Doctors on strike in West Bengal on Saturday said they were open to holding talks with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but added that they would decide on the venue of the meeting later, PTI reported.
“We are open for dialogue always,” a spokesperson of a joint forum of junior doctors said at a press conference in Kolkata late on Saturday. “If the chief minister extends one hand we will extend 10 of ours...we are eagerly waiting to break the deadlock.” The doctors said they will wait for the governing body to decide on the proposed venue of the meeting.
Doctors had earlier on Saturday turned down Banerjee’s offer of talks behind closed doors, terming it an eyewash. The doctors had said they will continue to protest because there was “no honest initiative” by the chief minister.
“We doubt the objectivity and safety of talks with a handful of our representatives behind closed doors,” a joint statement by protesting doctors read, according to the Hindustan Times. “We want the chief minister to come to NRS [Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata] and hold talks with all of us.”
Protests had broken out on Tuesday after a mob attacked two interns at the hospital, following the death of a patient. Doctors have continued their protest for the last five days. The protest against the assault on doctors has spread to other parts of the country.
On Thursday and Friday, Banerjee had claimed that outsiders were responsible for the protests. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote to the chief minister asking her to personally intervene to resolve the situation.
On Saturday, Banerjee softened her stand, saying police action would not be taken against doctors even though objectionable remarks had been made about her. She pointed out that “health services cannot continue like this”. Banerjee said the government does not want to implement the Essential Services Maintenance Act, or ESMA, in the state. Banerjee said all demands of the doctors have been accepted.
Vardhan on Saturday wrote to chief ministers of all states and Union territories, urging them to ensure “strict action against any person who assaults” doctors. The Centre also asked the West Bengal government to submit a report on the situation in the state.