A statement issued by the West Bengal health department, headed by the chief minister Mamata Banerjee herself, on March 26 said that the department has set up a 12-member “committee of experts” to advise the government on various technical issues related to the fight against coronavirus. The committee was formed to “advise the government on where and how to set up quarantine facilities in the state” and also recommend the “treatment protocol” for patients to be followed across hospitals in the state. WB CM Mamata Banerjee had entrusted Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, a veteran medical practitioner, rheumatologist and internal medicine specialist, with the responsibility to head this department.
Despite having a proficient team of 12 “experts”, Mamata Banerjee, who came under the scanner for the alleged callousness in handling the coronavirus crisis in her state, once again on April 6, announced the formation of a global team of experts that will help the Bengal government formulate policy decisions to tackle the Covid-19 crisis. Called ‘Global Advisory Board for Covid Response Policy in West Bengal’, the team comprises of eight members led by Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee, the economist who advised Congress on the ill-conceived NYAY. Here too, Dr Mukherjee is a member.
#BREAKING— Citizen Derek | নাগরিক ডেরেক (@derekobrienmp) April 7, 2020
Meet the 8 members of the Bengal government’s #new Global Advisory Board. The group is partnering and advising the state to formulate a Covid-19 response policy.#COVID19 #BengalFightsCorona
More pics, graphics & videos on my #Instagram: https://t.co/M3J5VLd6HG pic.twitter.com/suITkhIPms
Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, the 83-year-old veteran medical practitioner, rheumatologist and internal medicine specialist, is clearly indispensable for Mamata Banerjee. This is probably the reason why, despite his tainted past, the 83-year-old doctor has been a constant in Mamata Banerjee’s panel of experts.
Dr Sukumar Mukherjee and his ‘glorious’ past
Dr Sukumar Mukherjee stands indicted in India’s worst medical negligence case: Anuradha Saha death case in 1998.
In a landmark 2013 judgement, the Supreme Court held Dr Mukherjee along with two other Kolkata doctors responsible for the death of Anuradha Saha, a 36-year-old US-based psychologist and in judgement, that was truly unprecedented in India’s medico-legal history, awarded a whopping Rs 11.5 crore (with interest) as compensation to the victim’s family.
The apex court ordered Dr Mukherjee to shell out Rs 10 lac of the total compensation amount while the rest was to be paid by the private hospital (AMRI Kolkata) he was attached with during the case. In fact, Dr Mukherjee’s role was so heinous in view of the Supreme Court that it imposed an additional penalty of Rs 1 lakh against Dr Mukherjee. None of the other doctors who were also found guilty for contributory negligence in Anuradha’s death had to pay any additional penalty.
In the year 2012, a separate petition seeking imprisonment of Dr Mukherjee was accepted by the National Consumer Forum (NCDRC) since until then the tainted doctor had not paid any compensation to the family showing complete direct to the apex court’s judgement.
Dr Saha expresses disappointment over the induction of Dr Sukumar Mukherjee
Speaking to India Today, Anuradha Saha’s husband and PBT president Dr Kunal Saha expressed his disappointment over the state government’s decision to include Dr Sukumar Mukherjee in the panel handling the coronavirus crisis in hand.
“It is absolutely stunning to imagine that Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, the only doctor in Indian medical history whose conduct was so reprehensible that Supreme Court of India viewed him as “Unbecoming of a doctor” and as a man who brought “great disrespect to the medical profession”, is now chosen by Bengal CM as the leading medical expert to advise Bengal residents to combat Covid-19,” he said.
“Perhaps more shocking is the fact that nobody from Bengal medical has raised any voice against such brazen act by the government. It’s truly pathetic but I am more worried about the hapless patients and ordinary people of West Bengal. I always hope and pray that Dr Mukherjee follows actual medical science and do not treat anyone the way he treated my beloved wife, Anuradha. Lakhs of innocent and vulnerable Bengalees’ lives are at stake,” Saha told India Today from the US.
More importantly, the Medical Council of India (MCI) had also found Dr Mukherjee guilty for “professional misconduct” and directed the West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) to cancel his license on May 23, 2011. But a devious WBMC refused to cancel Dr Mukherjee’s medical registration maintaining that there was nothing wrong with Dr Mukherjee’s treatment and refused to take any disciplinary action against him despite the apex court and MCI’s direction.
Mamata Banerjee’s obsession with Dr Sukumar Mukherjee
Despite Dr Sukumar Mukherjee’s ‘crackerjack professional’ record, Mamata Banerjee had appointed him as a member of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission (WBCERC) in 2017. Ironically, as part of the commission, Mukherjee, whose own licence was suspended by the Medical Council of India following the Supreme Court’s verdict was chosen to judge complaints of medical negligence and ethical violations against other doctors.
Now, once again she has embraced him openly and entrusted upon him the responsibility of handling the coronavirus pandemic. One is left to wonder here, what future in stores for the people of West Bengal.
West Bengal sitting on a “time-bomb”
The suppression of facts and fudging of data has become a major worry for authorities and health experts in West Bengal, which has now snowballed into a huge controversy between the Trinamool Congress-led West Bengal government and health-care experts.
The health-care experts believe that the situation in Bengal is very grave as the Mamata Banerjee-led government has not been giving real data to assess the actual seriousness of the pandemic. From threats to doctors for whistleblowing against the state government against lack of facilities to allegations of state government illegally disposing of dead bodies, there have been serious allegations against the Mamata Banerjee government in Bengal.