Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday again appealed to the agitating junior doctors in the state to end their strike, assuring them that her government would not invoke ESMA (Essential Services Maintenance Act) against them.
She said the state government is working to find a "peaceful solution" to the problem, and that it is ready to consider demands put forward by the doctors for their security inside hospitals.
"I have already appealed to everyone related to the medical fraternity to end the impasse for the sake of the ailing patients. I would again appeal to the junior doctors to end the agitation. We are always open to discussion," Banerjee said at the state secretariat, Nabanna.
"Yesterday (Friday) I had waited for taks with the junior doctors for nearly five hours, but they did not arrive. They told senior doctors that they would come today. So I along with my team of administrators waited for them. But they have not come today either. I would appeal everyone to join the work," she said.
Citing examples of several states such as Delhi, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu which had invoked ESMA to break the doctors' movement, Banerjee promised her government would not initiate any such administrative steps.
"So many states already used this Act because the profession of doctors is considered noble. Our government, too, has the provision. But we want to deal with the issue in a humanitarian and democratic way. So, we have neither invoked ESMA nor cancelled anybody's registration, or arrested anybody," she said.
When asked whether she would go to the NRS Medical College and Hospital, the epicentre of the doctor's movement, as per the demand of the agitators, Banerjee refused to answer.
"I will not tell you whether I will go somewhere or not. I think the state secretariat is the best place to hold a meeting with government officials in a democratic manner. I had gone to SSKM Hospital that day and waited for three hours, but no one came to talk to me," she said.
"One should respect institutions... when the government is calling them to hold a discussion, they continue to refuse... I wanted to talk to them over phone after the incident, but they refused to talk. Senior government officials also went to talk and asked them to come, but they refused," she alleged, adding all actions have been taken by the state administration.
Banerjee said a few "outsiders" with vested interest are trying to provoke the junior doctors and urged them not to fall in that trap.
"Some outsiders are trying to provoke. They are making one-sided comments. We have accepted all their demands and have taken all the necessary action. Please join the work because the patients are suffering. A number of children have died in the last few days," she added.
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