The ongoing standoff between the government and junior doctors in West Bengal on Sunday showed signs of easing after the latter agreed to a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The government, however, refused an open meeting in the presence of media, as demanded by the protesters.
Around 60 junior doctors, representing 14 medical colleges in Bengal, are likely to participate in the talks which have been scheduled for 3 pm.
After a marathon four hours general body meeting by junior doctors at NRS Medical Hospital, the medicos had agreed for a dialogue on the condition that the meeting shouldn’t be behind closed doors, but open to media coverage. They also demanded that representatives of all medical colleges should be accommodated in the meeting.
“The last media interview of the Chief Minister (on Saturday evening) had a lot of discrepancies and was full of false propagation of our protests. We want an immediate end to this impasse with discussion with honourable Chief Minister which should maintain transparency and not behind closed doors but in front of the media,” a press statement, which was issued by junior doctors at NRS earlier in the day, read.
“We believe that the decision to choose the venue for the meeting with our delegates should lie with the Chief Minister but it should accommodate representatives from all medical colleges and the media . We hope that our honourable Chief Minister would be considerate and do something to help the health care system,” the statement added.
The agitation was triggered by an attack on two doctors at NRS Medical College and Hospital after a patient died. The situation escalated after the Chief Minister appeared to reject the concerns of the doctors, and described their protest as a BJP conspiracy.
The development comes a day after the agitating junior doctors turned down Banerjee’s invite for a closed-door meeting at Nabanna, the State Secretariat, saying they felt highly insecure.
Later, Banerjee addressed a press conference, saying the government had fulfilled all of their demands and at every hospital, a team of policemen had been placed for their security, headed by an assistant commissioner.
“I waited and waited,” the Chief Minister told reporters on Saturday. “Yesterday (on Friday), senior doctors came to me, and then I called the junior doctors for a meeting. I waited for hours. They said they will not come. Then a time was fixed today. I cancelled all my appointments and waited for them along with my officers. But they did not turn up. The state secretariat is the headquarters of the government, and the most apt place for talks,” she added.
As part of their demands, the doctors had sought an apology and set six conditions that they say must be met for them to return to work.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had earlier issued an advisory to the West Bengal government to ensure the safety of doctors and also sought a report on the standoff.
Besides this, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi had also written to the Chief Minister, urging her to sit for a meeting with the doctors, and to take necessary steps for their security.
Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has announced to observe a 24-hour nationwide protest on Monday against the Bengal government’s management of the case. All non-essential services, including OPDs, will remain closed from 6 am. The IMA will also stage a dharna at its headquarters in New Delhi at 10 am.
(With inputs from ENS, IE Bangla)