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Doctors’ strike in Bengal entered the fifth day today (Saturday, June 15) as they refused to go to Secretariat, turning down West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s offer for talks, asking her to apologise first, while in Delhi, resident doctors at AIIMS called off their protest Saturday morning, threatening to launch an indefinite stir if the West Bengal government failed to meet the demands of medical practitioners in the state within 48 hours.

The doctors, protesting against the assault on two of their colleagues at NRS Medical College and Hospital, sought unconditional apology from Banerjee and set six conditions for the state government in order to withdraw their stir.

“We want unconditional apology of Mamata Banerjee for the manner in which she had addressed us at the SSKM Hospital yesterday. She should not have said what she had,” a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, Dr Arindam Dutta, said. Banerjee, who visited the state-run SSKM Hospital on Thursday amid slogans of “we want justice”, had contended that outsiders were creating disturbances in the medical colleges and the ongoing agitation is a conspiracy by the CPI(M) and the BJP.

The other five conditions include:

  1. Banerjee should visit the injured doctors and the CM’s office release statement condemning the attack.
  2. Immediate intervention by the CM in the matter; provide documentary evidence of judicial enquiry against police’s inactivity to protect doctors at the NRS Medical College and Hospital
  3. Documentary evidence and details of action taken against attackers
  4. Unconditional withdrawal of all “false cases and charges” imposed on junior doctors and medical students across West Bengal in the wake of their strike
  5. Improvement of infrastructure in healthcare facilities and posting of armed police personnel there.

After the first offer for a meeting was declined for Friday evening, Banerjee sent a fresh invite for Saturday evening, which was also rejected.

A joint forum of junior doctors called the offer a ploy to break the agitation.“We are not going to the secretariat upon the invitation of the Chief Minister for the meeting. She will have to come to the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital and deliver an unconditional apology for her comments made during her visit to the SSKM Hospital on Thursday,” Arindam Dutta, spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors, told PTI.

“If she can go to the SSKM she can also come to the NRS… or else this agitation will go on,” Dutta said.

The Chief Minister on Thursday said that the protesting doctors at Kolkata’s SSKM “abused” her when she visited the hospital. “They can oppose me, they can hurl abuses at me. I don’t mind because they are young. I only want them to resume work,” she said. She had also blamed “outsiders”, the CPI(M) and the BJP for the agitation.

On Friday, Banerjee, however, held a two-hour-long meeting with senior doctors, who were not part of the strike. Senior physician Sukumar Mukherjee, along with other senior doctors, who were not part of the agitation, met Banerjee on Friday. They held a two-hour-long meeting with the Chief Minister at the secretariat to find a solution to the ongoing problem.

The stir has found support from doctors across the country. Health services were hit across the country on Friday as doctors in different states expressed solidarity with doctors in West Bengal. Doctors in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Assam, Tripura, Goa and Chandigarh took out demonstrations.

In Delhi, resident doctors from 14 government hospitals will remain on strike Saturday, the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA INDIA) said.

Resident doctors of AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital, who boycotted work on Friday in protest against attacks on their colleagues in Kolkata, have now given a 48-hour ultimatum to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to meet the demands of the state’s agitating doctors, failing which they said they would go on indefinite strike.

Members of the AIIMS Resident Doctors Association (RDA), who resumed work on Saturday, said that if the demands of the West Bengal doctors are not met within 48 hours, they would be forced to resort to an indefinite strike.

“We condemn the hostile and unapologetic attitude of the government of West Bengal. Our protest at AIIMS, New Delhi continues until justice is meted out,” the AIIMS RDA said in a statement.

“According to the decision taken in a general body meeting held on June 14, RDA issues an ultimatum of 48 hours to the West Bengal government to meet the demands of the striking doctors there, failing which we would be forced to resort to an indefinite strike at AIIMS, New Delhi. We hope that our colleagues across the nation will join us in this hour of need,” the statement said.

Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also launched a three-day nationwide protest from Friday and called for a strike on June 17, Monday, with the withdrawal of non-essential health services, including OPDs.

A delegation of the IMA met Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan today over the ongoing protests. The country’s leading doctors’ body launched a four-day nationwide protest on Friday and called a strike on Monday. Calling the attack on doctors “barbaric”, the IMA said it will ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah to bring out a central law against such violence.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday blamed Ms Banerjee for failing to resolve the stalemate. “Instead of taking action against the attackers, she (Mamata Banerjee) gave the doctors an ultimatum, warned and threatened them because of which doctors of West Bengal and across the country are angry,” he said, and requested the doctors to end their strike.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a public interest litigation or PIL over the safety and security of doctors in government hospitals across the country. Hearing a similar case, the Calcutta High Court asked the West Bengal government to end the impasse and respond to the petition in seven days.

West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi last night said he called up the chief minister to discuss the issue but there was “no response” from her. Earlier, a team of BJP leaders met the governor and demanded Banerjee’s resignation.

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