Resorting to “zero tolerance” for attacks on health workers fighting the Covid-19 battle, the government on Wednesday proposed making such offences non-bailable with a maximum punishment of seven years in jail and Rs 5 lakh fine. The nationwide tally of coronavirus positive cases, in the meantime, crossed 20,000 with over 650 deaths.
“Our government has zero-tolerance against violence and harassment targeting doctors, nurses, paramedics and ASHA workers when they are doing their best to fight the pandemic,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said after a Union cabinet meeting.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved an ordinance making acts of violence and harassment against healthcare personnel deployed in combating Covid-19 a non-bailable offence with a maximum punishment of seven years imprisonment and Rs 5 lakh fine. This was a key demand of health professionals in the wake of recent attacks on them.
I&B minister Javadekar said a person can be sentenced to anywhere between three months and five years in jail, besides a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakh, for crimes against healthcare workers under the new provision. In cases where injuries are serious, the punishment will range from six months to seven years, and carry fine between Rs 1-5 lakhs, the minister told reporters.
It was not clear whether these provisions would continue even after the Covid-19 crisis.
At the meeting, the cabinet also approved Rs 15,000 crore for ‘India Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’ for setting up dedicated treatment facilities and laboratories as part of an urgent response to contain the pandemic. The fund will be utilized in three phases.
The Union Health Ministry also advised chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories to adopt adequate measures in ensuring the safety of health workers involved in Covid-19 services.
In a letter, Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan said amongst all professionals, the skills and services of these health workers place them in a unique position of saving lives.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) called off its proposed ‘white alert’ and ‘black day’ protests scheduled for April 22 and 23 following a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah through video conference on Wednesday. The doctors’ body has been demanding that the Centre bring a law to protect healthcare workers from rising attacks at a time when they are battling Covid-19.