The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CPM mulls drive to boost health image

Calcutta, Sept. 12: The CPM is planning to go on a statewide campaign highlighting the government’s achievements in health and health education to counter the offensive launched by its rivals on the child deaths at B.C. Roy Children’s Hospital.

The party’s state secretariat is likely to meet tomorrow at the CPM headquarters on Alimuddin Street to give a final shape to the plan.

Party insiders said the government has done much to provide proper treatment to the poor and middle-class people in its hospitals. “About 75 per cent of the population in our state gets medical attention in government-run hospitals. Though we are not happy yet with the condition of rural hospitals, they have improved. Still, the government had to face a tough time after the deaths at B.C. Roy,” said a senior party leader. He is one of the planners for the campaign to revive the government’s image.

The party has assigned chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra to find out what led to the infant deaths.

The National Human Rights Commission has sought a report on the incident from the government and that has worried the CPM further.

Both Bhattacharjee and Mishra have been asked by the party to prepare the report with caution and try to explain the situation vividly so that the rights panel cannot take any serious exception to the incident.

For the first time, the commission has sought a report on health, a state subject. Aware of this, the CPM is not ready to antagonise the rights panel.

The commission had sent a team to Chhoto Angaria in Midnapore district where 11 Trinamul Congress supporters were allegedly killed by CPM cadre. The CBI investigations into the case are still on.

A section of party insiders feel the issue of child deaths would not have taken such a serious turn if Mishra issued a sympathetic statement and not one on the basis of preliminary reports submitted by his department.

Following Mishra’s brazen reaction, political rivals like Trinamul started cashing in. It is learnt that the party has advised Mishra to handle health issues more sympathetically and not to depend on his department’s reports before making statements on serious issues.

However, there are divisions within the CPM leadership over launching the campaign on health. A section of the leaders feel that the campaign might go against the party during the panchayat elections, as conditions of most government hospitals, particularly those in rural Bengal, are deplorable.

“We should not indulge ourselves too much because this is a very sensitive issue and might go against us if we fail to handle it very carefully” said a senior party leader. A majority of the leaders are of the opinion that the government should work hard to improve the conditions of the hospitals. And in doing so, the party would have to stand by the government as most unions of hospital employees are under CPM control.

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