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Police hunt doctors who abandoned victims during India floods

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 4 Mar 2013 11:46 GMT
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PATNA, India (AlertNet) – Police in eastern India are searching for eight doctors charged with dereliction of duty following complaints they abandoned survivors who needed medical assistance during devastating floods more than four years ago, police said.

Over three million lives were disrupted and around 500 people were killed in India's Bihar state in August 2008, when the mighty Kosi river broke a barrage in neighbouring Nepal and changed course, unleashing huge waves of water in one of the worst disasters the country had witnessed in recent years.

Vast tracts of land were inundated and hundreds of villages submerged, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes and seek refuge in over-crowded relief camps where many were in need of medical assistance.

Police said they had discovered First Information Reports (FIRs) – complaints filed with the police – charging the doctors with failing to fulfil their duties towards those affected by the flooding.

"I have ordered the arrest of these doctors after stumbling upon FIRs pending against them for their gross negligence towards the victims of the 2008 Kosi floods," Shivdeep Waman Lande, district superintendent of police, told AlertNet by phone from Bihar's Araria district, one of the areas worst-hit by the floods.

"When you think about the magnitude of the floods at that time, you will understand how serious an offence these doctors committed against people in distress by abandoning their duty," he added.

The eight doctors had absconded but Lande said that police were searching for them and had warrants for their arrest.

The complaints against the eight private doctors were made in September 2008 when they were found to be absent from relief camps where they had been ordered to report to treat flood victims.

But the complaint documents had been forgotten about until last week when they were discovered in a police warehouse in Araria.

Under a law called the "Essential Services Maintenance Act", professionals such as medical practitioners – from both public and private sectors – are mandated to report for duty during a humanitarian crisis.

((Writing by Nita Bhalla))

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