The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Leaders lay siege, burns victim dies

A few politicians denied Gauranga Pal — charred beyond recognition at the Ashoknagar State General Hospital — the chance of being treated at a bigger hospital, as they “advised” doctors on what to do next with the burns victim. And then, when it was all over for Pal, they got busy “probing” the cause of his death by burns, in the hospital.

From Trinamul Congress activists entering the campus and then refusing to let Pal — who had suffered 40 per cent burns and later died — leave for another hospital to a CPM legislator descending there to counter the Opposition protests, the Habra hospital saw it all in less than a day’s work, said superintendent Pushpendu Sengupta.

It was, ironically, another patient who led the politicians to the hospital. Raktim Ghosh, a Trinamul activist admitted with breathing trouble, called up his band of followers from a cellphone, who promptly showed up to demand that Pal be treated there itself, as he was “not in a position to be shifted”.

These men entered the hospital around 3 am and did not leave till daybreak, by when they had ensured that Gauranga would stay — and die — at Ashoknagar. When he did succumb to his burns, around 7.30 am, they were not around, but as news of the death spread, they were back to lay siege on the hospital.

Trinamul MP from Barasat Ranjit Panja and party MLA from Habra Tapati Datta later led a demonstration in front of the hospital. Their main demand — the resignation of health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra.

It was then that CPM legislator from Ashoknagar Sharmistha Datta decided to step in, “to see what the Trinamul people were up to”. The slogans and counter-slogans reached a crescendo around 9.30 am, when hospital superintendent Sengupta came out and took Panja — himself a doctor — inside.

Panja left soon after, the Habra MLA in tow. But Trinamul supporters then entered the hospital to “probe” what could have led to the killer blaze. “We saw some loose wires near Pal’s bed and that could have caused a short-circuit,” observed youth leader Sanjay Rauth.

The Trinamul crowd followed Pal’s family to Barasat, where the body was taken for post-mortem in the afternoon. Another round of demonstrations ended with the decision to hold a 12-hour bandh in the Ashoknagar-Habra belt on Wednesday.

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