Doctors in West Bengal striking work in protest against the brutal assault against one of their own have found support from their counterparts across the country. The whole situation is unfortunate but it is nevertheless a symptom of a larger malaise that is not restricted to one state. Its roots lie in an overburdened public healthcare system that is near collapse. This situation is unlikely to change soon given the meagre spending on the sector.

The hospital staffers on strike are seeking an end to the assaults. This, the thinking goes, can be achieved by a) having the government provide guards to protect them, or b) enacting legislation that would impose stiff fines on those who indulge in violence or even imprison them. Both appear good steps on paper, but the truth is that neither is feasible. The simple, if harsh, reality is that it is society at large that needs to change, and that would be possible only with education and increased awareness. People turn to doctors when they are in need. Doctors, who take the Hippocratic Oath, do their best to help, not always successfully. That is no reason to turn on them, unless you are a hypocrite.

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