The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rule-book rap raises ‘super’ stink

Traffic sergeant Rajat Krishan might have been luckier than SSKM surgeon-superintendent Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay. He hasn't had to grovel — in writing — for sticking to the rule-book.

A day after forcing minister Asok Bhattacharya to get off his red-light car and walk more than 50 yards to the Eden Gardens club-house gate, Krishan got a reprimand from his boss and was transferred back to his original posting: the Shyambazar traffic-guard. For the moment, the matter rests there.

But Chattopadhyay’s ordeal has been continuing since he had a run-in with mayor Subrata Mukherjee. He has been made to run from pillar to post, prepare detailed reports on his “face-off” with the mayor and apologise profusely, “in a demeaning manner”, only because he did what should have been done.

On Friday, Chattopadhyay spent his first full day in office since Tuesday. After spending Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday shuttling between Writers' Buildings and the hospital of which he is the head, he spent Friday attending a high-level meet to discuss the government's ambitious hospital-connectivity programme and pushing files.

But the humiliation to which he was subjected won't erase itself so easily, either for himself or his subordinates, say health department officials. For one, Krishan's superiors did the grovelling for him, after rebuking him for not using his "discretion" in waiving the rules for a minister.

Chattopadhyay, they said, was forced to do everything himself, with senior health department officials looking the other way. First, he had to reverse the decision to treat a patient referred by Mukherjee like any other visiting the hospital.

As soon as the mayor left, Chattopadhyay was forced to send word to the emergency ward to admit the patient “anyhow", officials said on Friday.

Then came the letter, drafted hurriedly and full of errors, in which Chattopadhyay “promised all sorts of sincirity” (sic).

Even on Friday, 72 hours after a senior government officer was forced to grovel — in writing — in front of an Opposition leader with the right ‘contacts’ in the ruling clique, senior health department officials would not shoulder even part of the responsibility for the letter.

Health secretary Asim Barman initially said he had heard “nothing of any letter" that the SSKM Hospital surgeon-superintendent had written to the mayor. Perhaps, realising that the explanation was not very convincing, Barman amended himself. “I have nothing to say (about the letter),” he added.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee, who was present during the “face-off” with the mayor, admits that “the surgeon-superintendent did no wrong". But he is silent on why Chattopadhyay was asked to send the apology letter.

On Wednesday, more humiliation awaited Chattopadhyay. His profuse apologies to the mayor had no effect, he found out, as garbage piled up inside the wards and the hospital.

On Thursday, he met chief secretary S.N. Roy at Writers’ Buildings where, according to officials, he was told that his “tactlessness” could cost him dear.

Officials said on Friday that the chain of events revolving around Tuesday's Chattopadhyay-Mukherjee face-off had started taking its toll on the morale of the staff. And it has started at the very top. “The attitude in the hospital now is that we should work strictly by the rules and not go out of the way to do things that would help the institution,” an official said.

Officials also said that they had found it “most disturbing” that none of the senior officers in the health department had supported Chattopadhyay. “Some one should have stood up for him and spoken against the bullying tactics of Subrata Mukherjee,” an official said. “No one did that. Instead they are asking for all sorts of reports from the super. This can be extremely demoralising.”

They also said that the government should have supported the super, especially since the mayor did the unthinkable: he made innocent patients suffer, even though they did not figure in the fracas between the mayor and the hospital.

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