Letter from India March for Science to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Over 600 scientists endorsed a letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to take certain measures to fight out the COVID-19 pandemic.

April 21, 2020 06:16 pm | Updated 06:16 pm IST

On the 28th day of lockdown, medical staff of a private diagnostic centre is taking a sample from passenger of a care at Western Highway Express, at Goregaon East in Mumbai on April 21, 2020.

On the 28th day of lockdown, medical staff of a private diagnostic centre is taking a sample from passenger of a care at Western Highway Express, at Goregaon East in Mumbai on April 21, 2020.

Over 600 scientists endorsed a letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to take certain measures to fight out the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The letter is below:


The Prime Minister, Government of India


We welcome the measures the government has taken to ensure physical distancing to arrest the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the experiences of Singapore, South Korea, and Japan have shown that social distancing by itself does not suffice; it is necessary to embark on testing on a very large scale to identify and isolate not only the symptomatic patients but also the infected asymptomatic individuals. Moreover, the country also has to prepare the health-care system to be able to treat millions of patients, if the situation arises. In this context we would like to put forth a few concrete proposals to deal with the crisis.

1. Whenever anybody tests positive, extensive testing has to be done covering the whole neighbourhood, the nearby market area, and the places that the individual visited over the past few days, at least by random sampling. That will require increasing the rate of testing to a substantially higher level compared to what is being done presently. This will require not only a larger number of test-kits, but also a large number of trained personnel. We propose that unemployed science graduates be specially recruited for this purpose and should be trained on a war footing.

2. Most biology departments in research institutions and universities have RT-PCR machines in BSL2 facilities which can be used for COVID-19 detection. Faculty and students of many of these institutions are prepared to offer their services in this crisis period. Effective steps should be taken to utilize these facilities to enhance the testing capability of the nation.

3. India is lagging way behind in genetic sequencing of the novel coronavirus. We do not have sufficient data on which mutated variants of the virus are there in India, neither do we know anything about the rate at which it is mutating—all of which are crucial for effective management of the pandemic. Therefore, we request you to increase the number of genomic sequencing of the coronavirus isolated from Indian patients, and to make the results publicly available.

4. Isolation wards should be created in district and subdivision-level hospitals, and even in the primary health centres, equipping them with the necessary infrastructure to treat COVID-19 patients. The government should use the facilities in private hospitals to create special wards to provide free treatment to COVID-19 patients. All indoor stadiums and similar indoor spaces should be turned into COVID field hospitals. Private doctors, nurses, and semi-skilled helpers should be recruited to serve these makeshift hospitals. Complete safety should be ensured for the people serving in these hospitals.

5. The emerging situation will require large-scale production of PPE gear for health-care personnel, and masks and sanitizers for common people. The government should initiate planned production of these essential items by requisitioning closed factory spaces and by engaging workers rendered jobless by the lock-down.

6. The nation needs to produce a large number of ventilators in a short time. Many relatively inexpensive designs of ventilators (including mechanized Ambu bags) have been proposed by Indian investigators. Some international companies have also made their ventilator designs public. Indian pharmaceutical companies and other manufacturers should be requisitioned to mass produce such ventilators to meet the nation's requirement. Building an Indian innovation-development-production infrastructure is the need of the hour.

7. Migrant labourers are stuck in different states due to sudden announcement of the lock- down. Most of them are living in crowded places and it will not be possible for them to maintain physical distancing—a practice necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Central Government should initiate a dialogue with the states to provide transit of these helpless people to their home states by means of special trains. Once they reach their respective subdivisions, they should be quarantined in primary health centres or school buildings for 14 days before allowing them to go home. Adequate financial and material support should be provided to daily wage labourers and poor people who have lost their livelihood due to the lock-down.

8. The expenses of the above programmes should be raised by levying taxes on the super-rich, and by using Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds of all national and multinational companies—not by taxing the common people. Since health is a state subject, the Union Government should allocate adequate funds to the states for combating this critical situation. Since research scholars are losing valuable research time due to the lock-down, their tenure of fellowship should be extended by at least 6 months.

We hope that the government will give due consideration to the above proposals.

Signed --

Soumitro Banerjee, IISER Kolkata

Alladi Sitaram, Indian Statistical Institute(Retd.)

Jayant Murthy Indian Institute of Astrophysics

Debashis Mukherjee, S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences

Debabrata Ghosh, All India Institute of Medical Sciences Delhi


Naba K Mondal, INSA Senior Scientist, SINP, Kolkata

Partha Majumder, National Inst. of Biomedical Genomics and ISI

Dipankar Chatterji, Indian Institute of Science

Ayan Banerjee, IISER Kolkata

Dhrubajyoti Mukhopadhyay, Raman Centre for Applied and Interdisciplinary Sciences

Pradipta Bandyopadhyay, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Parongama Sen, University of Calcutta

Damodar Maity, IIT Kharagpur

Sarbari Bhattacharya, Bangalore University

Nilesh Maiti, Shishuram Das College, Calcutta University

Srikanth Sastry, JNCASR, Bengaluru

Partho Sarothi Ray, IISER Kolkata

Anupam Basu, IIT Kharagpur

Amitabha Basu, Retired Scientist, CSIR-NPL, New Delhi

Ajit Srivastava, Institute of Physics Bhubaneswar

Prof. Rajan Gurukkal, State Higher Education Council, Kerala

R Ramanujam, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai

Indrani Bose, Retired scientist, Bose Institute, Kolkata

Anindita Bhadra, IISER Kolkata

Aniket Sule, HBCSE-TIFR, Mumbai

Raju Mukherjee, IISER Tirupati

Enakshi Bhattacharya, IIT Madras

Pradipta Bandyopadhyay, Indian Statistical Institute

Nagarjuna, (GN) TIFR

Abhijit Majumder, IIT Bombay

Chandan Dasgupta, Indian Institute of Science

Prof Pranab Roy, Institute of Child Health.

Siddhartha Sen, IIT Kharagpur

Pabitra Banik, Indian Statistical Institute

Debabrata Bera, Jadavpur University

Sharath Ananthamurthy, University of Hyderabad

Arunan.M.C., Kishore Bharati

Indrani Bose Retired scientist, Bose Institute, Kolkata

Asoke P Chattopadhyay University of Kalyani

And 600 others

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