The Indian Medical Association wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, calling for a central law to curb violence against health professionals and asked him to introduce an ordinance for it, PTI reported. The association’s letter came in the wake of protests in Assam against the mob lynching of a doctor in a tea estate last week.

The association, which is the largest body of doctors and medical students in the country, told Modi that it was impossible to provide treatment amid fear and violence. They also requested the prime minister to bring up the matter in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme.

The doctor, Deben Dutta, was beaten to death by workers on Saturday in Jorhat district. The mob 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. 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.

The World Medical Association – an international body of physicians – also supported its Indian counterpart and wrote to Modi and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan raising concern over the increasing episodes of violence against health professionals in the country.

Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association threatened with a nationwide indefinite protest where doctors would stop working if the Centre failed to swiftly enact a law to control rising violence against them. The association also asked Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal to issue a statement within 24 hours on Dutta’s assault.

“Doctors continue to be attacked...enough is enough,” PTI quoted the association’s president Dr Santanu Sen as saying. “We have reached the end point, we are not going to let this go. If a Central act is not enacted and the chief minister’s statement does not come within 24 hours, then the government and the entire country have to remain prepared for the consequences.” Sen also said that they had written to Home Minister Amit Shah and Sonowal as well.

A draft Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, has been drawn up by the health ministry. It aims to punish those who attack on-duty healthcare professionals with imprisonment for up to 10 years or a penalty of Rs 10 lakh. The draft was put out in the public domain on September 2 for feedback.

Doctors in Assam on Tuesday went on a 24-hour strike to protest against the assault on Dutta. However, emergency services in hospitals continued to function. The Assam Police has so far detained 26 people in connection with the doctor’s killing.

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 finally resolved after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee agreed to provide a safe work environment to the doctors.

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