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India

Open for talks with WB CM, will decide venue later: Agitating doctors

The impasse in West Bengal showed signs of easing as agitating doctors said Saturday night that they were open for talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to end their stir, but they would decide on the venue of the meeting later.

The impasse in West Bengal showed signs of easing as agitating doctors said Saturday night that they were open for talks with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to end their stir, but they would decide on the venue of the meeting later.

They had earlier in the evening turned down an invite for a closed-door meeting with Banerjee at the state secretariat and had instead asked her to visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital for an open discussion to resolve the impasse.

Late on Saturday night, the joint forum of junior doctors held a press conference their meeting.

"We are open for dialogue always. If the chief minister extends one hand we will extend 10 of ours... we are eagerly waiting to break the deadlock," the spokesperson said.

The agitating doctors said they would wait for their governing body to decide on the proposed venue for the meeting.

The agitating doctors had also turned down Banerjee's request saying there was no honest effort on her part to break the deadlock.

"We are eagerly waiting to start our duty, but from the chief minister's side there is no such honest initiative to find a solution (of the ongoing problem)," he had said earlier in the night.

The agitating junior doctors also rubbished her claims that a few of their colleagues visited her at the state secretariat.

Banerjee, during a press conference at the state secretariat, had urged the agitators to resume work and said her government has accepted all their demands.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an advisory seeking a report on the stir. But she reacted sharply to it and said such advisory should be "sent to states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat where several murders are reported since the last couple of years".

Bengal Governor K N Tripathi wrote to Banerjee advising her to take immediate steps to provide security to the medicos and find out a solution to the impasse.

Banerjee later said that she has spoken to the governor and apprised him about the steps taken by the state government to resolve the impasse.

She also said her government has not invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) even after five days of the strike by the junior doctors.

"We have the laws, but we do not want to use them... We are not going to take any stringent action against any of the agitating junior doctors and hamper their career," she told a news conference after the agitators did not turn up for a meeting at 5 pm.

The strike began on Monday night when two junior doctors of NRS hospital were injured in an attack by relatives of a patient, who died.

Banerjee said, on Friday, she "waited for the junior doctors for five hours. And today, I cancelled all my programmes for them. You must show some respect to the constitutional body".

On the mass resignation of the doctors across the state, she said it was not legally tenable.

"If the junior doctors think I am incapable, they can always talk to the governor or the chief secretary... or the commissioner of police," she said.

Earlier, Banerjee, while addressing the press at the state secretariat, left it midway, claiming that a few junior doctors have appeared there in order to meet her.

In its advisory, the MHA said it has received a number of representations from doctors, healthcare professionals and medical associations from different parts of the country for their safety and security in view of the strike in West Bengal.

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked states to consider enacting specific legislation for protecting doctors and medical professionals from any form of violence in the wake Bengal assault on junior doctors.

Patients in Delhi faced hardships for the second consecutive day as protest by doctors, in solidarity with their striking colleagues in Kolkata, spread to several government hospitals, which could not join a nationwide stir on June 14.

The opposition BJP, CPI-M and Congress in Bengal lashed out at Banerjee "for not being serious in resolving the impasses over doctor's strike" and asked her to resolve the crisis. 

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