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‘Keep quiet, I’m talking’ — Dr Jayesh Lele, IMA head who took on Ramdev in Covid fight

IMA's calls for FIR and sedition charges against Ramdev over his unfounded claims on allopathy have been led by Dr Lele. Colleagues say Ramdev brought out the 'original Lele'.

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Meet Dr Jayesh Lele, general secretary of the country’s largest lobby of allopathic doctors, the Indian Medical Association, or IMA.

This week, a clip of him shouting at yoga guru-turned-entrepreneur Ramdev during a television debate over the latter’s comments against allopathy went viral on social media. Dr Lele questioned the credibility of Patanjali’s Coronil — a controversial Ayurvedic drug manufactured by Ramdev-owned Patanjali, which he promotes as an effective medicine against Covid-19.

Social media erupted and cheered Lele, calling his response a “befitting reply” to Ramdev.

“What do you know about allopathy? Have you ever studied it?” Dr Lele, in a sarcastic tone, questioned Ramdev during a show aired on news channel Aaj Tak on 24 May.

“Keep quiet, I am talking,” screamed the medico in a debate show that was broadcast a day after Ramdev withdrew his statements questioning the efficacy of allopathy medicines. Lele asked Ramdev to “just shut up” and remove the pictures and products of Coronil from the TV screen, accusing him of promoting the herbal concoction.

The controversy surrounding a series of unfounded claims by Ramdev followed by hard-hitting actions of the IMA with Dr Lele leading from the front makes him ThePrint’s Newsmaker of the Week.

Also read: Why Ramdev’s Ruchi Soya shares jumped to Rs 1,535 from Rs 17 in 5 months & are now tanking

IMA shoots at Ramdev for calling allopathy ‘stupid science’

The IMA, which is an apex body representing more than three lakh allopathic doctors in India, had last week said criticised Ramdev’s claims that allopathy is a “stupid science” and medicines such as remdesivir, ivermectin, fabiflu and other drugs have failed to treat Covid-19 patients.

The IMA quoted Ramdev as saying that “lakhs of patients have died after taking allopathic medicines.”

In a hard-hitting letter, jointly written by Dr Lele and national president of the IMA, Dr J.A. Jayalal, the association said, “Besides being an internationally adorned yoga guru, he is a corporate giant of a pharmaceutical unit, and has made several false acquisitions about his company’s products time and again to mislead the public.”

It said that if the health ministry doesn’t take any action, the IMA will “knock on the doors of the judiciary.”

However, following the protests from the doctors across states, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan asked Ramdev to withdraw his statement, which the latter did.

But Ramdev also posed 25 questions to the IMA in an ‘open letter’ on Twitter, asking if allopathy offered permanent relief for ailments such as hypertension and type-1 and type-2 diabetes. He questioned if allopathy offered “permanent relief” for diseases including hypertension and diabetes.

In another letter on Ramdev’s comments on doctors dying despite taking vaccines, this one addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lele and Jayalal wrote, “Such persons should be booked immediately, without any delay, under the charges of sedition and all other applicable provisions of law. We appeal to you to take strict action to ensure that the modern medicine doctors who are risking their lives on a daily basis to treat and help the COVID-19 patients – do not lose their morale or motivation on account of such false and scurrilous statements made in the public domain.”

The IMA Thursday lodged a police complaint seeking an FIR against saffron-clad Ramdev, over his “dishonest and wrongful representations” on modern medicines.

The complaint accuses Ramdev of “wilfully and deliberately spread[ing] false, baseless and malicious information.”

IMA’s Uttarakhand unit has also served a defamation notice on Ramdev for his remarks, demanding an apology from him within 15 days, failing which it said it will demand a compensation of Rs 1,000 crore from the yoga guru.

Also read: How Ramdev’s Coronil makes social media’s fight against misinformation more difficult

Dr Lele — ‘a fearless, tech savvy medico’ 

According to one of his friends and colleagues at the IMA, Dr Lele is an “extremely fearless” man.

“His reaction on Ramdev’s issue has brought out the original Lele. He belongs to Kolhapur, a place which has a long history of wrestling and has produced many noted wrestlers. He is a fearless man with an innate fighter spirit,” said Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, former chief of the IMA.

“He has risen from the scratch. He knows everything in great detail about IMA, its role and its objectives. His past has been crystal clear, so he has no fear of anyone raising questions over his morals and ethics,” Wankhedkar added.

Doctor of general medicine, Lele practises in his clinic based in Mumbai’s West Malad. He has been practising medicine since 1978. He is a family physician — a doctor of general medicine for adults as well as for children (paediatrics).

In 1972, he cleared his secondary schooling from Mithibai College in Mumbai and in 1978 completed his MBBS from KEM Hospital’s Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College.

He is known as one of the most active members of the medical fraternity who has held various positions in several medical associations. In the past two decades — starting from the branch office and moving to state and national office — Lele rose to become secretary general of the IMA. In his last role, he was the secretary of IMA’s Hospital Board of India. Prior to this, he was the president of IMA’s Maharashtra unit.

His colleague Dr Mangesh Pate, a paediatrician, neonatologist and national secretary at the IMA’s Hospital Board of India, calls him a person with “rational and righteous approach”.

“Dr Lele is extremely techno savvy,” he said, adding that “Lele always encourages the rational and righteous approach in everything.”

“If anyone knows the art of keeping simple goals and accomplishing them with responsibility, it’s him.”

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