today, announcing that Biplab Chandra, Subhajit Ray, Subhankar Chatterjee and Rakesh Sharma were being suspended with immediate effect.

Confronted with the punishment without trial, the first three interns — members of the All India Democratic Students Organisation, which is affiliated to the Opposition SUCI and called the strike — said they were exploring legal avenues.

“This government seems to have lost its senses,” a spokesperson said. “The judiciary is our only hope.”

The majority of medical students and junior doctors, who do not belong to any political group, are highly critical of the “soft stand” taken by the CPM fronts like the Students’ Federation of India and the West Bengal Junior Doctors’ Council.

“(But) we would not like to see patients suffer in a fight that is essentially between the government and the medical community,” said a junior doctor at Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital where a deputation was made to principal Purnima Sau Mandal, decrying the government’s “vindictive and partisan” attitude.

“Why should a patient, who has come all the way from Bongaon (North 24-Parganas), suffer for what the government has done'” he asked.

“As it is, all the teaching hospitals in the city are having to function with a strength severely depleted by many of our colleagues going off to Delhi for the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences entrance test,” said an intern at Medical College and Hospital.

“We felt the hospitals, already under the scanner for the wrong reasons, should not attract more negative coverage,” he said.

With pressure growing on it, even the SFI admitted that the government and its parent party had failed in the health sector. State secretary Apurba Chatterjee also demanded that the government revoke its “death sentence” on the four interns and wanted an inquiry to precede any action.

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