Kolkata: When there is human suffering, can politics be far behind? No. The present crisis in West Bengal’s public healthcare system is a blatant example. But first things first:
Government doctors have ceased work en masse across Bengal, crippling medical services to the majority of poor who cannot afford the expensive treatment in private hospitals. In essence, the poor in Bengal are being robbed of the basic human need and right—Health. And the state administration seems flabbergasted at the spiralling chaos.
But then the doctors’ agitation is justified as well. They are protesting against the assault on junior doctors by the relatives and neighbours of a deceased patient at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. Two of the doctors were admitted to ICU with critical injuries. The agitators are rightly demanding stern punishment for the perpetrators and heightened security for doctors and other staff on hospital premises.
Meanwhile, medical associations and doctors’ bodies in the state and other places, including Odisha, have expressed solidarity for the doctors’ cause.
#Mamata In A Muddle
It didn’t help matters that the deceased patient and the perpetrators of the violence belonged to a particular community, which is perceived as a vote bank for the ruling Trinamool. And this is a big dilemma for Mamata and her party. If she takes action, she will antagonise a section of her loyal voters. If she doesn’t, the doctors won’t end their agitation.
Mamata’s failure to find an amicable solution till now has added fuel to Bengal’s polarised politics at present. The CM has been accused of appeasement politics, thereby alienating a major section of Bengal’s population. This sense of dissatisfaction has helped the BJP’s cause in increasing its vote share in the state. The saffron party won 18 of the 42 MP seats in the recent Lok Sabha polls, up from the mere two seats in the 2014 polls. This has cost the ruling Trinamool dear. Its tally of 34 LS seats in 2014 has dipped to 23 this year. And the agitation by the doctors has only added to the Trinamool’s discomfort.
#BJP Cashes In
Mamata’s friend-turned-foe Mukul Roy, now a senior BJP leader in Bengal, fired the first political salvo. He alleged that people of “a particular community” were behind the trouble. Mukul told the media: “Trouble broke out at NRS over the death of a patient from a particular community. Trinamool men led the rampage inside the hospital. They beat up a doctor who is now in coma. The CM could not get the time to pay a visit to the hospital. Is she trying to shield a particular community?”
The BJP leader’s statement has triggered protests, including from the agitating doctors. “We will not let any party play politics and gain mileage out of this issue. The assailants are hooligans and they belong to no religion or community. How can someone try to communalise the issue,” a protester told reporters.
On her part, Mamata has accused BJP of trying to score political brownie points. Plus, she alleged that the agitators were “outsiders” supported by the saffron party. “There is an attempt to create a communal divide, but there can be no Hindu-Muslim divide among doctors. The junior doctors who are protesting are outsiders,” the CM said on Thursday. “All of you voted for BJP this time. Now you understand who you have voted for,” she added, in a reference to the recent Lok Sabha polls.
And while BJP and Trinamool indulge in petty politics, Bengal’s healthcare gasps for breath. And thousands and thousands of poor patients across the state can only hope and pray for a “cure” to the crisis and ultimately their ailments. Que sera sera.