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Violence against healthcare workers in Karnataka crosshairs

Indian Doctor standing with stethoscope on India flag background. National healthcare system concept, medical theme.The Karnataka state government intends to enact legislation penalising those who commit violence against healthcare workers. 

The state cabinet made the decision earlier this week against a backdrop of reports of healthcare workers countrywide being subjected to harassment, abuse, and physical attacks amidst the coronavirus pandemic and the national lockdown. In one highly-publicised incident, healthcare workers were pelted with stones whilst attending to individuals suspected to be infected with the coronavirus in Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad district. The incident left members of the medical team injured.

Precipitating the decision by the Karnataka state government to take stricter action on violence against healthcare workers in the state was an attack on officials in Padarayanapura, located in the state capital Bengaluru. 59 arrests have been made because of the episode, which saw vandalism of state-owned property and assaults on police, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP – the administrative body of the Greater Bangalore Metropolitan Area) and accredited social health activists (ASHAs). They were dispatched to quarantine 58 individuals suspected of contracting the coronavirus. Those arrested have been charged with various violations of the Indian Penal Code, including attempted murder. 

“The Police commissioner has been told to provide full security to ASHA workers and other officials,” commented Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa on Twitter. “No attack on COVID-19 warriors will be tolerated.” COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus, or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). 

Deputy Chief Minister Dr C. N. Ashwath Narayan said “we have taken this very seriously and will not tolerate any such activity obstructing the duty of health, BBMP and Police personnel during the time of medical emergency.” 

The legislation addressing violence against healthcare workers is currently being drafted and will be issued as an ordinance this week. Its objective is to protect healthcare workers and more stringently punish violators. 

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