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Man behind viral Kolkata hospital video faces ‘boycott’ as Babul Supriyo tweets his identity

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Screen grab of the video that has gone viral.
Screen grab of the video that has gone viral.


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Kolkata: A viral video and a Union minister sharing his personal details on Twitter have left a 24-year-old fearing for his life, and traumatised to the point that he spent a night on the streets of Kolkata after not being allowed into his apartment and “threatened by random people”.

Somnath Das was admitted to the M.R. Bangur Hospital in Kolkata as a suspected coronavirus case. But Das tested negative and was discharged Tuesday.

During his stay, however, he shot a video that showed a couple of dead bodies lying unattended for hours in the Covid-19 ward of the hospital where he had been kept. The video has since gone viral.

It was shared by senior BJP leaders to target the Mamata Banerjee government but Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Babul Supriyo, also put out Das’ phone number on Twitter.

The tweet that had Das's phone number | Twitter grab
The tweet that had Das’s phone number | Twitter grab

Speaking to ThePrint, a sobbing Das said ever since Supriyo shared his phone number, he has been hounded by “random people”, who have been calling him and threatening him of “dire consequences”.

“Who gave him (Supriyo) the right to share my details on social media? My privacy has been breached,” Das said. “People are calling and abusing me. I am being threatened with dire consequences.”

Das added that he is from Asansol, Supriyo’s Lok Sabha constituency, but does not personally know the MP.

“He is the Asansol MP but I do not know him, nor do I have his contact. I do not know how my details reached him,” Das said Wednesday night. “I do not know whom to trust. My friends called me to say that police will file several cases against me and my whole life will be wasted. I do not know what wrong I have done. I am neither a BJP member nor I have anything to do with the Trinamool Congress. I am just a common man.”

The Kolkata Police have since clarified in a tweet that they have not booked Das. A senior Kolkata Police officer also told ThePrint Thursday morning that Das was taken back to his apartment late last night. He lives in an apartment complex in North Kolkata.

Kolkata Police clarify that they haven’t filed an FIR against Das | Twitter screen grab

‘I am being hunted’

Before his ordeal ended late Wednesday night, Das had been hiding out at a subway in Kolkata.

He told ThePrint that he was asked by another patient to hold his phone and narrate the state of the Covid-19 ward, and that he had no clue how the video reached the BJP leaders and went viral.

“I am a resident of Asansol but I live in Kolkata as I am studying here. I have some kidney ailments too and that is why I was taken to hospital for testing. While being there, I thought that it would be proper to shoot a video showing the condition inside the ward and how bodies are lying there unattended with the patients,” he said. “But I did not speak a word against the doctor or the sisters treating us. Moreover, I had no clue how this clip reached social media platforms.”

He added, “I was discharged by the hospital and was asked to be isolated as I am a high-risk patient. But the apartment authority denied my entry.”

Das said he spent the night “on the streets” Tuesday, adding he was worried for his father, “a patient of hypertension” who had fallen sick.

He said he roamed around aimlessly in the city Wednesday, eating only a “piece of cake” from a roadside shop.

A petrified Das had stopped taking any call from unknown numbers. He had answered ThePrint’s call after several attempts, and the police said he did not even take calls when the local police station tried to reach him.

“I might have done something really wrong, but I did not have any ill intention. I just wanted to highlight the mismanagement inside, but I never sent the video to anyone,” Das said. “And the phone in which the video was shot is not mine. I do not know why they shared my name and number on Twitter.”

Throughout his phone call with ThePrint, Das repeatedly said he felt like “committing suicide”. “All my dreams are shattered now, I do not think I have any future. Police will pick me anytime, I am feeling like ending my life,” he said.


Also read: 3 Bengal districts tagged hotspot by Modi govt ‘haven’t reported Covid-19 cases in a week’


Caught in political one-upmanship

There has been a game of political one-upmanship that the BJP and the TMC have been indulging in since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, with the Covid-19 pandemic situation making things worse.

Before he shared Das’ details, Supriyo had used the video to target the Mamata government over its handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

He also did not let up after the Kolkata Police clarified that there was no FIR against Das, even taking offence that the police didn’t address him as ‘Honble’ minister.

ThePrint tried to reach Supriyo but he did not respond to texts and calls. This report will be updated when he replies.


Also read: Gastroenterologist son of Communist leader is Mamata’s go-to man to fight Covid in Bengal


Mamata govt bans mobile phones in hospitals

Within hours of Das’ video going viral, the state government issued an instruction banning mobile phones in earmarked Covid-19 hospitals. “Since mobile phones can be a potential source of spreading COVID 19 infection, no one will be allowed to carry, possess or use mobile phones inside the Covid hospitals in the State,” the order said. “This applies to all persons inside the hospital, whether patients or staff on duty. The deposit of patients’ mobile phones may be taken and a receipt may be given to them. However, to ensure they have a communication channel to the hospital administration, intercom facilities may be provided in the wards.”

“The contact number of the control room or the Hospital Superintendent or manager should be publicised prominently among the patients. Also, landline arrangements with STD calling be kept ready in case the patient needs to make a call or receives a call from outside, it added. “Staff on duty should be told of the restrictions on the use and carrying of mobile phones inside the wards/ treatment areas. While implementing this, take all measures for especially ensuring that the patients need for communication with hospital authorities is attended to with due priority.”

Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha confirmed to the media that phones are banned in Covid-19 hospitals. “Mobile phones are primary tools that carry infection,” he said at a press conference in Nabanna Wednesday. “That is why the hospitals now do not allow phones inside ICU and ICCU. This is a general government rule.”

ICMR guidelines, however, do not list mobile phones as potential carriers of the virus.


Also read: Mamata gives Rs 10 lakh insurance cover to journalists, asks them to report positive news


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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