As many as 25 patients have allegedly died in 72 hours since Saturday due to lack of medical attention at the Lala Lajpat Rai (LLR) Hospital in Kanpur, where a strike by junior doctors has spread across the rest of Uttar Pradesh.
The strike began following a police lathicharge on resident doctors and students of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial (GSVM) Medical College — near LLR Hospital — after they clashed with Samajwadi Party MLA Irfan Solanki on February 28.
Janki Prasad of Farrukhabad lost his son, Bhoo Dev, at LLR Hospital on March 1 and holds the doctor’s stir responsible. “My son was suffering from liver infection. I kept running from one place to another for doctors. They refused to have a look at him. He died on the stretcher.”
Most of the patients have left the LLR Hospital and only 157 beds out of 1,200 are presently occupied.
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Thousands of junior doctors across the seven medical colleges of UP are on the strike, which has the support of senior doctors — government, private — and even faculty members. Nurses and class four employees too are part of the agitation that entered the fourth day on Tuesday.
The agitating doctors are demanding action against Sisamau MLA Solanki and Kanpur’s senior superintendent of police Yashasvi Yadav.
The standoff had intensified after the police arrested 24 GSVM Medical College students following the clash.
The students were granted bail on Monday evening, but they refused to leave jail.
"Nothing short of SSP Yashasvi Yadav's suspension and arrest of SP MLA Irfan Solanki is acceptable," said Arti Lal Chandani, president of Indian Medical Association, Kanpur.
The agitating junior doctors say they will not relent unless the 24 students are released unconditionally and they get an apology for police excesses.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has ordered an inquiry into the violence. According to reports, he has indicated that charges will not be pressed against the 24 students.
"I have asked for the CCTV footage to be examined properly and punishment to the guilty. Doctors should return to work in public interest. Nothing is more important than life of a common man,” the CM said in Lucknow.
Much of the doctors’ ire is directed at Solanki, whom they blame for instigating the police to storm the GSVM campus and lathicharge students in the hostel.
"Students were beaten up savagely. They were dragged out from hostels and lined up. Lathis rained on them; their laptops, cellphones were all thrown away," said Dr Ambrish Gupta of GSVM Medical College.
Solanki, however, says medical students got into a fight with him and are at fault. The MLA said he was buying medicines near the LLR hospital when a medico’s car knocked down an elderly woman.
According to Solanki, he intervened after an ugly spat broke out between the woman and the car’s occupant.
“What wrong did I do? Is saving an elderly woman a crime? The doctors called 500-600 others to attack me, damage my vehicles beyond repair," said Solanki, who was injured in the attack. "You don't expect doctors to behave like criminals."
The police defended the action against the students, saying the use of force was allowed only after 30 personnel were injured in brickbatting and firing by the students.
"We found pistols, petrol bombs, rods, knives from the hostels. If we hadn’t acted, the students would have set a petrol pump on fire. We have the CCTV footage to show acts unbecoming of medical students,” said SSP Yadav, who was last week given a prize by the state for bringing down Kanpur’s crime by 51%.
Kanpur district magistrate Roshan Jacob said the continuance of strike revealed it was motivated. "We took special measures to make sure the students got bail and their future was not spoiled even when their behavior was not justified."
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Junior doctors staging a dharna in Allahabad in protest against alleged police atrocity on their counterparts in Kanpur. (PTI Photo)