Dr KK Aggarwal
National President IMA
Violence against doctors is occurring with increasing frequency in India. Enactment of a stringent central act against violence making violence against doctors a non-bailable offense punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment on the lines of abatement of a murder is one of our major demands. This was also a recommendation of the inter-ministerial committee formed more than two years back, which is yet to be implemented.
The perpetrators of such violent attacks against doctors are not only relatives/friends of the patients, but unfortunately VVIPs too, such as MPs, who are representatives of people and therefore also representatives of their concerns and problems in the Parliament.
Earlier this year, Mr Anant Kumar Hegde, a member of parliament from Karnataka allegedly assaulted hospital staff including doctors at a private hospital in Sirsi, Karnataka over an alleged delay in treating his mother. This incident was caught in the CCTV, on the basis of which, the Sirsi police registered a suo motu case against the MP. But, neither the CCTV footage has not been put on FIR record nor have statements of doctors have been recorded. The local Sirsi Association of Medical Consultants at Sirsi also filed a complaint in the local court asking for a fair and free trial and requested the court to direct the police to record the evidences.
In his speech on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat in June this year, the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had addressed the issue of violence against doctors. “If a patient dies due to an unsuccessful operation, relatives burn down hospitals and beat up doctors. An accident is an accident. When people die or are injured in accidents, a group of people come together and burn vehicles,” he said (Indian Express, June 30, 2017).
He had also taken a clear stand against violence, when he had said, “No person in this nation has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country.”
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) is not against accountability and also holds the view that no one can be allowed to take law in their hands.
But, in an unfortunate and disturbing turn of events, instead of taking any action against him or conducting a fair inquiry into the incident, Mr Anant Kumar Hegde has been ‘rewarded’ with a position in the Union cabinet in the recent cabinet reshuffle on Sunday.
Vedas teach us to seek forgiveness. The medical fraternity was hopeful that after taking over as a minister, Mr Anant Kumar Hegde would first apologize for his misdeeds to the medical profession. But there has been no sign of repentance.
Appointing a tainted person as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has sent a wrong message to the society. Is indulging in violence and not apologising the ‘new skill’ to be taught to entrepreneurs?
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, IMA has appealed for his intervention in this regard – to make appropriate revision in his decision and also to expedite and get the incident investigated in a fair manner.
Becoming a doctor is not easy. Years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice make a doctor. And, no doctor practices medicine to intentionally harm a patient.
Inducting Mr Anant Kumar Hegde in the Cabinet is disheartening. It has also distressed us all.
‘Rewarding’ his conduct, will only ‘encourage’ others to follow suit.