A statewide strike has been called in Assam by the state’s Indian Medical Association (IMA) chapter following a fatal assault on a doctor at a tea estate.
The 24-hour strike will affect medical services in the state tomorrow, as doctors protest the incident which serves as a reminder of the climate of violence which enshrouds the medical profession in India. At the Teok Tea Estate in the Jorhat district, Dr Deven Dutta, a 73-year-old retired senior resident doctor, was assaulted by workers after one of their colleagues – Somra Majhi – died whilst being treated at a hospital on the grounds of the estate. Dr Dutta was not present at the estate’s hospital at the time of Mahji’s death.
Dr Dutta drew the ire of the workers upon his arrival at the estate, who reportedly beat him and locked him in a room. According to IMA Jorhat branch secretary Dr Sahd Ullah, “around 3.00 p.m., when the doctor had gone for lunch, a patient was brought. The doctor immediately attended the patient, after he received a call, and declared the patient brought dead.” 21 persons have reportedly been detained in connection with the assault.
Police intervention put an end to the assault, according to the district’s Deputy Police Commissioner Roshni Aparanji Korati. Dr Dutta was taken to the Jorhat Medical College Hospital, where he died of his injuries. Korati has called for a magisterial inquiry into the incident; a report is to be submitted within a week.
As per the IMA’s call for a strike, services statewide will be suspended from 6:00 a.m. tomorrow with the exception of emergency departments. “As a mark of protest against these incidents and failure of the government to provide security to the doctors and convict the culprits, doctors have decided to withdraw services for 24 hours,” said IMA Assam branch president Dr Satyajit Borah. “We hope that the doctor fraternity is not compelled to take more severe steps.” Borah claims the killing is the third such incident at a tea estate in recent memory. In a statement, the Assam IMA said the strike was called in light of “the gruesome incidences and no conviction in previous cases, [as well as] failure on [the] part of the government to provide security to the doctors.”
Violence against doctors in India is endemic. According to the IMA, as many 75 percent of doctors in India may have been the victim of violence or harassment in India. Such incidents regularly instigate strike action, as has been seen on multiple occasions this year. Just last week, resident doctors at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi called an indefinite strike after two doctors were assaulted by a deceased patient’s family.
A law has been proposed at the Central level to address the issue, while state medical associations are taking matters into their own hands. The IMA chapter in Pune has announced a policy of refusing to treat patients with a history of violence and abuse towards doctors except in emergency situations. Strike action in India, meanwhile, is likely to persist on a regular basis until robust steps are taken to guarantee doctors’ security.