7 Years Jail For Attacking Covid-19 Warriors: Does That Apply to These Cops Who Beat Up a Vizag Doctor?


7 Years Jail For Attacking Covid-19 Warriors: Does That Apply to These Cops Who Beat Up a Vizag Doctor?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It’s been nearly two months since the day we gathered at our balconies to pay homage to doctors across the country with furious rounds of applause. But not much seems to have changed with regard to the plight of healthcare professionals.

In between reports of some “Corona Warriors” being evicted from homes, and others complaining about a lack of PPEs, clips that went viral on social media over the weekend apparently showed a doctor bearing the brunt of police excesses in Andhra Pradesh.

Hands tied behind his back, videos circulated of a shirtless Dr Sudhakhar being dragged out of a car onto the streets in Visakhapatnam on Saturday, before he was bundled into a rickshaw and sent to the police station.

The police have defended this behaviour by alleging that the doctor, who is a Dalit man, was in an inebriated condition, and creating a nuisance by abusing the state government.

However, the fact that the anaesthesiologist was suspended earlier this month as well, for complaining about a lack of PPE in state hospitals, has caught the notice of journalists on social media, who condemned the “barbaric” police action.

A Telugu Desam Party leader, who said the doctor’s only mistake was to ask for N95 masks, called the treatment meted out to the doctor shocking.

The state police commissioner, however, claimed that there was more to the incident than the video let on. RK Meena told scroll.in that Dr Sudhakar had grabbed a mobile phone from a police officer and thrown it away. “The doctor is apparently suffering from some psychological problems,” he added. The constable seen in the video was later suspended as well.

But even considering the assumption that he was “mentally ill”, the contents of the video prompted some on social media to say that the story had assumed “dark proportions”.

The West Bengal Doctor’s Forum, too, took a stand on Twitter, saying it was “ashamed”, and “in pain and anger” over the “harassment and torture” of the former civil surgeon.

A couple of weeks ago, the Cabinet had approved an ordinance, which makes attacks on healthcare personnel, either in their residences or working premises, non-bailable offences, punishable by up to seven years in prison. The arrest of Dr Sudhakhar is now bound to raise questions about whether “The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance 2020”, applies to police officers as well.

As the country moves into its fourth phase of lockdown over the coronavirus, this incident, it seems, has reinforced the fact that we haven’t learnt the first rule of dealing with a pandemic — don’t assault the very people trying to save our lives.