Centre brings in ordinance to curb attacks on Health Care Workers

The Need for the ordinance

In view of the recent attacks on doctors and other health care staff, who are fighting on the frontline and are the sole weapon of the government to stop the COVID-19 menace, an ordinance has been promulgated. Doctors had lately been asked to vacate their rented premises after being seen as COVID carriers by their neighbors. The medical fraternity was recently been attacked on in Indore when a team went to collect samples from an affected area. In another incident, doctors and police were attacked in Meerut.  Many such incidents had sprung recently across various parts of the country.

Role of IMA and other organizations

Indian Medical Association headquarters had, in a statement, proposed for a White Alert and Black day to be observed on 22nd April and 23rd April respectively. It took note of the recent brutal attacks on the medical fraternity and the unfair treatment meted out to them by society. It then urged all the Under Graduate medical students as well as doctors to light up a candle at 9  pm on 22nd April and post photos on social media platforms as part of the White Alert protest. It was just meant to be a warning. If the government failed to enact a law even after White Alert, a Black day was then proposed to be observed on 23rd April. On the Black day, doctors were asked to wear black and post their views on social media. However, according to ANI, the honorable Home Minister Shri Amit Shah and honorable Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan had video conferencing with the eminent doctors of IMA.

Through the video conference, they assured IMA of immediate action. They also told IMA to withdraw the symbolic protest(White alert and Black Day) as it would send a wrong message in the society. According to them, at a time when the nation stands in solidarity, such a protest could hamper the united stand against COVID-19. So, the IMA rescinded the protests on account of the assurance by the government.

Statement by Shri Prakash Javadekar

In a statement today, Shri Prakash Javadekar, currently serving as the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Minister of Information and Broadcasting, said-

“Today, the Cabinet met under the chairmanship of Honorable PM Shri Narendra Modi and approved the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 in the light of the pandemic situation of COVID-19.””

“This actually protects the whole health fraternity including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activists) workers.”

The ordinance will officially come into force after the President signs on it

The ordinance

The ordinance proposed the following points

  • Under the ordinance, attack on doctors will become a cognizable and non-bailable criminal offense.
  • Any investigation regarding the attack on the medical fraternity will be over within 30 days.
  • The decision of the case will be delivered within 1 year.
  • There would be a punishment of 3 months to 5 years and fine ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,00,000.
  • In severe cases where grievous injuries are involved, there would be stringent punishment of 6 months to 7 years and a fine ranging from Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 5,00,000.
  • Any damage to the property of medical staff such as clinics and hospitals would attract a fine which is twice the market value of the damage caused.

The original act

The Epidemic diseases Act of 1897 is a 123 years old law that was enacted to tackle the  Bubonic plague in Mumbai. The Act gives special powers that are required for the containment of epidemics. This act was earlier used in India to combat diseases such as dengue, malaria, and cholera.

© The Eastern Herald
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Himanshu Jindal
A medical student at GSVM Medical College in Kanpur, India. Contributor at The Eastern Herald.