Doctors in Assam on Tuesday went on a 24-hour strike to protest against the assault on a doctor of a tea estate by a mob of around 250 to 300 people last week, PTI reported.

Deben Dutta was beaten to death by workers on Saturday in Jorhat district. The workers blamed Dutta for not being present at the hospital when Majhi, a 33-year-old worker, was admitted in a critical condition around noon at the hospital in Teok Tea Estate on Saturday. By the time the doctor returned around 3.30 pm, Majhi had died. Angry workers then beat Dutta up and locked him in a room. Police said the mob had hit Dutta and even cut him with glass shards.

Meanwhile, the Assam Police has so far detained 26 people in connection with the doctor’s killing. Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Deepak Kedia visited the tea estate to take stock of the situation.

The state unit of the Indian Medical Association and the Assam Medical Service Association called for withdrawal of medical services from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning as a mark of protest.

However, emergency services in hospitals continued to function. Doctors at government and private hospitals as well as consultation chambers stayed away from work from 6 am.

Health department officials said doctors and junior medical practitioners in six government medical college hospitals and civil hospitals, family referral units and primary health centres demanded security at the workplace.

The IMA asked the government to ensure exemplary punishment to the accused and beef up security measures like installing surveillance cameras in all health establishments including those in tea gardens.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare took note of the incidents and proposed a new legislation to address the matter of violence faced by healthcare professionals and the damage to property of clinical establishments during such attacks, IANS reported on Tuesday.

“It has been decided to solicit objections and suggestions from the public with regard to said draft legislation before the finalisation of the draft Bill,” the ministry said.

In a statement, the state unit of the association had said that the attack on Dutta had crossed “all tolerable limits”.

The West Bengal Doctors Forum had also condemned the killing of the doctor. “Dr Dutta was a 75-year-old physician who had involved himself in the service of his community even after retirement,” it said in a statement. “The people he served thanked him by murdering him in front of police.”

The statement said that violence in healthcare has become a “way of life” for medical practitioners in India.

In June, over 100 doctors working at state-run hospitals in West Bengal resigned amid country-wide protests against the assault on two interns at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. The doctors had been seriously wounded in the mob attack, which took place after a patient died the previous day. The matter was resolved only when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee agreed to the doctors’ demands for security and a safe working environment, among others.

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