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Netai firing toll rises to nine
- cries of negligence as 60-year-old dies

Calcutta, Jan. 16: The toll in the Netai firing rose to nine after 60-year-old Arati Mondal died at SSKM Hospital late last night amid allegations that she was neglected for the first two days after her admission.

Arati had been hit by a bullet allegedly fired from the CPM camp in Netai, 5km from Lalgarh, on January 7. Her son and Trinamul Congress leaders blamed medical negligence for her death.

Six persons — including two who were critically injured — are being treated at SSKM. Others had been admitted to Midnapore Medical College and Hospital. Seven persons died on the day of the firing. Geetali Adak, one of the villagers who had protested the cadres’ “atrocities”, too, died at SSKM on Friday.

Arati’s body was handed over to her son Tarani this afternoon after post-mortem. Partha Chatterjee, the Opposition leader in the Assembly, who had been at SSKM since morning, accompanied Tarani to Netai.

“My mother was given an ITU (intensive treatment unit) bed only after Didi (Mamata Banerjee) intervened. But that was on Sunday whereas she was brought here on Friday (January 7) itself,” Tarani, 24, said.

“If there were no intensive care beds available, how did they find one within minutes of Didi calling the hospital superintendent (Prabhash K. Chakraborty),” he wondered.

Trinamul leader Madan Mitra went a step further and said Arati was denied proper treatment even in the ITU. He was leading a silent march with black flags within the hospital campus and was accompanied by Chatterjee. They were later joined by Union minister of state for shipping Mukul Roy.

A senior official of the SSKM administration, however, said there was no need to put Arati in the ITU when she arrived on January 7. “Later, her condition deteriorated and we were scouting for an ITU bed. It was then that Mamata Banerjee intervened. The patient would have got an ITU bed in any case,” he said.

Mondal was shifted to the ITU on January 9, but she “started going downhill steadily” three days ago with septicaemia and haemorrhagic disorder setting in.

Tarani had told The Telegraph that her mother had gone to the camp in Netai on the fateful day in the hope of convincing the CPM cadres to spare her sons the ordeal of physical training. “They shot her from behind, about 75 metres from the camp, while she was about to cross a nearby rivulet and flee the scene once trouble started,” he had said.

The presence of Trinamul leaders and supporters proved disconcerting for health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra, who was in SSKM to take part in the foundation day celebrations of the hospital. He gave a miss to a second event he was to attend on the campus.

“The health minister was supposed to give away cash that we had raised for the kin of poor patients but he called us to excuse himself. He said he could not attend an event in the open on a day the campus was so volatile,” said Biplab Roy, a member of the hospital’s Group D staff, who organised the second event.

Villagers protest

Villagers today surrounded West Midnapore district magistrate Surendra Gupta and superintendent of police Manoj Verma during a visit to Netai, and demanded that a police camp be set up immediately.

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