The Modi government has brought an ordinance to end violence against health workers which will carry imprisonment from 6 months to 7 years if anyone found guilty. The government will amend the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897, and assaults on healthcare workers will be considered as cognizable and non-bailable offence whose probe will need to be done within 30 days under the supervision of a senior inspector. The judicial process and the verdict would also arrive within a year.
"Health workers who are trying to save the country from this epidemic are unfortunately facing attacks. No incident of violence or harassment against them will be tolerated. An ordinance has been brought in, it'll be implemented after President's sanction," Union Minister Prakash Javdekar told reporters on Wednesday.
If convicted, the accused can be sentenced from 3 months to 5 years in prison and penalised from Rs 50,000 upto Rs 2 Lakh based on the gravity of offense. In case of grievous injuries, the accused can be sentenced from 6 months to 7 years and they can be penalised from Rs 1 Lakh to Rs 5 Lakhs.
In addition, if any damage is done to the vehicles or clinics of healthcare workers, then a compensation amounting to twice the market value of the damaged property will be taken from the accused. Javadekar said that there were rising demands to make a special law in this regard, other than provisions already present under other Acts like IPC, NSA, Disaster Management Act, among others.
In another decision, beneficiaries under the Ayushman Bharat will get free-of-cost treatment for COVID-19. Likewise, treatment for non-COVID illness will also be done without charge at non-empanelled hospitals.
The Union Cabinet's decision comes after the Indian Medical Association (IMA) called off the symbolic 'Black Day' protest that was planned for Thursday, in view of being re-assured by Home Minister Amit Shah over its concerns at a video conference held just a few hours earlier, in which Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan was also present.
Home Minister Amit Shah along with Health Minister Harsh Vardhan interacted with doctors and representatives of the IMA through video conferencing. After the meeting, Shah took to Twitter and sent out a strong message for the safety of doctors. The Home Minister also urged the Indian citizens to cooperate with doctors in this fight against COVID-19.