File photo of Deven Dutta

Following the death of an on-duty tea garden doctor due to assault by tea garden workers in Assam recently, the Tea Association of India (TAI) has urged the state government for stringent acts to deal with violence against doctors and medical staff.

It has also urged for integration/ merger of tea garden hospitals with government ones, under various healthcare schemes of the Central and the state governments, PK Bhattacharjee, secretary-general, TAI, said in a press statement on September 7.

In a written appeal to the state health minister, the TAI has requested him to pursue promulgation of a central act with the central government on an urgent basis.

The association urged Assam government to explore the possibility to amend the criminal code of procedure to include attacks on medical staff and hospitals within the ambit of the medical protection act [The Assam Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage To Property) Act, 2011].

It is also urged the state government devise a standing operational procedure (SoP) so that as soon as information of such assault occur, a rapid response system is triggered to arrest the situation from deterioration.

The TAI claimed that though the Assam Medical Protection Act was enacted in 2011, it has not proved to be a deterrent to possible assailants because of various factors.

The association expressed optimism that the state government would do all that is necessary to arrest these deviant trends amongst tea garden workers and the information regarding institution of fast track court is also as pointer in the right direction.

Further, with expansion of health services launched by the state government in tune with the national flagship missions of health by the central government, the TAI also mooted the integration/merger of the garden hospitals within governmental working parameters.

The medical officer of Teok tea estate in Assam, Deven Dutta, was attacked by tea garden workers in the tea garden hospital on August 31 last, following the death of a patient, and Dutta had succumbed to the injuries later.

The incident had led to widespread protests and condemnation, with doctors across the state going on a 24-hour strike. At least six medical officers of different tea gardens had also resigned following the incident, which is now being tried in a fast track court.

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