The Indian government has passed an ordinance to end violence against health workers that stipulates imprisonment from six months to seven years in jail if a person is found guilty.
The ordinance, which is a temporary law that is promulgated when Parliament is not in session, further proposes that investigations shall be completed in 30 days and states that no bail shall be granted to those who attack medical staff. Compensation shall also be provided for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss of property.
#Cabinet approves promulgation of Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 making such acts of violence as cognizable and non-bailable offences and to provide compensation for injury to healthcare service personnel or for causing damage or loss to the property pic.twitter.com/bzB0VMVVUs— PIB India #StayHome #StaySafe (@PIB_India) April 22, 2020
In response, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has withdrawn its call for a two-day protest after federal Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan assured doctors of help and security from attacks that are being carried out on them amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The medical body, which was supposed to observe a so-called black day on 23 April, has demanded that the government formulate a law urgently to protect medical professionals.
A statement issued by IMA on Wednesday said, "Considering the immediate high-level response by government and solid assurance given by the Home Minister himself, it has been decided that the White Alert protest of 22nd and Black Day of 23rd stands withdrawn to maintain the unity and integrity of our country".
In a video conference, Shah assured doctors that the government is firm in its support of them and committed to their safety. Shah also took to Twitter and said that the safety and dignity of Indian doctors at their workplace is non-negotiable.
Safety and dignity of our doctors at their work place is non-negotiable. It is our collective responsibility to ensure conducive atmosphere for them at all times.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) April 22, 2020
I have assured doctors that Modi govt is committed to their cause and appealed to reconsider their proposed protest. pic.twitter.com/AJcxghGRkx
Health Minister @drharshvardhan and I interacted with doctors & representatives of IMA through video conferencing.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) April 22, 2020
The way our doctors are performing their duties in these testing times is exceptional. I urge every Indian to cooperate with doctors in this fight against COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/DCHONTWNs3
Reports about a slew of attacks on healthcare workers have surfaced from states across country such as Madhya Pradesh and Telangana. These cases also include attacks carried out by family members who lost a loved one to the viral infection. The lack of awareness and public apathy is also being borne by paramedic teams that are out in the field to carry out screening and testing among locals.
This comes in sharp contrast to Indian Prime Minister Modi's call for Indians to show gratitude to frontline workers for showing exemplary courage during this crisis. The whole nation had participated in an event when he asked people to light lamps and clang plates as a symbol of praise for them.
According to the latest figures, there are 19,984 COVID-19 cases in India with 1,383 new infections over the last 24 hours. The death toll in the country has reached 640.