IMA asks doctors not to criticize state government

Published: Apr 22, 2020, 13:03 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

The letter, that was issued on April 20, stated that doctors shouldn't post any 'derogatory comments on government decisions'

The state body of the Indian Medical Association recently issued a letter which discourages doctors from criticising the state government on chat groups and other kinds of social media. The letter states that IMA committee members had been informed by the Maharashtra Cyber Cell that doctors were posting comments against the state government and were asked to take precautions against it.

The letter, that was issued on April 20, stated that doctors shouldn't post any 'derogatory comments on government decisions' and added that no offensive language should be used. In reaction to the letter, many tweeted stating that the direction was curtailing the freedom of speech of doctors. One user tweeted "Why is cyber cell concerned with people posting criticism of Maharashtra government in WhatsApp groups? And why are they snooping on doctors and IMA?' while others objected against the idea of censorship.

Doctors seemed to be divided on the issue and while some felt that the doctors should have a positive outlook about the current situation, others felt that the IMA shouldn't interfere if doctors are sharing their opinions in a chat group. Dr Vivek Desai, a health consultant said, "Doctors need to be more positive about the system. There should be no diktat but doctors need to be more positive about the system. Everyone needs to stand together at such a time."

A surgeon from GT Hospital, however, felt differently since issues like shortage of PPE kits and assault on doctors are serious issues within the medical fraternity. "There is no separate platform for individual doctors to voice their concerns. If PPE kits are of poor quality or if there are shortcomings in the infrastructure, doctors should be able to share their opinion in a closed group as long as it is not in a public forum and the IMA shouldn't interfere. The government should be afraid of criticism and should instead accept it openly," said the surgeon.

Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president of IMA, Maharashtra said that the letter was part of internal communication among members and alleged that someone had wrongfully leaked it. "The directions were given as a precautionary measure that there should be no criticism from our end since doctors are expected to act morally and ethically. We are working with the government and we will raise issues in a decent manner," said Dr Bhondwe.

He further claimed that leaking of the letter in a public forum was a malicious act and IMA will register a complaint with the Cyber Crime cell. "This is an internal matter and someone put in out on social media and has distorted the facts. The person wanted to malign us and cause a rift among us. We have already informed the chief minister about the issue," he said. When contacted, Balsingh Rajput, superintendent of police, Cyber Crime didn't wish to comment on the issue. There are 43,500 doctors in Maharashtra who are registered with IMA.

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