| Police break up the rally organised by the Trinamul Congress’ women’s wing. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
Calcutta, Oct. 20: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today made a start with disciplining rallies and demonstrations by banning these “democratic rights” in hospitals.
“Hospitals are not places to shout slogans, place demands, hold rallies, demonstrations and meetings, nor for exhibiting muscle power,” the chief minister said.
Although the decision may sit uneasy together with the state government’s challenge to Justice Amitava Lala’s ruling that had the same intention of imposing rally discipline in the streets, this is the first time the Left Front regime has recognised the need to protect hospitals from the “democratic right to protest” and acted on it.
The Supreme Court already prevents shows of protest on hospital premises.
Bhattacharjee said all political parties, associations, trade unions and individuals would have to follow the ban.
The directive came a day after blows were exchanged between doctors and other hospital staff and members of the family of Nikunja Das, the 19-year-old who died at RG Kar Medical College and Hospital yesterday amid allegations of neglect.
“Brawls cannot be justified even as a ‘reaction’ to death caused due to alleged negligence. No circumstances can give anyone the licence to pick a fight in a hospital,” Bhattacharjee said.
“The doctors might or might not have erred, but it is for the government to conduct inquiries and punish the guilty. No allegation can be reason enough to bash up doctors or junior staff of hospitals.”
“We have taken action against doctors in the past. For example, against those who neglected their duties during the child deaths at Murshidabad some months ago. Any negligence will be followed by inquiries and action will be taken,” he added.
As the chief minister announced that “he had asked the police to carry out firmly” his instructions, action had started at SSKM Hospital where Susmita Biswas died on Friday without receiving medical attention for 10 hours.
Nearly 50 Congress protesters had gathered inside the hospital and started shouting slogans. The police tried stopping the protesters, but they refused to budge. The deputy commissioner of police (south), H.P. Singh, echoed the chief minister. “It’s a hospital, stop your tamashabaazi”. After a lathi-charge, the police rounded up all 50.
Responding to a question on Susmita’s death, Bhattacharjee asked: “Do you know whether she was lying unattended for so many hours' That is for the inquiry committee to find out. And the government will act on the basis of the inquiry report.”
The report is expected by Wednesday.
“Any death is unfortunate. But, remember, there are also those who are being treated and discharged from hospitals. I can give you these figures,” Bhattacharjee said, refusing to react to the circumstances of Shabana Parveen and Susmita’s deaths, saying he would speak only after getting the reports.
Six-month-old Shabana died after his parents turned away from a hospital on allegedly being asked for Rs 1,000, which they did not have.
State CPM secretary Anil Biswas, who had strongly defended the right to hold rallies without restrictions, claimed that the party had always been against protest meetings and slogan-shouting in hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
It’s strange that it has taken so many years for it to enforce this stand.
“There should not be any protest inside hospitals and nursing homes where critical patients are treated and in schools where children go to study. Hospital is not the place where anarchy should be allowed,” he added.
If there is anarchy in the streets, critical patients — like Shabana — may find it difficult to reach hospitals and children schools.