Jailed Uttar Pradesh doctor Kafeel Khan has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, offering his help in fighting the novel coronavirus that has infected 649 people in the country and killed 13 so far. Khan warned that with a fragile health system and shortage of doctors, India is staring at a catastrophe in his opinion.
Citing his years of medical experience, Khan said that he could be useful in India’s fight against the pandemic and urged Modi to release him from detention. “Sir, with my 20 years of experience in medical field and more so by those 103 free medical camps I had conducted since out of jail after BRD [Baba Raghav Das] oxygen tragedy, I feel I could be of some help in curtailing this disease,” Dr Khan wrote in the letter dated March 19. “I humbly request you to defer/order to release to serve from my illegal, arbitrary, malafide, unjustified detention till my beloved country comes out winning against this deadly virus.”
In his letter, Khan also flagged the fragility of India’s healthcare and warned of a catastrophe. “I fear with our fragile health system which is in shambles at primary level, scarce intensive care units, huge shortage of doctors/paramedics, large population, poverty, lack of awareness, etc. could lead to an impending catastrophe,” he said.
Dr Khan said that India must increase testing to prevent the community spread of coronavirus. “I propose that we should increase rapid testing strength (1 in each district level), open up of new intensive care units and isolation wards,” he said. “ I suggest extensive training of doctors/paramedics/support group including AYUSH and private sectors.”
Khan was a paediatrician at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, where 63 children died in 2017 due to lack of oxygen. He was suspended from his post after the incident and jailed for nine months. However, a government inquiry had cleared him of all charges and lauded his actions to save lives during the crisis. Later, the Uttar Pradesh government began a new departmental inquiry against Khan for spreading incorrect information about the investigation report and for making “anti-government” remarks during his suspension.
Khan is currently in jail for allegedly making a provocative speech during a protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the Aligarh Muslim University in December.