June 28: The controversy over the official Murshidabad death toll is far from over with the district magistrate ordering an inquiry to establish how many children died of influenza.
District health authorities yesterday said 23 children had died when influenza struck several sub-divisions in Murshidabad during the past few weeks. Till a few days ago, they were putting the toll at 20.
But the Indian Medical Association and Opposition parties say the count is more than 100.
A Congress delegation led by MP Adhir Choudhury yesterday submitted a list of 95 children it said had died over the past month. The team demanded a thorough probe into the deaths.
Under pressure, district magistrate Manoj Pant has asked Bijon Mondol, the chief me- dical officer of health, to establish the correct toll and submit a report.
Elsewhere, the state and city units of the medical association have threatened an agitation after the government suspended three doctors and issued showcause notices to four.
“What were the panchayats and other government machinery doing to prevent the deaths'” Molot Patra, state association secretary, asked. “The government does not have any mechanism to even protect children from a disease. They must immediately lift the suspension or face a bigger agitation.”
The city unit of the association will organise a convention on July 5 at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. This will be followed by a march to the governor’s house where a memorandum on the government’s failure to prevent the deaths will be submitted, association joint secretary (headquarters) R.D. Dubey said.
The city unit of the Medical Service Centre has protested against the government’s failure to save the children.
“We have evidence to suggest that the government deliberately kept the death toll down to the minimum. At least 35 deaths were recorded at Jangipur sub-division hospital between June 15 and June 21,” said Ashok Samanta, vice-president of Haspatal O Janaswasthya Raksha Committee, a wing of the centre.
Samanta said the decision to suspend the doctors was wrong.