Sikkim: Amid COVID-19, two politicians go back to being doctors
Dr Mechung Bhutia (left) and Dr Bina Basnet

Gangtok: Dr Mechung Bhutia, a doctor and politician, accused Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay of denying him from serving people as a voluntary doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic. The former Sikkim Democratic Front legislator has an initiative with Dr Bina Basnet, Hamro Sikkim Party president, termed ‘Hamro Mit, Manavta ko Jit’. But on the first day of their campaign, Dr Mechung Bhutia was denied by Sikkim Police from camping for the night at Rongli in East Sikkim.

The doctor-politician duo and their team had reached out to 34 houses and 41 patients infected by COVID-19 in Rhenock and Chujachen constituency on June 5. Dr Mechung Bhutia, addressing the media on Sunday in Gangtok, saying, “Our team stayed back in Rongli to reach Machong constituency from the other route by afternoon rendering medical service on the way. But around 9 pm at the place we were camped, four police officers, a home guard, a village guard came, asked for our documents, told us that we were not allowed to camp at Rongli. When questioned, the police officials told us it was an order from the high command. We were compelled to leave Rongli there was no intention on compromising the COVID protocol from us”.

Taking a leaf out of the Disaster Management Act, Dr Mechung said, “There should be maximum participation from a medical professional at a community level. But our government is looking at our work as politics. There was no conspiracy being hatched. I am a doctor before a politician. Can I not act to my profession when there is such a wide-scale COVID surge? Golay Saab (Prem Singh Golay) may be trying to stop us, using his police, administration and goons. We have merely asked for permission to serve the people. We want to support where the government’s machinery cannot reach. It is not merely about throwing a packet of medicine at people’s doorstep.”

Quoting Chief Minister Golay’s previous statement, Mechung said, “The CM is saying that all must come together to serve the people in the pandemic. Even I am from Sikkim, this is my profession, that is the only reason I am working. Golay Saab, you may have won this argument but lost the humanity”.

On being asked if he had taken permission from the government, Dr Mechung said he was denied permission since May 27 by multiple state and district officials. “There is no law in place that stops a registered medical practitioner from rendering service. They can find if our work is unconstitutional, but this high handedness is wrong”.

However, upon inquiry, the Rongli Sub-Division administration and the police officials informed that they were not intimated by Dr Mechung and his team. A source in Rongli Police Station informed, “We came to know that a few people wearing PPE suit had entered Rongli. We inquired if they were a sanitising or a medical team. We learned they were not government officials, further, we learned that they had come from the red zone in Sudunglakha village nearby, so acting on the behest of local complaints, we told them they cannot contaminate the place as per the current Disaster Management Act. They didn’t protest, they understood and went back”.

Dr Mechung has vouched to go back and serve again tomorrow, as he claims he gets 150-200 calls from people to come to help them during the pandemic. Bhutia was carrying out his service to the people of the Rumtek constituency for the past two weeks.

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