Though doctors are at the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, the Indian society at large, armed with fake news, is forcing them out of their own homes.
While the rest of the world comes together to praise their doctors and other health workers on the frontlines in the battle against Coronavirus, it appears that doctors in India are being stigmatized for their work. In shocking news, several medical workers in India are being threatened with eviction and have been denounced in other ways. Though they have been hailed as "heroes," they are simultaneously being ostracized by their neighbors, Al Jazeera reports. India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed the abuse of hospital workers has thus become a "huge issue." At present, little is being done to fight the harassment they are facing.
Doctors, nurses and lab technicians shared their insights and experiences of tackling COVID-19.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 24, 2020
What was heartening was their unwavering determination to ensure care for every citizen.
India salutes them for everything they are doing for the nation.
Following the announcement of a 21-day lockdown on Tuesday by the Prime Minister, several reports of police brutality have arisen. Delivery drivers carrying medicine and food have fallen victim to abuse unapologetically belted out by the country's police force across numerous states. Meanwhile, though many of the nation's doctors are not facing violence at the hands of the police, they are being gravely discriminated against. Dr. Sanjibani Panigrahi, a doctor in the western city of Surat, was reportedly accosted as soon as she arrived home from a hospital that is treating patients diagnosed with Coronavirus.
Doctors in India say they are being discriminated against over fears they may be infected after working with coronavirus patients.— CNN International (@cnni) March 26, 2020
Some doctors have even reported being evicted, or facing threats that their electricity will be cut off. https://t.co/dTBOGnKkOH
Dr. Panigrahi stated that her neighbors blocked her way at the entrance of her apartment building. They threatened severe "consequences" if she continued to work at the hospital. "These are the same people who have happily interacted with me (in the past). Whenever they've faced a problem, I've helped them out," she explained. "There is a sense of fear among people. I do understand. But it's like I suddenly became an 'untouchable.'" In Indian society, untouchability is an element of the caste system, wherein individuals from "lower castes" are discriminated against as dirty or labeled as bad luck, and therefore, untouchable.
"It's like I suddenly became an untouchable."— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 28, 2020
Previously hailed as 'heroes', doctors and nurses in India are coming under attack as coronavirus fear grows https://t.co/oEOE6Gzbn7 pic.twitter.com/d9oUlkifOj
In more extreme cases, doctors and other health workers were forcefully evicted from their homes by "panicked landlords and housing societies" with nowhere else to go. As several such incidents became more prevalent, doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences appealed to the central government. In a letter, they stated, "Many doctors are stranded on the roads with all their luggage, nowhere to go, across the country." In light of this, Prime Minister Modi is yet to take action. Nonetheless, he issued a statement on the matter, urging citizens to stop treating health workers like pariahs. He described those fighting the deadly virus as "God-like," and affirmed, "Today they are the people who are saving us from dying, putting their lives in danger."
Airline workers, too, currently live under the same fear that health workers do. Threats against air staff have become commonplace amidst the pandemic. A flight attendant for Air India shared in an interview that she, like India's doctors, had also been threatened with eviction on the baseless grounds that she would "infect everyone." "I couldn't sleep that night," she said. "I was scared that even if I did go home, would someone break open the door or call people to kick me out?" Many people suspect that false information spread on social media and through messaging platform WhatsApp may be the root of the issue. The flight attendant stated, "With all the fake news and WhatsApp forwards, they don't know what is going on, so there's this paranoia that makes them behave like this." Needless to say, it is time for the Indian government to step up and take action against those who threaten wrongful eviction and harass individuals simply doing their jobs.