The Doctors and Medical Workers Whom India Clapped for a Week Ago Are Now Under Attack


The Doctors and Medical Workers Whom India Clapped for a Week Ago Are Now Under Attack

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

With 50 deaths and 1,965 positive coronavirus cases, India faces an uphill task to contain the coronavirus pandemic. And the attitude of some of our citizens is making the job even more difficult for governments and healthcare professionals. Apart from violating lockdown guidelines and breaking social-distancing norms, the worst reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak has come from those who turn their anger on the doctors and medical workers, the very same professionals who are already risking their personal safety in the fight against the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, April 1, this combative attitude reached a peak in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore, where locals turned on health workers who had arrived to conduct screening for coronavirus on residents.

This shocking video shows how health staff (wearing blue hazmat suits) had to flee down a narrow street to avoid the wrath of an angry mob, which was throwing stones and chasing them in a fury. Ignorance is on full display, as the assaulters fail to realise that lynching doctors is not going to protect them from the coronavirus.

While shocking, this is not even the only video from Indore. Another, shot at street level, captures the hostile atmosphere on the ground as a mob hurls stones at medical workers.

This is a drastic change in the general attitude toward healthcare professionals, which on March 22 was one of demonstrative respect and affection, as the public indulged PM Narendra Modi’s request to bang utensils and clap from their balconies in appreciation of those on the frontlines of the Covid-19 battle. But the truth is that the attack in MP is more in line with the way the public treats doctors when they aren’t asked to show appreciation by the PM. Doctors at government hospitals are often faced with the threat of physical harm from patients’ relatives. And now, with the global coronavirus pandemic intensifying, that antagonistic relationship is only getting worse.

The case of the attendees of the religious gathering at Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz brought to light what doctors have to put up with, even in these dangerous times. As the attendees were evacuated from the site of their gathering and put into isolation wards at quarantine centres, reports emerged of them misbehaving with healthcare professionals, even spitting at them – a clear no-no when fighting such a highly contagious disease like the coronavirus.

There have been other cases as well throughout the country. NDTV reported that doctors at Hyderabad’s Gandhi hospital were attacked by the relatives of a 49-year-old coronavirus patient with multiple other illnesses after he died in their care. Another report from Gujarat illustrated the case of a healthcare professional named Sanjibani Panigrahi who was blocked from entering her own apartment building by neighbours after she had been treating coronavirus patients. Even in Maharashtra, this trend continued, and the authorities had to make arrests because people were assaulting healthcare workers.

Doctors, nurses, and other medical workers are the best line of defence against the coronavirus, and they deserve the whole country’s respect. Beyond banging thalis, that is.