Bengaluru: Bengaluru-based Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) on Thursday decided to end its support to an ongoing strike called by the private medical establishments against contentious amendments in a proposed Karnataka Private Medical Establishments (amendment) bill 2017.

Dr Madan Gaekwad, president of PHANA, said that the association decided to withdraw support to the strike after the Karnataka high court requested doctors to resume work and hold discussions with the Karnataka government over the bill.

The Karnataka high court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) in which PHANA, the Indian Medical Association (IMA-Karnataka chapter) and other associations were respondents.

However, PHANA’s decision has not yet been endorsed by other associations who continue to protest in at least 14 districts of the state, including through a hunger strike in Belagavi (formerly Belgaum), where the current winter session of the Karnataka legislature is being held.

The strike had threatened to derail the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s last winter session before elections next year.

Thousands of private doctors and others from industry associations have come together to protest against the proposed amendments which includes jail terms, increase in fines for exceeding prices higher than what has been prescribed by the government, setting up of more redressal committees and price control on medical procedures, among other things.

Though Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has tried to appeal to the private medical fraternity, the strike caused a huge uproar in the state legislature, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leading the charge to disrupt the House with various demands including the ouster of Bengaluru in-charge minister K.J. George, named as an accused in the suicide of a state police official last year and the doctors’ agitations among other issues.

To be sure, the KPME (Amendment) bill has not yet been tabled in the state legislature.

“Where is any agenda which talks of improvement of infrastructure in north Karnataka or development of schools and colleges in this region or greater investment in terms of capital investment and job requirement. That kind of debate and discourse has not happened at all," said Harish Ramaswamy, a political analyst and professor of political science at the Karnatak University, Dharwad.

Other bills that are likely to be taken up include the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill 2017.

The BJP has increased its attacks on Siddaramaiah, whose popularity and power have peaked in recent months after a flurry of populist schemes—mostly centred around food security—were announced.

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