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'Vandana Das Act': Shashi Tharoor's Bill For Protection Of Healthcare Workers

Shashi Tharoor announced that if the Bill is passed, he would like it to be called the Dr Vandana Das Act.

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Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, on Friday, 4 August, announced that he has introduced a private bill in the Lok Sabha, called The Healthcare Personnel and Healthcare Institutions (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2023.

Tharoor added that if the bill is passed, he would like it to be called the Dr Vandana Das Act — named after the young doctor who was murdered by a patient at a government hospital in Kerala's Kollam district, earlier this year.

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What's Driving it?

According to the Statement of Objects and Reasons, the Bill was introduced,

  • To counter acts of violence against medical professionals and on healthcare institutions.

  • Because there is a legal gap, as no national-level law adequately and categorically addresses this issue.

Big points from the bill:

  • It makes acts of violence against healthcare personnel a cognisable and non-bailable offence.

  • The provisions of the Act shall not only apply to physical assault but also include verbal offence.

  • The protection of the bill would extend to paramedical students, workers, administrative staff, and ASHA workers as well.

  • It gives a definitive time frame for the investigation and sentencing of cases registered under the Act.

  • Designated special courts will have to be established in every district to oversee these cases.

The bigger picture: Violence against healthcare workers in the recents years has been an ongoing cause for concern.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) estimates that over 75 percent of doctors face physical & verbal abuse during their service. The actual numbers are likely higher.

In April 2022, The Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting for the implementation of a Central Act for Protection of Doctors.

The Central Government had also introduced a draft Bill in 2019, called The Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of violence and damage to property) Bill, 2019, making violence against healthcare professionals a non-bailable offence.

However, it was withdrawn before it was presented to the parliamentary committee.

What he said: Taking to Twitter, Tharoor expressed that the bill was a materialisation of the promise he made to Dr Vandana Das's parents.

"I had pledged to her parents that her death would not be in vain...As promised, I have thus moved a private member’s bill in Parliament to protect medical personnel," he wrote.

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