BJP leaders, Health Minister draw flak for dismissing Lancet and promoting personal blog of doctor

A litany of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan drew flak on Monday for dismissing Lancet’s criticism of India’s Covid-19 management.

Downplaying Lancet, the world’s oldest peer-reviewed medical journal established in 1823, the BJP leaders peddled the personal blog of Dr. Pankaj Chaturvedi, a professor at Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai.

The blog, titled ‘Pankaj Chaturvedi’s Thoughts’, argues against Lancet’s critique of India’s coronavirus situation.

“[PM] Modi’s actions in attempting to stifle criticism and open discussion during the crisis are inexcusable,” the editorial on Lancet read.

“India squandered its early successes in controlling COVID-19. Until April, the government’s COVID-19 taskforce had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us, and India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages,” it continued.

“The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart,” it added.

Arguing against it, Chaturvedi writes: “It is reminiscent of news reports in the British colonial era in India. To justify their forceful occupation of India, there was an orchestrated attempt of the western media and their political leadership to portray India as the country of fakirs and snake charmers that didn’t deserve independence.”

“While the Covid crisis is indeed alarming in India, the article is suitable for a politically motivated tabloid rather than a reputed academic journal. As an Indian, I felt indignant with the vitriolic rant leading to poor portrayal of my country,” he added.

Several top Indian leaders jumped to the opportunity to share Chaturvedi’s blog post as a rebuttal against Lancet but had to face criticism for downplaying the world’s oldest and most respected medical journal.

“A fair rebuttal to the imbalanced editorial in The Lancet titled ‘India’s Covid19 emergency’ published on May 8th. While the Covid crisis did assume alarming proportions in India, it was indeed important to remain politically unbiased for a reputed journal,” wrote Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in a tweet.

BJP national spokesperson Baijayant Panda also shared a link to the article on his personal Twitter handle.


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