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Karnataka doctors’ strike withdrawn

Minto Eye Hospital in Bengaluru. Image credit: Shezzyboy96 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
The Karnataka doctors’ strike ended at the close of the week with assurances of security in the workplace, putting an end to a week-long agitation by medicos at Minto Hospital and others affiliated with the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI).

As with past stirs by doctors in India, the Karnataka doctors’ strike was precipitated by an episode of violence against one of their colleagues. According to reports, members of the pro-Kannada organisation Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) “manhandled” two resident doctors at Minto Hospital after they entered to demand compensation for patients of a cataract treatment camp who were allegedly left blind due to negligence. When one of the doctors did not converse in Kannada, they were assaulted as was another who was videotaping the incident. 

Going into more detail, The News Minute reports that

“A mob of around thirty people stormed into the outpatient clinic of the Minto Eye Hospital…surrounded a female postgraduate student doctor who was on duty and began asking her about an earlier incident which took place in July. When she replied in English, the agitated group attacked her, asking why she was not speaking in Kannada.”

The News Minute further reports that around thirty KRV members have been taken into custody for questioning in connection with the assault, although no arrests have been made. According to United News of India, the members in question surrendered to police. 

“Our security concerns have been addressed when it comes to the [BMCRI] campus,” Dr Dayanandan, secretary of the Resident Doctors Association (RDA), explained to The Quint. “We have been promised the deployment of additional police personnel on campus, as of now there are only 2 cops stationed here, this will be enhanced. Authorities have also promised to implement all the relevant sections of the Hospitals Act, 2009.” 

The BMCRI doctors were joined in their agitation on Friday by other medical practitioners, affecting services in nursing homes and outpatient departments after the Indian Medical Association (IMA) called a 24-hour strike in solidarity with their colleagues. Acknowledging the surrender of KRV members allegedly implicated in the assault, Dr Dhanpal N. said “the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike has indicated that it has relented and its members have decided to surrender before the police but we don’t want it to be a mere ritual or an eyewash. We want a proper assurance from the outfit and the administration.” 

Dhanpal N. said that around 25,000 medicos across Karnataka would support the strike. Karnataka IMA president Dr Annadani Meti said that the strike would run from 6 a.m. on Friday to 6 a.m. on Saturday. However, emergency cases would be attended to. 

According to the IMA, 75 percent of Indian doctors have been the subject of harassment, intimidation and/or assault whilst on duty. This has triggered multiple instances of strike action, such as in West Bengal earlier this year – a strike which swiftly spilled over into a national movement. 

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