Interview: Dr. Debapriya Mallick Urges Non-Resident Bengalis to Get Involved in Re-building West Bengal



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Washington DC, May 24, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio) Dr. Debapriya Mullick is a greatly respected philanthropist well known for regularly and selflessly volunteering for assistance of the people of West Bengal during times of natural and man-made calamities. A medical doctor himself, he has been involved in establishing various health-care facilities and hospitals across West Bengal and is associated with a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) serving people facing various challenges all over the state. Among numerous instances of Dr Mallick jumping in to help, his spontaneous contribution towards assisting the victims after the March 14, 2007 bloodbath at Nandigram and natural disasters like the devastating floods of the Sunderbans after the 2009 hurricane Aila are particularly remarkable.

Dr. Debapriya Mallick is also the elder brother of Jyotipriya Mallick, lawyer and erstwhile Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Gaighata, Barasat, West Bengal, now the Minister of Food and Food Supply in the newly elected All India Trinamool Congress (AITMC) government of West Bengal lead by Mamata Banerjee as the Chief Minister.

Patriotism and a desire to serve the country and it's people runs in their family. Their father was the famous freedom fighter Saktipada Mallick.

In this informal chat with Arijit Chakraborty, Dr Mallick talks about how he was operating in a hospital when the firing happened at Nandigram, and he had to leave directly from the operation theater to the region. The journey itself was unpleasant due to derogatory comments being continually made, but eventually Dr Mallick and his team managed to set up camps and start treating almost 4,000 residents injured in police firing and physical abuse. He talks about Sonachura and how they could somehow establish a health-care facility on the 2nd floor of a building housing a bank - a facility which itself came into attack multiple times, including a particularly venomous one on the 10th of November by muscle-men who also destroyed an ambulance as well. This health-center was eventually named "Shahid Smriti Shwastho Kendro" by the local people honoring the martyrs. It took about nine months for things to stabilize to an extent that the team could finally withdraw.

About Singur, Dr Mallick says the challenges were significant there too, but slightly less than Nandigram since Singur is located close to national highway and thus doctors and nurses had easier access.

Dr Mallick also touches upon the challenges immediately after cyclone Aila struck and how it took around two years to approach a sense of normality across the vast number of affected villages and their people.

Dr Mallick's daughter Antarlina had passed away at the young age of nine due to medical negligence and mistreatment. Subsequently, Dr Mallick realized that many children were dying due to malnourishment and medical malpractice and his family, friends, fellow doctors and he founded an organization named after his daughter to try to address the issue of medical negligence and try to arrange better healthcare for children. Other major projects of the Antarleena foundation include their partnership with organizations helping mentally challenged kids and children of sex workers in the Sonagachi area of Kolkata and running a meal and evening school program in impoverished areas of Purulia for kids who cannot study during the day given their need to sustain their livelihood in the farms and shepherding livestock. Antarleena publishes a biweekly newsletter "Antarleena Sambad" with latest updates on their commendable project.

Coming to the huge political change in West Bengal where the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-lead Left Front governed for 34 years before the All India Trinamool Congress was elected in a landslide barely a week before this interview was recorded, Dr Mallick talks about the expectations of industrialists and the masses who are eagerly awaiting the resurgence of West Bengal into a leadership position in India, and how he and his colleagues have drafted a white-paper with the beginnings of a detailed plan on making West Bengal a model state. Dr Mallick stresses upon the importance of Bengali expatriates across the world contributing to their effort of rebuilding - the expertise of people living abroad, their ideas, their communication of the best practices that they have seen across the world in all areas, their minds and tangible and intangible support are absolutely necessary. There is limitless opportunity for the non-resident Bengali to contribute to the home state now, and Dr Mallick and his colleagues are eagerly awaiting our involvement.

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