The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM to head for child death zone
- Buddha recalls wonder at leather plant, admits health at home is not ‘perfect’

Calcutta, June 16: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will go on Thursday to Murshidabad, where a mystery disease has claimed 40 children in the past two weeks.

The Congress has called a 12-hour bandh in the district the following day to protest the government’s failure in tackling the spate in infant deaths.

A day after returning from a business trip to Italy, Bhattacharjee went through a report. It has cited malnutrition as a cause of the deaths along with respiratory problems, which might have been caused by a viral attack, Bhattacharjee said.

“My role will be to build up the confidence of the people there as well as to express the government’s concern. We are taking the matter very seriously,” he said.

The chief minister will speak to the health authorities in Behrampore.

Bhattacharjee placed the official toll from the mystery malaise at 19. Unofficial figures, however, show that many more children have died in the past couple of weeks of an unknown disease.

The final report by experts from Pune’s National Institute of Virology is yet to arrive.

Bhattacharjee said he would check the allegations of negligence on the part of the district authorities.

The assistant chief medical officer of health in Murshidabad has already been showcaused for alleged negligence.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee had been to the district recently to look into the state of affairs there.

Asked about another instance of the failure of the health department — the death of teenage cricketer Rajnis Patel at SSKM Hospital early this month — Bhattacharjee said: “We never claimed the condition of our health department is perfect.”

State Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya today demanded health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra’s resignation and said the government cannot disown responsibility.

“Mishra should be removed as he has miserably failed as health minister,” he said. The Congress would launch a statewide agitation to protest the government’s “mismanagement in the health sector”.

The chief minister will be there but his health minister has not made it to Murshidabad yet.

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