The brutal assault on Dr. Seuj Kumar Senapati by a mob after the death of a COVID patient at a COVID Care Centre in Udali of Hojai district in Assam on Tuesday has sent shockwaves across the nation. A video of the incident circulating on social media showed the mob kicking and hitting the junior doctor on his head with medical equipment which depicts how heinous the crime was. Anguished by the horrific incident, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah seeking an effective and strong law “against healthcare violence.” Doctors and sympathizers all over the state and country demanded strict action against the culprits. Meanwhile, Assam Police has arrested 24 people in connection to the assault and Assam CM Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma promised that he was personally monitoring the investigation and justice will be served.
24 culprits involved in this barbaric attack have been arrested and the chargesheet will be filed at the earliest.
I am personally monitoring this investigation and I promise that justice will be served. https://t.co/CVgRaEW0di
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) June 2, 2021
The assault on Dr. Senapati is one of the many instances of never-ending violence against healthcare workers in Assam. In fact assault on healthcare workers has become so common in Assam that in the last four days, two other cases of violence against healthcare workers were also reported in the state.
The first incident was reported on May 31 when a mob of 150 people attacked the bungalow of Doctor Jiten Borgohain in the Romai tea estate of Dibrugarh. The police and CRPF personnel had to be called in to control the situation.
Meanwhile, the second one was reported a day after the heinous attack on Dr. Senapati when a health worker was obstructed from work and threatened by a mob while they were discharging their duty in the Cachar district.
And that’s not just it. In recent years, there were several incidents of violence against doctors inside and outside the government as well private hospitals.
On May 6, 2019, Probin Chandra Thakur, the medical officer of Dikom Tea Estate, had suffered broken bones and fractured ribs after he was brutally assaulted by a group of garden workers following the death of a woman worker during a severe thunderstorm. Police had to rush to the spot for controlling the situation.
In a barbaric incident, 73 year Deben Dutta, a senior resident doctor, was brutally killed by the workers of Teok tea estate in Assam’s Jorhat district on August 31, 2019. The lynching of the doctor created uproar across the state leading to demands for justice and security arrangements for doctors in tea estates.
Meanwhile, a couple of months later in October 2019, Dr. Kamal Jal, a physician from Sirajuli Model Hospital in Sonitpur district, and his wife Jharna Rani Karan Jal were attacked by a group of local youths near Belsiri Tea Estate of Dhekiajuli when they were returning home in their personal car from Dussehra celebrations. While Dr. Jal was critically injured with one of his fingers broken, his wife, Jharna, also received minor injuries.
Moving forward to March 17, 2020, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sidharth Krishna Deka, the medical officer on duty at Dumunichowki State Dispensary in the Darrang district was physically assaulted. After an altercation, a local youth Shah Alam, caught hold of the doctor by the neck and tore his shirt apart. This was followed by two other attacks on the doctor allegedly first by one employee of the deputy commissioner’s office establishment and then again by a group of miscreants.
Months later on September 3, 2020, a doctor on duty at Maligaon Railway Hospital, Dr. Manish Sing was assaulted by a Railway employees’ union leader. Munin Saikia, general secretary of N F Railway Employees’ Union had visited the doctor and for some unknown reason, he and his followers physically and mentally assaulted the doctor in his chamber.
Just two days later on September 5, 2020, a homeopathic practitioner, Rahul Basumatary, attached to the JK memorial Homeopathic Hospital was found murdered in his apartment in the Jorhat district of the state. The 26-year-old doctor was found dead lying in the pool of blood at his rented house. The murder had sparked massive outrage at his hometown Udalguri in lower Assam.
A week later, Registrar of Medicine of the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital (JMCH), Dr. Deepjyoti Saikia, was thrashed by an attendant in the COVID-19 ICU of the hospital. Jorhat Police arrested two youths in this regard.
While these are just a few instances of violence against healthcare workers in Assam, there are hundreds of such incidents in the state which have gone unreported. A study by the Indian Medical Association states that nearly 50 percent of doctors have faced some sort of abuse at some point in their lives.
Moreover, the IMA from time to time has demanded the state as well the central governments to ensure the safety of the healthcare workers. Even though the states and the central governments have introduced a number of laws for punishing the offenders of violence on healthcare workers, the government as of now has not adopted any provision to ensure a safe and peaceful working environment for these professionals. Thus, a situation like this makes one wonder- Instead of punishing the criminals; cannot the government adopt steps to stop the crime at the first place?