Violence against doctors by relatives of patients is not a new phenomenon. There have been several agitations undertaken by the medical fraternity in the past few years on this subject. State Governments have taken measures varyingly to prevent the problem, but it persists. There are occasions when negligence, incompetence and insensitivity on the part of doctors and hospital staff have lead to patients’ suffering and deaths, but that cannot ever be an excuse for taking the law into one’s hands. There are enough provisions under the law, even in India’s derelict judicial system, to take the doctors to task when needed. In the case of private doctors, the consumer protection forums have proved an effective remedy.
Unfortunately, the ongoing nationwide agitation of the medical fraternity, sparked by the severe beating inflicted on doctors in Kolkata’s NRS Hospital, has acquired political dimensions owing to the unwillingness of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to face the reality. Going by her response, it would seem she is in need of medical intervention for her state of mind. Instead of taking exemplary action against the perpetrators, which would have exhibited her sincerity towards the doctors and her constitutional responsibilities, she has chosen to interpret it as yet another move by the BJP to destabilise her government. It seems that despite the better performance by her party than many others of the opposition in the recent Lok Sabha polls, she has not been able to reconcile with the advances made by the BJP in her state.
Perhaps, imposition of President’s Rule would put her out of her pain, but why would the BJP want to do that? Seeing her meltdown in the face of even normal law and order challenges, the better idea is to let the process run its course. There is also a larger message being communicated by her reaction to incidents like the one at the hospital, where two truckloads of those belonging to a particular community landed up to wreak mayhem. It basically indicates that governance in the state is predicated upon whether those affected belong to the TMC’s votebase or not. This has degenerated to the point that the Chief Minister cannot even bear to hear the chanting of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in her presence. The more she acts up, the more it is noted in the rest of the country and the ‘appeasement’ narrative gains further strength. Instead of seeing the doctors’ agitation for what it is, she believes it is a BJP lead political move. Can the people of the state hope for good governance under such circumstances? Things are bound to get worse before they get any better.