The Bengal Health Crisis is into its seventh day. After antagonizing the medical fraternity with her threats, Mamata Banerjee will finally be meeting with representatives of various medical institutions at 3.00 p.m. on Monday.
Under such circumstances, as normal services in hospitals across the country have been affected, numerous narratives are being peddled by people from expected quarters to shield the West Bengal Chief Minister and whitewash the events of Monday night. Past crimes that have been committed by members of the medical fraternity are being highlighted at the moment to tarnish the intentions of the current protests.
A lie that is being spread is that Emergency Services have been shut down in Hospitals. It’s completely untrue and Hospitals in even West Bengal have not shut down Emergency Services. Through the entire series of protests, they have been kept open contrary to the claims that are being made.
A caste angle is also being pushed. Some people on social media are questioning why there was no protest from the medical community when Payal Tadvi, a junior doctor, committed suicide allegedly after suffering casteist abuse from her seniors. Ostensibly, it appears to be a case of comparing apples and oranges. In the case of Tadvi, arrests were promptly made and the law would take its own course. The Police was quick to act as well.
In Kolkata, on Monday night, the Police stood by and watched as a Muslim mob arrived in Trucks at the NRS Medical College and Hospital and attacked the doctors and interns. Two interns suffered life-threatening injuries while numerous others were injured. Imagine a situation where the family of a patient who passed away due to natural causes owing to his old age triggered them enough to attack the medical fraternity and they could actually summon truckloads of people to attack a medical institution while the Police simply watched.
It’s a catastrophic failure of the state machinery and the medical fraternity has every right to feel angry. Since then, numerous other attacks have occurred in medical institutions across the state and more doctors and students have suffered injuries. Two rooms were actually set on fire at the Calcutta National Medical College. Since the events of Monday night, the state government has done absolutely nothing to assuage the concerns of the medical fraternity and the Chief Minister actually threatened them instead. Therefore, to even compare the situation with Payal Tadvi’s unfortunate death is quite absurd.
Attempts are also being made to portray the entire medical fraternity as casteist with some even insinuating that doctors discriminate against their patients on the basis of caste. Some call the strikes a ‘Sanghi Conspiracy’ while others have labelled it ‘Savarna-Brahmin Conspiracy’. It has also been branded a ‘coup attempt by Savarna Medical students’ to enforce a regime change in Bengal at the behest of the Central government’. ‘The doctor vanguards of savarna counter-revolution’ must be defeated, we are told, and Mamata Banerjee ought to “deploy the TMC affiliated labour unions to cut off food and water supplies to these reactionaries”.
And all of this for what? Because doctors want the state machinery to do its job of protecting them and punish the guilty, they seek accountability from the state government that has failed them. It again brings me to an argument I had made in an earlier article where I had asserted that our culture has been so corrupted by democratic politics that we cannot look beyond our petty political concerns even in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.
The concerns of the doctors are quite legitimate. How is it that truckloads of people could have the audacity to attack a medical institution and escape without any repercussions at all? What was the Police doing the entire time? Why is the state government so hesitant to address the concerns of the medical fraternity? Why did the Chief Minister threaten them into submission?
Was it vote-bank politics the reason why the Police were allegedly so hesitant to take action against the mob as they belonged to the Muslim community? What action has been taken against the perpetrators of the attacks? Why is it that since Monday night, a series of attacks have been carried out at medical institutions across the state? There are allegations that Trinamool leaders are themselves threatening the medical fraternity and are involved in the series of attacks, do these allegations hold any merit?
These are the questions everyone ought to be asking in one voice at this point. Instead, some people are comparing the brutal mob attack with the Payal Tadvi case, something that was entirely different, and others are calling it a Sanghi and a Savarna-Brahmin conspiracy. Lies are being spread that Emergency Services have been shut down. Why is it that the intellectual elite that constantly boasts about speaking truth to power choosing to attack the protesting doctors instead of the state government?
There is no doubt that patients are indeed suffering as a consequence of the strikes. However, the sole responsibility for it lies at the feet of the state government. It’s the government’s responsibility to provide safety and security to everyone. When they fail, and they clearly have failed here, questions will be raised. The situation could have been resolved instantly if the state government had chosen to act swiftly, punish the guilty and hold the incompetent Policemen accountable.
Instead, the Chief Minister chose the path of confrontation and intimidation. She actually derailed ongoing discussions for a speedy resolution. There should be no doubt about who the guilty party is here. But some people due to their personal politics are casting aspersions on the medical fraternity instead.
It is indeed one of the fundamental flaws of Democracy that the system itself provides incentives for chaos and unruly behaviour. It also causes people to play Politics with matters that shouldn’t be politicized. The events that have transpired in Kolkata since Monday night and the ever deteriorating state of law and order in West Bengal reflects the institution of Democracy in extremely poor light and captures its inefficiencies at its worst.