The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospital bedlam marks Habra bandh

Opposition leaders laid siege to Ashoknagar State General Hospital for the second day on Wednesday, making life even more miserable for the patients. The rest of the Habra-Ashoknagar belt stayed indoors, in response to a 12-hour bandh, called by the Trinamul Congress.

From dawn, Trinamul politicians parked themselves in the hospital — in the eye of a storm after Gauranga Pal, admitted with diarrhoea and anaemia, succumbed to burns he suffered on Monday night. The sit-in blocked the hospital entrance.

Police acted promptly, removing the crowd around 11 am. But the protesters, shouting slogans into microphones attached to vehicles bearing the party flag, shifted barely a few metres away.

The twin targets of their ire were state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra and Ashoknagar State General Hospital superintendent Pushpendu Sengupta, but it was the patients who suffered through the noisy rally.

As the protesters demanded Mishra’s resignation and Sengupta’s removal, those inside the hospital cringed at the noise.

This din continued for more than 90 minutes, and the demonstrators moved away only around one in the afternoon, satisfied with their work for the day.

Away in district headquarters Barasat, Trinamul leaders petitioned district magistrate H.K. Dwivedi. Trinamul MP from Barasat Ranjit Panja, accompanied by party MLAs Ashok Mukherjee (representing Barasat Assembly) and Jyotipriya Mallick (from Gaighata), sought to invite the district administration’s attention not only to the Habra hospital but to the “sorry condition of state-run hospitals across North 24-Parganas”.

Panja, himself a doctor, said he was “taken aback” at the state of the Ashoknagar hospital, one of the biggest in the Habra-Bongaon belt. “The administration is trying to shield the guilty staff,” he alleged.

Dwivedi heard the leaders out but later told the media it was not for him to decide on their demands. “I will send the complaints to my superiors,” he said, but promised to speak to the district health administrative officials first.

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