The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Death stirs govt to life

Calcutta, Dec. 20: In death Menoka Das achieved what she could not have hoped to in life: set the wheels of government in motion.

Das died yesterday after being hit by a chunk of concrete that came off a building at SSKM Hospital. After announcing a compensation of Rs 100,000 for the bereaved family which lives in Howrah, health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said the government had ordered immediate repairs of all decrepit hospital buildings in Calcutta and the districts.

“We are deeply sorry for the way she died. There is no denying that she would not have died like this had the buildings been properly maintained. We will ensure her family gets the compensation within a week,” he said.

There was, however, no move to fix responsibility.

After a meeting in the chief minister’s office, the public works department was given till mid-January to survey all state-run hospitals and medical colleges and submit a report to the health department on renovation. “The work will start immediately on a war-footing. Funds will not be a problem,” health secretary Asim Burman said.

The PWD and the health department pointed fingers at each other for the accident. “What can our men do' Water seeping from the air-conditioning machines had damaged the concrete slabs. If only the AC machines had been repaired, this wouldn’t have happened,” PWD minister Amar Choudhury said.

The director of medical education, C.R. Maity, blamed the PWD. “A few days ago, chunks of concrete had fallen off the walls at the accident site. And the PWD was told to immediately conduct repairs, but that did not happen,” he said.

PWD officials were today tracing the cracks at Ronald Ross building, from where the slab that killed Das fell. “We have to do this now, while the hospital authorities relax,” said a few inspecting the accident site.

SSKM surgeon superintendent Debdwaipayan Chattopadhyay has sought a survey report from PWD officials in seven days. “I have asked them to finish the work quickly so that we can get on with our jobs,” Chattopadhyay said.

Choudhury said that in the past, the PWD had carried out repairs at Chattopadhyay’s request, but a freeze on funds had affected the work at the hospital.

“We have received only 22.3 percent of the total building repair allocation of Rs 80.43 crore from April to November this year. Funds flow has to be smoother to enable us to work quickly,” he said.

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