Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Saturday that the West Bengal government had not invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) even after five days of strike by the junior doctors and appealed to them to immediately rejoin service.
"We have the laws, but we do not want to use them.... We are not going to take any stringent action against any of the agitating junior doctors and hamper their career," she said at a news conference after the agitating doctors did not turn up for a meeting at 5 pm.
Under the ESMA, employees in a long list of "essential services" like post, railway, airport and port operations are prohibited from going on strike. Banerjee cited instances of steps taken against doctors in similar situation by other states, adding that the West Bengal government had not taken any tough action against them as she does not want to hamper their careers.
The chief minister said the state government had accepted all the demands of the doctors and was ready to accept more, but she added that they must resume work.
"On Friday, I waited for the junior doctors for five hours. And today, I cancelled all my programmes for them. You must show some respect to the constitutional body," she said.
On the mass resignation of the doctors across the state, Banerjee said it was not legally tenable. "If the junior doctors think I am incapable, they can always talk to the governor or the chief secretary... or the commissioner of police," she said.
The agitating doctors had earlier turned down an invite for a closed-door meeting with Banerjee at the state secretariat on Saturday, and instead asked her to visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital for an open discussion to resolve the impasse.
Here are the highlights from Mamata Banerjee's press conference:
18.42: Mamata Banerjee slams Union Health Minister, asks him to worry about rest of the country
18.40: Central government should send advisory to UP government first. How many encounters have taken place in UP after Yogi Adityanath came to power: Mamata Banerjee.
18.39: I appreciate those who are willing to work, says Mamata Banerjee.
18.36: I don't want to spoil the careers of the Doctors, therefore, we are not taking any action: Mamata Banerjee.
18.24: I have accepted most of their (Doctors') demand: Mamata Banerjee.
18.23: Inspite of having all the powers, government is not taking any stringent action against the Doctors': Mamata Banerjee.
18.23: My government is not targetting doctors: Mamata Banerjee
18.22: We've accepted all their demands. I had sent my ministers, principal secretary to meet the doctors, waited for 5 hours to meet doctors delegations yesterday & today, but they did not come. You have to give respect to the constitutional body.
18.22: Cancelled all engagements to meet protesting doctors: Mamata Banerjee
18.21: I appeal to all doctors to resume work as thousands of people are awaiting medical treatment: Mamata Banerjee.
18.20: Government sensitive to doctors' demands: Mamata Banerjee
18.18: My government has taken all actions against the attackers: Mamata
18.16: BJP governments invoked ESMA to threaten doctors: Mamata Banerjee
18.16: State govt is committed towards resuming normal medical services at the soonest. The incident on 10th June was unfortunate. We had continuously tried to reach a solution: Mamata Banerjee
18.15: I am open for talks, have called the students many times, but the refused: Mamata Banerjee
18.15: My government haven't taken any action against the Doctors: Mamata Banerjee.
18.11: State is fully committed to take necessary steps. State has taken the decision to bear all the expenses of medical treatment of the junior doctor who is admitted at a private hospital: Mamata Banerjee.
18.09: The Doctors' abused, pushed me at the agitation venue. But the government restrained from taking any action: Mamata Banerjee.
18.07: I had appealed to the Doctors' to return to their work, but they denied: Mamata Banerjee.
18.06: Mamata Banerjee hold press conference on Doctors' agitation.
18.05: JIPMER doctors in Puducherry to boycott work on June 17.
18.02: Five senior and eminent Kolkata doctors, acting as mediators, were also present.
18.01: Earlier today, Mamta banerjee met the MOS Health and Family welfare Chadrima Bhattachrya and Chief Secretary.
Agitating doctors turned down the invite for a closed-door meeting with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat on Saturday, raising apprehension about their security, and instead asked her to visit the NRS Medical College and Hospital for an open discussion to resolve the impasse. They said no representative of the agitating doctors would be attending the meeting called by Banerjee at the state secretariat on Saturday evening. "We feel highly insecure and apprehensive regarding our representatives' meeting with the chief minister behind closed doors. That is why we are not sending any representatives to the Chief Minister's Office to attend the meeting," said a spokesperson of the joint forum of junior doctors after holding a governing body meeting.