The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Decibel drama shatters calm

“My son is dying…the doctors have told me there is nothing much to do…Can you please tell them to switch off the loudspeakers and give my son a little peace'”— Shyla, mother of two year-old Usman, a broncho-pneumonia patient.

Even as authorities at the B.C. Roy Memorial Hospital for Children were trying hard to cope with the death of yet another child, activists of the Central Calcutta District Youth Congress added to the torment of the 282-odd patients in the dingy wards. Their “blaring loudspeakers” and “blood-curdling slogans”, on the hospital premises, drew cries from ailing kids unable to sleep.

It all started around 11 am, after 50-odd Youth Congress supporters, led by their central Calcutta president Subimal Mitra and PCC general secretary Krishna Debnath, set up loudspeakers on the hospital gates and constructed a makeshift podium across the Narkeldanga road.

“Please do not set up loudspeakers here. This is a low- sound zone,” a few senior police officers from Beleghata police station pleaded. But Debnath and company blasted away with their usual CPM bashing. The speeches continued well into the afternoon.

“What is going on' Please shut all the doors and windows. For God’s sake, this is an emergency ward,” said a junior doctor as Sunita Murmu, 19, sat clutching her three- month-old child. “Doctor babu ke dako, chhele-ta bodh hoy gelo (Call the doctor, my son is dying).”

Around 1.15 pm, the loudspeakers stopped. But the reprieve was brief. The Youth Congress supporters were back (picture above), demanding entry into hospital superintendent Dr Anup Mandal’s office.

Shoving the few policemen on duty away, they forced themselves in. “We have come to put you in your grave,” some shouted to the superintendent. The slogans — including the occasional Vande Mataram — continued, even as an SOS was sent to Lalbazar.

Initially the protesters were adamant not to budge till the health minister or a senior government functionary reached the hospital.

Around 3.30 pm, with no VIP in sight, the Congress brigade trained its protest gun on Writers’ Buildings.

Normalcy was restored in the hospital around 5 pm.

Krishna Debnath, one of the key players in the high-decibel drama, defended her actions: “What we have done is just a start. The loudspeakers were below 65 decibels. The hospital authorities are cooking up stories now. Patient parties actually lauded us.”

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