A group of 75 eminent personalities from West Bengal has slammed TMC MP Mahua Moitra for criticising NRI doctors, who had recently written to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee voicing concern over the COVID-19 situation in the state.
In a statement issued here on Sunday (May 3), the eminent personalities, including filmmakers, actors, music composers and professors, said they are “embarrassed of such a reaction from an MP in the wake of the pandemic”.
The signatories include filmmakers Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Tarun Majumder, Kamaleswar Mukhopadhyay and Suman Mukhopadhyay, artist Wasim Kapoor, actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, music composer Debajyoti Misra, professor Ambikesh Mahapatra and educationist Pabitra Sarkar.
In a letter to Banerjee in late April, 14 NRI doctors had cautioned the state government against “under-reporting of COVID-19 cases and deaths”, saying, “it will have a direct impact on the spread of the virus and lead to a massive crisis in the state”.
In response to the letter, Moitra had tweeted, “11 of 14 NRI docs writing to WB CM in US, 2 in UK & 1 in Ger.W/due respect you choose to live practise pay taxes elsewhere Suggest you get down to work in yr adopted countries!”
Criticising Moitra, the personalities said, “The petty insinuations made were uncalled for diverting attention from the real issues and unnecessarily politicising the pandemic. We are afraid that this reaction from a representative of Parliament could dissuade NRI
specialists from coming forward to offer their knowledge and expertise during critical times.”
“Today, more than ever state officials should rise above petty whataboutery and listen to experts in dealing with health crisis,” it added.
Referring to Moitra’s famous speech in Lok Sabha, the eminent personalities wondered how “the same person in her address had pointed out that criticising the government is not criticising India and said that gagging freedom of speech is a sign of fascism”.
“Why then, raising public health concerns about the state is equated to criticising West Bengal? Or is she trying to imply that their non-resident status precludes these scientists from questioning things at home?” the statement said.
The personalities asserted that NRI doctors are renowned public health scientists and physicians from premier institutions in the US, UK and Germany. Several of them are engaged in data science and modelling initiatives related to COVID-19.