Malda, Oct. 15: The Malda chief medical officer of health (CMOH) was today manhandled by employees of a catering agency at the district hospital here when he raised questions about the quality of food supplied to patients.
The incident took place in front of district magistrate (DM) Chittaranjan Das and additional DM Purnachandra Seat, who stood helpless as CMOH Radharaman Banik was shoved out of the hospital’s kitchen.
The three officials had gone to the hospital on a surprise visit to inspect the kitchen and storeroom there.
Zilla parishad sabhadhipati and chairman of the district health committee, Goutam Chakraborty, who was supposed to be part of the inspection team, was conspicuously absent. “I was held up and arrived late,” he said.
Both Das and Banik were taken aback when they found the employees of the catering agency mixing water with powdered milk in the kitchen when they are supposed to provide fresh milk. There was also no provision for chicken though according to the agreement with the agency, patients are supposed to be served chicken for lunch on Mondays. (See chart)
When Banik called for an explanation, the employees, led by Apurba Saha, became furious and pushed him out of the kitchen.
The security guards of Das and Seat had to step in to rescue Banik from their hands.
Saha argued that the paltry amount paid to the agency made it impossible for them to serve chicken.
Under orders from the DM, Banik later lodged a written complaint with the local police station. He has also informed district superintendent of police Dilip Mondal.
“It is up to the police to do something about the assault on me. But we are going to cancel the agency’s contract,” Banik said.
The incident will be particularly galling for the diet committee of the district, headed by the DM, because this year it had deliberately overlooked the norms of tender and awarded the catering contract to the agency that quoted the highest price.
In fact, all the agencies had submitted figures less than the base price fixed by the government. The agency that won the contract had quoted a figure just one per cent lower than the base price of Rs 28.50 per person per day.
“We thought at least they would serve healthy food,” the DM said. “But now even they have started cheating us.”
A senior health official said most of the 600-700 patients in the hospital do not eat the meals supplied from the hospital. The caterer, however, is always paid the full amount.