COVID WARRIORS – VIOLENCE THEY HAVE BEEN FACING AND A RAY OF HOPE

Dr. Shivani Vakilwala

Medical Officer

COVID warrior, however fancy the word may seem, it is scarier than what one may think. During these times of the Covid 19 Pandemic the Doctors are fighting day in and day out against the virus to save the lives of millions, not thinking of their own lives. But is it really worth all of it?

So many doctors have been ostracized from their own societies because people fear that letting them stay in the same society will put their lives in danger. Not once do they think of these warriors who not only are working for odd hours but also are unable to meet their loved ones or stay safely at home.

You think that is all these warriors are facing? Then you are mistaken, it could not get worse.

In April 2020 stones were pelted at an ambulance carrying carrying a team of medical personnel and police, which had gone to escort family members of a person who died of Covid-19 in Moradabad.

Another incident took place in Indore where a team of doctors were on their mission of screening of contacts and a crazy mob pelted stones on them and the entire team sustained injuries.

Image source : https://www.republicworld.com/india-news/law-and-order/stones-pelted-at-ambulance-in-ups-moradabad.html

This image only depicts the state of the ambulance, imagine being in this situation and the extent of injuries the doctors incurred. 

On April 19th 2020 another group of healthcare officials that had gone to quarantine secondary contacts of coronavirus patients were attacked in Padayaranapura area of Bangalore and 120 people were taken into custody.

Another gut wrenching incident that took place in Chennai where a mob protested the burial of a doctor who died of COVID 19. When the body was taken to the cemetery, the mob pelted stones and attacked the ambulance, forcing the doctor’s colleagues to flee. They later came back and had to dig the grave themselves to bury the doctor under police protection.

Imagine spending long hours in those PPE in humid conditions effortlessly without any breaks and doing field work so as to contain the spread of the virus, resulting in facing a crazy mob ready to pelt stones , run behind you and attacking you. The thought itself is spine chilling!

Image source : https://www.thequint.com/news/india/covid-coronavirus-doctors-want-protection-not-one-day-appreciation-army-event

Nothing but mitigation was expected, mitigation of risks by providing doctors security and also correct protective equipment.

All these events caused great concern to Dr Banait who decided to move the Supreme Court against the Central government. The main aim of his petition was to provide police protection to health workers; jail term for assault on frontline staff and doctors.

On April 1, the SC heard the matter and issued notices to the Central Government. On April 8, directions were passed for police protection of healthcare workers and necessary actions against any person inflicting violence on medical staff. 

Not only did it cause fear amongst the doctors working in the frontline but also were their families worried and several doctors were asked by their families to quit their work as they feared their safety.

A series of such events lead to the silent protests of doctors where the Indian Medical Association asked the doctors and hospitals across the country to light candles with white coat “White Alert” against these attacks and demanded the centre to bring a law on an urgent basis. 

On 22nd  April the SC order also amended the the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 as the

 Epidemic Diseases(Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, which stated the following :

  1. Attacks on doctors and health care workers is now a cognisable and non – bailable offence.
  1. The ordinance awards the following punishments :

Normal cases –   Jail term : 3 months to 5 years.

                              Fine : Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakhs.

Serious cases –  Jail term : 6 months to 7 years.

                             Fine : Rs 1 lakh to Rs 7 lakh.

  1. In case of any damage to vehicles and clinics of healthcare workers, a fine which is double the market rate of the damaged property will be charged.

The ordinance also stipulates a period of 30 days under which the investigation on attack against the healthcare workers should be completed and the verdict should be delivered within one year.

This ordinance came as a relief to the doctors.

Image source : https://thelogicalindian.com/good-to-know/epidemic-diseases-amendment-ordinance-20878

Social stigmas and mindless violence of the mobs still exists in our society. If we do not protect the front liners how will they willingly save lives putting their own lives at stake. We should all stand up against the violence against health care workers and change would be inevitable. 

Image source : medicaldialogues.in

Resources :

  1. https://www.timesnownews.com/
  1. https://www.hindustantimes.com/mumbai-news/covid-warrior-maharashtra-doctor-takes-the-fight-to-protect-healthcare-workers-to-supreme-court/story-S8uDZrkMEUBaL8HAOo3VwM.html
  1. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/central-govt-ordinance-to-protect-medical-staff-covid19-coronavirus-1669784-2020-04-22
  1. https://thelogicalindian.com/news/chennai-mob-protests-burial-covid-19-doctor-20704

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