I feel too sad for words tonight. I feel like I have lost a beloved friend in Dr. Amit Sengupta, and I have (even though I would mostly only talk to him seeking understanding and analysis and resources while researching for my stories on the health sector); he was calm and gentle and patient and kind and funny and would lay your anxiety to rest. On most days, he would sit in office till late, often the last person on the first floor, his always reassuring presence still completely occupied with work on his desktop; barring the brief smoke breaks on the balcony.
I feel I have lost a mentor, my comrade, a vast and reassuring sea of commitment and knowledge (distilled and always accessible, at one place) accumulated through a lifetime of work in shaping the people's science movements in the country and in building the People's Health Movement (PHM) worldwide that is fighting for people's right to universal healthcare (not universal health coverage, mind you) in the face of the strongest attack yet of neoliberal capitalism and the International Financial Institutions dictating health policy in the Global South and killing people while destroying lives of the living who are poorer and the poorest and now even the middle classes (and packing off future generations to doom) to clear the path for unthinkable profits into an ever-shrinking size of private hands.
In these times of all the talk about 'universal health coverage' and health insurance and Modicare/Ayushman Bharat or whatever it is named next, his short Occasional Paper written for the Municipal Services Project in 2013, wherein he examines the UHC model and its impact in different parts of the world and the politics and unified economic logic behind it (it is free to download) is a must read.
Read: Universal health coverage: Beyond rhetoric
Among his numerous other roles (oh, and he was trained as a medical doctor), he was the editor of Global Health Watch, the definitive source and repositories of healthcare developments and health movements' documentation around the world from a perspective other than that of big pharma and big capital. He recently oversaw the successful conduct of the People's Health Assembly-4 that took place in Savar, Bangladesh from November 16-19, where people fighting in struggles for universal access to healthcare from across the world came together. Sengupta was among the prominent leaders of the Delhi Science Forum, the All India People's Science Network, and founder of the PHM (and Convenor of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan in India).
I remember he also bailed me out on the phone once (more than once, but this time it was the landline) even as he was busy at home in the evening and I was running foul of my deadline for a story on a topic I was still learning about but was feeling more confused after talking to some experts. Just knowing that he was around used to be deeply reassuring.
His sudden death is an unfathomable loss to the Left movement, and to people everywhere fighting for a just and egalitarian world.
Dr Amit Sengupta, adieu comrade! We'll only get stronger.