Tribute to Dr. Amit Sengupta

Amit Sengupta was one of the most important voices in the People's Health Movement. His death is a great loss for the progressive health movement in India and globally.

Only a week ago, we were sitting together after the 4th People’s Health Assembly  in Bangladesh and planned the future work of this global network of many thousands community health activists, academics, trade unionists, and NGOs. Medico international has been an active member since.

Amit Sengupta was one of the most important voices in this movement; he was instrumental in the realization of this assembly as well as many other important initiatives of the PHM.

The People’s Health Movement is the clearly heard voice in global health politics, committed to the goal „Health for All“ and adamant to denounce the structural causes of inequity and inequality. The PHM is not lured into the harmonious world of Public-Private Partnerships and understands health as the highly political and not a mere technical issue, which health is indeed.

Amit coordinated from Delhi the regularly published Global Health Watch as an „alternative World Health Report“, without him, the International People’s Health Universities, the learning program for young health activists would have been impossible and he was one of the driving forces of the WHO-Watchers in Geneva, who made the negotiations at the headquarters of the World Health Organization accessible for a broader civil society and intervened with own statements in to the debates.

After the hectic and exciting weeks of planning, organizing and successfully realizing the 4th PHA with more than 1.400 participants in spite of many obstacles, Amit went on a short, well deserved holiday with his family at the shore of Indian Ocean in Goa. He drowned while swimming on the 28th November and leaves not only his family in grief and shock, but also his friends and comrades in the global health movement.

Fighting privatization and commercialization of health care

With a background in the All India People’s Science Network, Amit Sengupta, who was trained as a medical doctor but moved early on in his career from clinical practice to the more structural causes of ill and death, was struggling already a long time for essential medicines and an equitable and accessible health system for all in India before the PHM came into being in 2000 at the same place where we were meeting this year again.

He fought against privatization and commercialization of health care as well as he defended the role of local health activists working in their communities, who are under pressure in the repressive climate of the current Indian Government. His voice was clearly heard in the global arena of health politics, when he warned WHO of the increasing influence by the big philanthrocapitalist foundations and criticized the damaging results for health of Free Trade Agreements and the power and actions of Transnational Companies.

Medico profited from his knowledge, his public presence and narrative skills many times at events like the Poverty and Health Conferences and seminars of the German Platform for Global Health in Berlin or the Geneva Global Health Hub, we discussed with him in Frankfurt funding strategies for the PHM in a world where critical voices of the civil society are increasingly under pressure and donors are looking towards “quick impacts” rather than sustained structures in advocacy and campaigning.

We collaborated with him in the production of the Global Health Watches and discussed and celebrated with him at the meetings of the People’s Health Movement. We will miss greatly his persistence and also his great humor, which he didn’t lose in the anger against the injustice of the ruling status quo. His death is a great loss for the progressive health movement in India and globally. We grieve with his family, friends and comrades for a powerful voice for the Health Rights for all people.

Andreas Wulf, Project Coordinator Global Health

Published: 29. November 2018

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