The title Shrimann Minis-Ji is not my own. I’ve borrowed it from the late Pulo Khaytoo, who was my best friend in Bambous, the same age as me and all. Through her, I was, like her, a Nani at 30. She was the wife of the late Ramesh Khaytoo, who was Ram’s closest friend in Bambous, and they were the same age, too. Ramesh was the hero of the Tablisman Anna labourers who instituted total workers’ control in that cane plantation, before the entire workforce was sacked by the bosses. Doing away with alienation in work was far too advanced for any boss let alone a sugar cane boss. Anyway, Pulo wrote a column in Bhojpuri, with Kisna as scribe, for Lagazet Lalit de Klas every week under the title Shrimann Minis-Ji. It was addressed to a Minister who was on MBC-TV a lot at the time, the late Suresh Moorba, ex-MMM MP who turned Labour Minister.
So, when I decided to put a set of questions to Minister of Health Dr. Jagutpal, the title that came naturally to me was: “Shrimann Minis-Ji”. It is already Day 28 of the second lockdown, but better late than never. So, here goes.
1. Shrimann Minis-Ji, when you give figures for new cases over the “past 24 hours”, from what time to what time are these figures taken? Could you mention the time each day, please? This would prevent confusion like that on the site today, where it is 9 cases in one place (Past 24 hours), and 10 in another (“Today”). Then, anyone trying to follow the statistics has to go to the WHO site to confirm which is which.
2. Please could you, as Minister, every day since 5 March 2021, have behind you a clear visual bar-chart-type graph with each day’s new cases figures clearly marked? This will help to encourage people to respect all the public health guidelines.
3. Shrimann Minis-Ji, please can you dis-aggregate the figures in your daily briefing and on the Besafemoris.mu site for “cases detected through contact-tracing” and “cases detected when people turned up at Covid Testing Centres, otherwise known as Flu Clinics in the main hospitals”?
4. Please could you, as Minister, organize for a Kreol translation of Dr. Gaud’s generally excellent briefings?
5. Shrimann Minis-Ji, could you invite a Government epidemiologist on to your briefing panel to explain the trends of the second wave, and advise people on what the science is indicating is necessary to contain the spread? You, yourself, are I believe from a quite different speciality. Your colleague on the panel Dr. Joomaye is owner, I understand, of a private clinic or two, which is not too useful as far as epidemics go.
It is strange the things one learns from University. On one of my first days at the LSE on a post-graduate course, a professor called Brian Abel-Smith who had coincidentally done research into social policy for Mauritius, asked us all what kind of doctor, what kind of speciality, saved most lives. We guessed like idiots for ages. The days of the plague being long gone, we guessed “pediatricians”, “obstetricians”, “cardiac surgeons”, accident and emergency doctors, GPs. Nobody got it. We all sat there, with our degrees and all, unable to get it right. Of course, today, in the middle of an epidemic, it is easy: the public health doctors. But they are invisible. And the better they do their work, the more invisible they are. In an epidemic, like now, however, Shrimann Minis-Ji, we would like to see them.
In order to contain any epidemic, we depend upon literally hundreds of people at the grassroots having the wherewithal to be able to explain to those around them very clearly exactly what is going on. This is essential in times like these, when we need to be in a position to counter all manner of conspiracy theories. We need the facts and figures. This is what helps us give sensible, down-to-earth analyses to share.