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Home Minister assures safety to health care professionals amid attacks, Indian Medical Association calls off ‘White Alert’ and ‘Black Day’ protests

The Indian Medical Association had scheduled a symbolic protest named as 'White Alert' against the attacks and assault on health workers today onwards.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday assured the health workers of security on behalf of the Central Government amidst the incidents of attack on health workers in several parts of the country. While interacting with a group of doctors and Indian Medical Association (IMA) members through video conferencing, the Home minister appreciated the contribution of health workers in combatting the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic.

The Indian Medical Association had scheduled a symbolic protest named as ‘White Alert’ against the attacks and assault on health workers today onwards. But the home minister while assuring the security to the health workers appealed to them not to carry forward the symbolic protest. He said, “the government is with doctors”.

Home Minister Amit Shah also tweeted, “Safety and dignity of our doctors at their workplace is non-negotiable. It is our collective responsibility to ensure conducive atmosphere for them at all times.”

After the meeting with the Home Minister, the Indian Medical Associated agreed to withdraw the symbolic ‘White Alert’ protest.

‘White Alert’ protest by Indian Medical Association

Amid the multiple attacks on health workers across the country especially during coronavirus epidemic situation, the IMA had scheduled protests against assaults on doctors and other medical staff while performing duties. The IMA had called for a nationwide symbolic protest and urged the doctors and hospitals across the country to light candles on April 22 as a mark of protest. The IMA is demanding the centre to formulate a law for the protection of Medical professionals from attack on duty.

A notice issued by IMA read as, “If the government fails to enact Central Law on violence against doctors and hospitals even after White Alert, IMA will declare Black Day on April 23. Our legitimate needs for safe workplaces have to be met. Abuse and violence should stop immediately. White Alert to the nation – All doctors and hospitals to light a candle at 9 pm on 22 April, as protest and vigil.” But after the meeting with the home minister, the protest was withdrawn by IMA.

A statement issued by IMA said that the home minister is very much aware and concerned about the attacks, and assured them that the govt is coming out with legislation to address the safety and dignity of doctors and other healthcare workers. Both the home minister and the health minister appealed the IMA to defere the symbolic protest during the meeting. Amit Shah also added that during such a period of global crisis, such protests will send out a bad signal of the unity of our country and damage the image of the country internationally.

Agreeing to the appeal of the union ministers, the IMA decided to withdraw the white alert protest on 22 April and Black day protest on 23 April to maintain unity and integrity of the country.

Assault on health workers

There have been several instances of attacks on health workers especially after the outburst of coronavirus cases due to religious congregation in Nizamuddin Markaz. There have been several reports of an assault on doctors in many areas, mostly in minority dominated areas.

After people who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat in March were quarantined, several members had misbehaved with doctors and others working in quarantine centres. They had spat on doctors, roamed around naked in their wards, and made vulgar comments towards female workers.

Later, healthcare teams visiting various localities in several states for coronavirus survey were attacked by locals. People in those places had resisted being checked by the medical teams, and had attacked them preventing them to transport Coronavirus positive patients or their close contacts to hospitals and quarantine centres. Dozens of such cases of assault on healthcare teams have emerged from several states in the last couple of weeks, where stones were pelted on doctors and police teams accompanying them, and ambulances and police vehicles were damaged by mobs.

Ordinance to end violence against health workers

In a related development, union government today brought an ordinance to end violence against health workers amid the Coronavirus outbreak. The new ordinance has provisions to punish those who attack health workers with jail term and penalty. An amendment in this regard will be brought to the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 making such a crime cognizable and non-bailable. The investigation in such assaults will be completed within 30 days and accused could face jail term from 3 months to 5 years with a penalty of Rs 50,000 which could go up to Rs 2 lakh.

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