The news of Dr Shahid Jameel resigning from his post as chief of a panel that coordinated genome sequencing in India has led to criticism of the Narendra Modi government by opposition parties.
Shahid Jameel, a renowned virologist, had been leading the SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium, which coordinates work of laboratories that use genetic sequencing to track emergence of new viral variants. His resignation from the role was reported by The New Indian Express on Sunday.
Jameel told media agencies he had quit on Friday, but did not give a reason for the decision.
Jameel had been critical of the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, he wrote an opinion essay in The New York Times, in which he claimed scientists in India were facing “stubborn resistance to evidence-based policymaking”.
He had written, “All models predict India’s second wave to last until July or August, ending with about 35 million confirmed cases and possibly 500 million estimated infections.”
The resignation of Shahid Jameel was used by the opposition to target the Modi government. Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh tweeted, “The resignation of Dr. Shahid Jameel, one of India’s best virologists, is really sad. Modi Sarkar has no place for professionals who can speak their mind freely without fear or favour.”
Congress spokesperson and MP Manish Tewari sought to know why Jameel had quit. Tewari tweeted, “Shahid Jameel Sahib: Did you quit or were you forced to quit ? The real nation wants to know ? When silence becomes a crime it becomes a crime to stay silent.”
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi lashed out at Prime Minister Modi for the resignation of Jameel. He tweeted on Monday, “S Jameel head of INSACOG a govt scientific advisory group quit. INSACOG had warned @PMOIndia in early March about the dangerous Indian mutant but govt paid no heed. Jameel has frankly said that govt didn’t ‘take science into account’. We’re paying for Modi’s scientific illiteracy.”
Last week, while addressing an event organised by The Indian Express, Jameel had blamed the second wave of COVID-19 on people not adhering to COVID-19 protocols and “super spreading events”, including elections rallies and religious congregations. He had warned India may possibly see many COVID waves, depending on the conditions at that time and the progress of the vaccination drive.