ORDINANCE TO AMEND EPIDEMIC DISEASE ACT,1897- A RELIEF TO THE HEALTH CARE FORCE
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” -Mahatma Gandhi
The year 2020 has made humans realize that even though the world may be equipped with the best nuclear weapons but it was never ready with the best medical facilities to cope with global epidemic. It has given an indication to the mankind that rather than investing so much in upgrading their military, it’s high time to think of investing in upgrading the medical research sector. Novel strain of coronavirus — SARS-CoV-2 — was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province with a population of 11 million. As of 9:00 pm on 27 April 2020, there were 2,878,196 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection globally, with 198,668 reported deaths. This epidemic has actually made us realize the importance of life above anything else.
Talking about India, by 27 April, more than 29,500 cases of COVID- 19 have been reported throughout the country. During these tough times, there are people who risk their own life in order to ensure that they give a new life to the ones who are suffering from this deadly disease. The people that we are referring here are the frontline saviors of the country right now i.e. healthcare workers. By this I don’t mean only doctors. A healthcare worker is one who delivers care and services to the sick and ailing either directly as doctors and nurses or indirectly as aides, helpers, laboratory technicians, or even medical waste handlers. All these people have been performing their duties day in and day out relentlessly yet there have been many instances in the country where medical health workers are being targeted by miscreants in order to obstruct them from performing their much needed duties. Do you attack or ill treat a person who has been doing so much to save your own lives? Well, we have witnessed many instances of it in our country and some of which are as follows.
First of all the instance is the attack on health workers in Indore.Dr. Anand Rai, who is also a part of the Covid-19 taskforce in Indore, told the BBC: “Nothing can justify the attack against medical team. But it happened in a Muslim-dominated area where there is general distrust against the government.” He said the area had recently witnessed protests against a controversial new citizenship law.
Thousands who attended the gathering in Delhi, organised by Islamic preaching group Tablighi Jamaat, have been put in quarantine, and authorities are still tracing others. It is believed that the infections were caused by preachers who attended the event from Indonesia. At the Ghaziabad hospital, some of the quarantined attendees allegedly used abusive and vulgar language against members of staff. “Some were walking naked in the hospital ward and harassing women doctors and nurses,” a doctor who works at the hospital told the BBC. “They kept asking for cigarettes and tobacco.”
Reports of attacks on doctors and nurses have also come from the southern city of Hyderabad and the western city of Surat. One doctor, who did not wish to be identified, said she felt “extremely disheartened when I learnt that even my neighbors think that me and my family shouldn’t be allowed to live in the building”. India has reported more than 2,300 such cases and at least 50 people have died.
All these shameful incidents are stain on humanity. It clearly shows that we have failed to grow up as humans. While on the other hand healthcare service personnel are duty bound to serve without discrimination, the cooperation and support from society is a fundamental need for them to perform their duties with confidence. There were no existing laws which could protect their interest during the critical situation of the COVID- 19 epidemic.
In this context, the Union Cabinet in its meeting held on 22nd April 2020 has approved promulgation of an Ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 to protect healthcare service personnel and property including their living/working premises against violence during epidemics. The President has given his assent for promulgation of the Ordinance.
The present Ordinance is planned to guarantee that in any circumstance much the same as the present pandemic, there will zero resistance to any type of savagery against health care work force and harm to property. The violence as defined in the ordinance will include harassment and physical injury and damage to property. The amendment in the Epidemic act, 1897 provides for making the act of violence against the health care force a cognizable and non- bailable offence. Offences shall be investigated by an officer of the rank of inspector within a period of 30 days, and trial has to be completed in 1 year. Commission of such acts of violence shall be punished be punished with imprisonment for a term of three months to five years, and with fine of Rs.50,000/- to Rs.2,00,000/-. In case of causing grievous hurt, imprisonment shall be for a term six months to seven years and with fine of Rs.1,00,000/- to Rs.5,00,000/-. In addition, the offender shall also be liable to pay compensation to the victim and twice the fair market value for damage of property.
Thus, the step taken by the government to pass the ordinance is a right one at the right time to protect the interest of medical health force. There are soldiers who protect the borders of our country so that we can sleep peacefully. During these hard times, we also have frontline soldiers inside the hospitals risking their own lives to cure someone else’s. Let us all appreciate the efforts of all of them because words are not enough to express gratitude for the services they have been providing. After having a sense of security after the ordinance, this will help them to perform their duties towards mankind in a more flourished manner in these exceedingly difficult situation of the COVID-19 outbreak.
As has been rightly said by Rick Flair, “Without your health, you’ve got nothing going on” we have doctors, nurses, paramedicals to take care of our invaluable health. All we need to is as a citizen is to co- operate and provide confidence and a sense of security to the medical health force of the country and definitely we can together defeat this global epidemic.