Bengal doctors’ forum seeks curbs on political rallies, warns of Covid-19 surge
Rising Covid-19 cases in West Bengal and rampant violation of statutory restrictions at political rallies and roadshows during the ongoing assembly election has prompted a section of doctors in the state to urge the Election Commission of India (EC) to impose restrictions on non-compliant parties.
The West Bengal Doctors Forum (WBDF), a popular organization that has been working among patients and health workers since the first Covid-19 outbreak a year ago, wrote to the EC on Wednesday and expressed deep concern. “…the second wave of Covid-19 is sweeping various parts of the country and cases in West Bengal have gone up tenfold in the last one month. The medical fraternity is extremely perturbed,” WBDF wrote to the EC in Delhi. The letter was marked to the state government as well.
According to the state health department’s bulletin, 2390 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Wednesday and the number of active cases stood at 14,290.
The eight-phase polls in Bengal will end on April 29. On an average, at least two dozen big rallies and roadshows are held on a day by top leaders and campaigners of the contesting parties. The number of smaller meetings and processions is countless.
The doctors’ body said there is total disregard for Covid-19 protocols, such as wearing of masks, sanitization, physical distancing etc. during election campaign by almost all political parties.
“If stringent measures are not implemented, including barring of non-compliant campaigners and political parties, we are going to face untold miseries,” the letter said.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy admitted that the situation is serious. “Our party leaders are working overtime all over the state. We are trying our best to maintain health protocols but it is not easy to manage common people. They have to be conscious,” he said.
Among the TMC’s top campaigners, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Bengali movie star and Lok Sabha Member Deepak Adhikari, who is more popular as Dev, draw the maximum crowds.
Adhikari is the only campaigner in the state who appeals to people at every rally to wear masks, HT found while studying campaign videos. In all his recent rallies, the young actor spoke at length on the fresh outbreak and told people that their health was more important than anything else. Also, he took off his mask only while speaking from the dais.
Samik Bhattacharya, chief spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bengal unit, expressed concern as well.
“Since I am contesting the polls I have to go for campaigns. I have come across people who ask me to take off my mask, saying they want to see the candidate. People have become complacent. The BJP has planned a fresh awareness campaign on Covid-19 protocols,” Bhattacharya said.