Five lakh lives have been officially lost to Covid in the country but India is yet to see a qualified epidemiologist leading the Covid campaign, cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar said at an online debate on Saturday.
“... four crores of people have been infected after 5 lakh lives have been officially lost…. India still cries out for the one professional it longs to see and that is a qualified epidemiologist leading our Covid campaign,” said Sarkar.
“We have not seen that yet. Not after 5 lakh lives have been officially lost. Not after this pandemic has been twice as disastrous as India’s allegedly non-violent freedom struggle. Even that has not tickled the conscience of this country to have a qualified, professionally acknowledged public health person at the head of India’s pandemic campaign,” said Sarkar.
Epidemiologists study diseases and how they are found, spread and controlled in groups of people.
Sarkar’s comments were part of his closing remarks and a rebuttal on the topic — “The Role of Professionals in Indian Politics is Superfluous”. Sarkar had earlier spoken in favour of the motion.
“It is not with joy, it is not with triumphalism that we on this side of the proposition, we are not happy about the fact at all that the Indian public life has reduced itself to kind of utilitarian exploitation of every possible lacuna that there exists in Indian democracy...,” he said.
Public health experts say effective public health measures are as important as medical management when it comes to fighting Covid. Epidemiologists, they said, are better placed to ensure that everyone wears a mask or gets immunised.
“It’s epidemiologists who usually recommend measures such as imposition of a lockdown or when it should be eased or lifted, setting up of micro-containment zones and regulation of public transport,” public health expert Sanjib Bandopadhyay, who was not a member of the debating team told The Telegraph.
The event was a part of Dr BC Roy Award for Debating Excellence, an initiative by the All India Professionals’ Congress, West Bengal.
The All India Professionals’ Congress is a platform for professionals who believe in inclusivity, liberty, plurality, equality and social justice, said Chandan Ghosh, the president of the Bengal chapter of the organisation.
Moyuree Mukherjee, a debating coach and graduate from Presidency University, raised the question whether one had to be a “professional to bring about political and social change…,” while speaking for the motion.
“The students are out on the streets and they are not professionals. The farmers are out on the streets and they are not professionals. You can still bring this change you want to bring without being a professional in politics. In fact, if you do enter politics, your sense of this activism will be warped. You will have to fit into the political mould. You cannot change the political system by being within the political system, because the political system undermines your professionalism at every step, because it has a bigger political agenda. These are the reasons why it is absolutely superfluous for professionals to be in politics today,” she said.
Writer Pradeep Gooptu, speaking against the motion, said professionals had made politics aspirational.
“When a young technologist at the leadership of a technology company joins politics, he inspires young technologists to take up politics as a profession,” said Gooptu.
Pradip Guha Thakurta, a member of the AIPC and an organiser of the event, told this newspaper: “We will have a series to make citizens aware of the current issues... of unemployment and healthcare.”