On the scale of responsible behaviour, West Bengal’s CM, Mamata Banerjee is competing hard to share a spot with China’s Xi Jinping. From fudging data to opening businesses at whim to not cooperating with the Centre, Bengal’s didi (as Mamata is popularly known in the state) is presenting a model of how NOT to handle corona.
The central team that visited Kolkata, Howrah and few other districts in the state to assess the situation said that West Bengal had the highest mortality rate in the country, at 12.8 per cent, but shunning all facts and figures, Mamata Banerjee’s government has been heavily relying on the committee of “experts” it has constituted and reviewed time and again to tackle the crisis in India.
Incidentally, the members of these panels have always been carefully cherry-picked by the chief minister herself and allegiance towards Mamata Banerjee is the only thing which is needed to make it to these ‘prestigious’ teams.
Mamata Banerjee on May 3 (Sunday), for the sixth time now, revamped her team of ‘experts’, who will be overseeing the state’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
While earlier, doctor’s like Dr Sukumar Mukherjee- indicted for worst possible medical negligence, and doctor Thomas Frieden- guilty of sexual assault in New York 2018 found a place in the panel, this time it is Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra, who courted huge controversy in June 2015 when he reportedly agreed to allow a dog, which belonged to a close relative of senior Trinamool leader, to be admitted to the state-run super speciality Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGMER) for dialysis, who has been roped in.
Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra- Mamata Banerjee’s latest obsession
Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra, a former director of the state-run super speciality Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education & Research (IPGMER) who has now been pulled out of retirement. Dr Mitra was from the post and shunted off to a nondescript hospital after in 2015 he agreed to perform dialysis on the pet dog (there are no dialysis facilities for animals in veterinary hospitals in Kolkata) belonged to a close relative of senior Trinamool leader and West Bengal Medical Council president Dr Nirmal Majhi.
The bizarre request for performing dialysis on the pet dog reached Dr R.N. Pandey, the then head of IPGMER’s Nephrology department in 2015. Dr Pandey forwarded the request to Mitra, who allegedly agreed to it.
It was after senior doctors of the department objected and put their foot down that the plan was aborted.
Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra was censored by Medical Council of India
Last year, the Medical Council of India (MCI) the trio of Mitra, Pandey and Majhi. Mitra, who protested his removal and termed his transfer as a demotion, had threatened to resign. He was then made an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the state health department and then the Director of Medical Education (DME). It becomes imperative to note here that the West Bengal state department is headed by the chief minister Mamata Banerjee herself.
Mamata Banerjee and her committee of ‘experts’ a hoax
The new committee, named ‘Covid Management & Containment Committee’ headed by Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra as the state coordinator, has been given the task of overseeing the functioning of testing laboratories, treatment facilities and protocols for coronavirus positive patients and other related matters.
That four-member committee was headed by finance minister Amit Mitra. That committee, too, had been criticised since it did not have the health minister (Mamata Banerjee holds the health portfolio) in it.
Prior to this one, Mamata Banerjee 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, Dr Sukumar Mukherjee was a member.
Dr Sukumar Mukherjee, a veteran medical practitioner, rheumatologist and internal medicine specialist, with the responsibility to head this department, is the doctor who was entrusted with the responsibility to head the committee created prior to this one is a doctor with a severely tainted past.
Dr Sukumar Mukherjee stands indicted in India’s worst medical negligence case: Anuradha Saha death case in 1998. But his proximity to Mamata not only made him a permanent member of whichever committee the CM was forming to tackle the pandemic but in the past, it had also brought him the membership of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission in 2017.
Besides, Dr Thomas Frieden, who was guilty of sexual assault in New York 2018, was also a part of this prestigious team formed by none other than, Mamata Banerjee.
Prior to this committee, Mamata Banerjee, on March 26 said that the department had 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 with the responsibility to head this department.
Like Dr Sukumar Mukherjee and Dr Thomas Frieden, Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra is also indispensable for Mamata Banerjee. This is probably the reason why, despite his tainted past, this doctor like the other two has been roped in as Mamata Banerjee’s panel of experts.
In late-March, the state government formed what is popularly called a ‘death audit committee’ that was tasked with auditing deaths of all Covid-19 infected patients. The committee was empowered as the only one to certify if such a patient had died of the coronavirus or co-morbidities.
This committee is headed by Abhijeet Choudhury, a gastroenterologist. “How can a gastroenterologist head such a committee? A virologist or epidemiologist should have been asked to head this committee,” said a senior epidemiologist serving at the state-run super speciality SSKM Hospital in Kolkata.
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.