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Asura dressed as doctor triggers controversy at famous Durga puja in Kolkata

Organisers of the community Durga puja at Mohammad Ali Park invited trouble by depicting the demon killed by Devi Durga as a ‘fake doctor.’ They started changing the model after West Bengal Medical Council chairman complained to the police commissioner.

kolkata Updated: Sep 23, 2017 17:32 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Fake Doctors,West Bengal,Mamata Banerjee
The puja organisers at Mohammad Ali Park locked the gates after people rushed to see the Asura dressed as a doctor.(Samir Jana/HT Photo)

Over the past few months Bengal has been in the news for the scourge of fake doctors -- imposters who have treated patients for years at state-run institutions, private hospitals and personal chambers though they never attended a medical school. On Saturday, organisers of the prominent community Durga puja at Mohammad Ali Park added a somewhat divine dimension to the controversy by dressing up Mahishasura, the demon, as a doctor.

While the organisers claimed they were trying to raise public awareness against bogus doctors, associations of doctors pointed out that the words “fake doctor” were not written anywhere on the clay model or in the pandal.

The model showed a young man with a stethoscope and dressed in white apron taking money from patients.

Read: West Bengal’s top doctors turn out fakes, arrests blow lid off thriving scam

The puja at Mohammad Ali Park is one of the most popular community pujas in Kolkata. Based on arterial Central Avenue, this puja was first held in 1969.

“This is an attempt to malign more than two lakh doctors in the state. This will send a wrong message to the people as well and break the trust they have in physicians. I talked to Rajeev Kumar, the commissioner of police, and said the idol should be removed immediately. The organisers much tender unconditional apology,” West Bengal Medical Council chairman Dr Nirmal Maji told HT.

Read: West Bengal: CID launches statewide hunt to nab more ‘fake’ doctors after arrest of three

“It’s unfortunate to say the least and we are condemning it outright. One can also think of taking legal steps. How can anyone think of maligning a noble profession in this manner,” said Santanu Sen, secretary of the state chapter of Indian Medical Association. Some doctors threatened to complaint to the authorities against the puja organisers.

As the controversy grew, the puja organisers shielded the idol with a screen and put up a placard with the words ‘work in progress’.

Naren Pandey, who practised without having a medical degree, was arrested earlier this year. (Social Media)

“We want to caution the people against fake doctors. How can any society tolerate them? This was the idea behind the depiction. Our work is not yet complete,” said Dinesh Bajaj, chairman of the Mohammad Ali Park puja committee.

The inauguration of the puja is scheduled on Sunday. Bajaj said the organisers have nothing but respect for genuine doctors and contempt for the fake ones.

Read: With police too busy to crack down, fake doctors do brisk business in Delhi

On Saturday morning the doctors reacted when images of the asura were telecast by Bengali TV channels.

Fake doctors have been in the news fore more than a year. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has arrested dozens of such doctors from across the state, while the authorities admit there could be hundreds more.

Significantly, along with the rest of the country, there is a growing distrust between common people and doctors, thanks to increasing cases of hospitals overcharging patients, conducting needless pathological tests and people dying because of negligence.

The situation reached such a point that on February 22 this year chief minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting with the authorities of all prominent private hospitals and nursing homes in Bengal and pulled them up for overcharging and shoddy service. She also set up a health regulatory commission and encouraged aggrieved patients to lodge complaints. The meeting was telecast live. It added to public fury against doctors.

First Published: Sep 23, 2017 17:32 IST