The week-long strike by the junior doctors in West Bengal has been called off after a meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. After 7 days of protests, the CM finally met with representatives of the junior doctors protesting over the mob attack at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata on the 10th June. The discussion was fruitful, the Chief Minister of Bengal said at the end of the meeting. After the meeting, the junior doctors announced the end of the strike.
Junior doctors of NRS hospital, Kolkata announce that they are calling off the strike. pic.twitter.com/OGVbtToORH
— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2019
During the meeting, Mamata Banerjee proposed assigning a nodal officer exclusively for the security at medical institutions. The students also demanded the setting up of Grievance Redressal Cells at every Hospital, to which Banerjee consented. She also agreed that the visibility of these cells be increased so that aggrieved patients and their relatives register their concerns and complaints at the proper place instead of threatening doctors.
Mamata Banerjee also suggested that a third party be appointed at every hospital to serve as a public relations officer of sorts. The sole duty of the individual will be to mediate between the patient parties and the doctors and be the purveyor of any negative news. It was also suggested by the CM that collapsible gates be constructed in front of the Emergency section at Hospital to enhance the security of the place.
The students also brought to the Chief Minister’s notice the Police inaction on the night of the attack that triggered it all. Her aides present at the meeting told the students that an inquiry has been initiated and appropriate action will be taken. The representatives were also informed that no cases have been registered against any doctor. Banerjee said, “Why will we file cases against you? You’re our future!”
Overall, the meeting was very amicable and Mamata Banerjee would be extremely pleased with how the meeting went. She was very effective with her words and the representatives heaped praises on her and said that they have great faith that she will solve the issue. At the end of it, Banerjee was hailed with claps by the representatives.
The only moment of friction came towards the end when one representative said, “We, doctors, don’t treat patients on the basis of their surname.” The junior doctor was referring to one of Banerjee’s earlier statements where she had alleged that doctors were being told to treat only Hindu patients and not Muslims. Banerjee, for a brief moment, appeared to lose her calm and said, “You shouldn’t as well.” When she refused to budge, the representatives sharply changed the subject.
There was another moment when Banerjee claimed that the protesting doctors did not talk with her when she attempted to initiate a discussion with them through a call on the Health Minister’s phone. Her claim was not rebutted by the doctors. All in all, it was a clear-cut victory for the Chief Minister in terms of a PR exercise. Her answer to various demands involved a lot of “Sheta Dekhey Nebo (We will look into that)” and “Dekhey Nao (Look into that)”. Although her responses were vague, the representatives did not register any opinions to the contrary.
The representatives also demanded that the decisions taken in the meeting be given to them in writing. OpIndia.com has accessed the entire list in full.
While Mamata Banerjee would be delighted with how the meeting went and the representatives would be grateful for the opportunity of meeting the Chief Minister, the prevailing sentiment among a lot of people in the medical fraternity is that the meeting was ‘farcical’, although they do hope that constructive steps will be taken now to prevent such a situation in the future.
According to reliable sources, the chatter is that the core agenda of the meeting was severely diluted and a lot of issues were not raised. While some believe that the representatives got severely intimidated, others believe that the main issue was diluted in a planned manner. There was also the sentiment that personal concerns overshadowed core demands in the meeting.
Various issues which served as a focal point in the protests till now did not find a place in the meeting. The spate of attacks that have been carried out at medical institutions across the state since Monday was not brought up, the allegations that people associated with the Trinamool Congress were threatening junior doctors with rape and worse was not brought to the Chief Minister’s notice. Many doctors feel let down by the fact that these issues were not raised. However, others were of the opinion that it would have been playing with fire.
However, everyone is of the opinion that it was the most that could be expected in the current situation and it would have been too much to expect anything more from Mamata Banerjee. They also had sympathies for the representatives who they believed got intimidated in the situation. There’s also great pride that the movement was able to garner much public support and highlight the issue of assault against doctors. There’s also a genuine belief that at least some constructive steps will be taken now that the administration has experienced the wrath of the medical fraternity.
In the end, however, the biggest highlight of the meeting would be the fact that representatives of protesting doctors who Mamata Banerjee had called ‘Outsiders’ and labelled the entire series of protests a ‘BJP Conspiracy’ ended the meeting by clapping loudly for her. In that, Mamata Banerjee has registered a thumping PR victory.
The medical fraternity, too, although disappointed with certain aspects, were overall pleased with the outcome. In the end, both parties should be pleased with how things went. There was also the joy that from being called threatened and being called ‘Outsiders’, they were treated with great respect by Mamata Banerjee and requested profusely by her to restart their services.