Union home ministry on Wednesday has asked the states and union territories to invoke the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 or any other law to take strict penal action against the offenders who obstruct government health officials or other health professionals and related persons in the discharge of their lawful services.
Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla in his communication said a few heinous instances of unruly behaviour by people have been reported in some parts of the country where the family and relatives of medical professionals, suspected to have died due to COVID-19 infection were prevented from performing the last rites of the diseased. In such cases, adequate security should be provided and stringent action should be taken against such offenders who obstruct the performance of last rites of medical professionals or frontline healthcare workers, who unfortunately succumb to the infection from COVID-19 while discharging their services or otherwise.
Bhalla said it is the responsibility of the state governments and UTs and district administrations and law enforcement agencies to take all necessary measures to ensure adequate protection to healthcare professionals and frontline workers, and to prevent any incident of violence against them. ‘’You are aware that the whole hearted and untiring services rendered by the entire medical fraternity, while even risking their lives, has enabled the country to resist the spread of the highly infectious COVID-19 virus, that has already been declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. At this time, any single incident of violence against healthcare professionals is likely to create a sense of insecurity amongst the entire healthcare community,’’ he noted.
The home secretary asked the states and UT and district administrations that the measures should be finalised in consultation with the local chapters of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the members of the IMA should be kept apprised of the actions taken to create a sense of security and confidence amongst the health fraternity.
‘’I would like to draw your kind attention to section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which provides for strict penalties against any person who obstructs any officer or employee of the Central government or the state government or a person authorized by the National Authority of State Authority or District Authority in the discharge of his functions under this Act or refuses to comply with any directions given by or behalf of the Central government or the state government of the National Executive Committee of the state executive committee of the district authority,’’ Bhalla said.
Further, Bhalla has asked the state governments and UT administrations to appoint nodal officers who would be available 24x7 to redress any safety issue on the functioning of medical professionals. They should also take immediate and strict action in case any incident of violence takes place. They should publicise details of preventive measures taken and appointment of nodal officers amongst the medical fraternity including the local chapters of the IMA and to the public at large. This is to ensure compliance at ground level.
States and UT administrations have been told to inform the home ministry about the detail of action taken against the offenders.