The police on Friday launched a hunt for more than a dozen people who had allegedly led Thursday’s attack on a group of state health officials in Baruipur, in the southern part of the city, where they had gone to administer polio drops to children under a government programme.
A picket has been posted in the area to tackle the tension that was sparked by the incident at Silkheko, in Baruipur’s Hariharpur area. The health officials were on the spot for the special pulse polio programme in the South 24-Parganas district on May 29 and 30. A complaint has been lodged at Baruipur police station against the attackers.
On Thursday, five health officials, including four women, went to the house of Kuppat Ali to administer pulse polio drops to his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Rubina Khatun.
At the time, only Rubina’s mother and some female members of the family were at home. After administering the drops, the team was returning when they were surrounded by the male members of the family and neighbours. The mob started abusing the health workers.
Suddenly, Rubina’s mother turned violent and attacked a woman health worker. She pinned the woman to the ground and started pummelling her. The other team members tried to pull Rubina’s mother away, when the girl’s uncle, Jabbar Ali, turned on Nityananda Haldar, a former government health official who was with the team to assist it.
Chief medical officer of health (CMOH) Pradeep Mondal said the incident was shocking. “We have reported the attack to the state health department and district magistrate,” he added. A complaint has been lodged against Rubina’s uncle.
On Friday, another health team, led by senior medical officer Partha De, went to the spot but returned unharmed.
A senior health official said the Baruipur attack was not an isolated incident. A medical team that went to Mahestala, too, faced mob resistance to the pulse polio programme. “In spite of our best efforts, we could not administer the drops to more than 100 children,” said a health team member.
These incidents have forced health officials and workers to demand special police protection. The CMOH found it strange that health officials were being attacked when they were on programmes for popular benefit. “However, we have to continue the programme and to avoid any sort of trouble on June 1, we have to take every kind of precaution,” Mondal said.