Agartala: Tripura, which has already earned a bad name for violence against on-duty doctors, once again witnessed an ugly show of mob violence against medical professionals in a remote village of Dhalai district. Alleging medical negligence, the incident was reported after two minor siblings died of suspected malaria infection on Wednesday, May 4.

The assault left the on-duty doctor, identified as Pranab Debbarma, grievously injured. He has been transferred to the GBP Hospital in Agartala for further treatment.

Earlier on Thursday, Binay Kishore Debbarma, Additional Superintendent of Police Dhalai District had said, “We have registered a complaint in connection with the case and investigation is underway. The victim did not mention any names in the FIR so we are trying to identify the miscreants involved in the attack by examining eyewitnesses.”

While Dr Debbarma is said to be out of danger, the police on Friday arrested six persons in connection with the incident, which took place at the Manikpur Primary Health Centre, 145 kilometers from Agartala city.

The arrests were made from the Manikpur area during a special late night raid carried out on Thursday.

Tripura police arrested six persons from the Manikpur area during a midnight raid on Thursday

Officer-in-charge of the Manikpur police station, Dilip Debbarma said, “All the accused had been arrested and forwarded to Longtgarai valley sub-division court.”

The arrested persons, identified as Harinath Tripura (18), Biswa Mohan Tripura (65), Nripendra Tripura (50), Chitta Kumar Tripura (37), Jyotida Tripura(35) and Jabirai Tripura (50), have been booked under sections 148, 149, 153, 333, 326, 307, 427, 34 of the Indian Penal Code and sections (A) and (B) of the Tripura Medicare Service Persons and Medicare Service Institution Act.

Members of the BJP Tripura Doctor Cell meeting injured doctor Pranab Debbarma at GBP Hospital Agartala on May 05.

Meanwhile, security has been tightened at the hospital to thwart any further tension in the area. TSR and police forces have now been deployed across the Manikpur area to instill confidence among the health workers.

The case

Eight-year-old Darmita Tripura and her five-year-old brother Dharmanjay Tripura were admitted to the PHC with high fever. After primary check up, the on-duty medical officer, Pranab Debbarma, prescribed medicines and injections, which were administered by the health staff.

But within hours, both the kids breathed their last.

Darmita Tripura, 8, and her five-year-old brother Dharmanjay Tripura

According to the kids’ father, Satya Mohan Tripura, the siblings were suffering from high fever over the past week, which would come with bouts of shivering. They were then brought to the hospital on Wednesday.

“Dr Debbarma told me that the symptoms were indicating malaria. He gave some medicines but within sometime both of them stopped moving,” a distraught Tripura told EastMojo.

As soon as the news spread, a group of angry villagers gathered and ransacked the hospital. Then it was Dr Debbarma who was roughed up by the irate mob.

According to Dr P Koloi, the chief medical officer of Dhalai district, Dr Debbarma had advised the parents of the patients to shift them to a bigger health facility.

Parents of the children

“The hospital authorities also assured them of providing an ambulance, but they had refused,” said Dr Koloi.

After the unfortunate death, he said, a mob, which included people from nearby markets as well, attacked and vandalised the hospital and staff.

On hearing about the incident, local MLA Sambhu Lal Chakma intervened and helped the hospital staff to disperse the crowd. Soon after the MLA left the spot, however, about 40 to 50 people regrouped and barged into the hospital. They thrashed Dr Debbarma, causing multiple injuries on his head and rest of the body.

“Debbarma was first admitted to Chailengta hospital for treatment but given his critical condition, he was referred to GBP hospital, Agartala,” said Dr Koloi.

Dr Pranab Debbarma after the attack by an irate mob

Local MLA Sambhu Lal Chakma said he would try to get the bereaved family some help from the administration.

“It is a heart wrenching incident and we are with the family. But officially, there is no scope to help them as both the children died of a disease,” Chakma said.

Doctors under attack

The incident has evoked sharp reactions from doctors’ bodies of the state. Indian Dental Association Tripura State Chapter and All Tripura Government Doctors’ Association (ATGDA) condemned the incident and sought stringent action against the perpetrators.

A senior member of the ATGDA told EastMojo that if “medical negligence” is indeed the case, there is a law to take action.

“The public has no authority to decide punishment under any circumstances. If such a situation persists, doctors will be reluctant to render services in rural hospitals, which will be counterproductive for the state as a whole,” the senior doctor said.

While extending condolences to the bereaved family, a statement issued by the doctors’ body – undersigned by ATGDA general secretary Shankar Chakraborty and president Sanjeeb Debbarma – described the incident as an attempt to weaken health services in rural Tripura.

Assault on doctors over alleged ‘medical negligence’ is increasingly becoming a norm in Tripura. According to figures shared by the ATGDA, at least 15 doctors have been attacked or harassed in workplaces over the last four years.

In April 2019, gynecologist Dr Dipankar Debnath was thrashed by an angry mob after a 25-year-old pregnant woman died during treatment at IGM hospital Agartala. In December 2020, Dr Partha Talapatra, who was serving at Natunbazar under Gomati district, was attacked. In July 2021, Dr Tamal Sarkar was attacked in Khowai hospital.

“In all the cases, allegations were the same. The ATGDA had addressed a number of press conferences, organized protests and for some time security was also tightened in hospitals to instill confidence among the health workers,” a key member of the ATGDA told EastMojo, requesting anonymity.

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