Behrampore, June 19: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today promised action against errant doctors and wooed a political foe in an effort to repair the damage to his government’s image in the district, where children have been dying of a mystery disease.
Government doctors on holiday who had not returned even after being informed of cancellation of leave in view of the child deaths came in the firing line.
“I am unhappy to learn that many doctors have not returned to their posts even though their leave has been cancelled to facilitate treatment of the hapless children on an urgent basis,” the chief minister said after meeting district officials.
“I have asked the district health department to identify these doctors. I will personally see to it that these doctors are punished.”
Bhattacharjee had a 15-minute meeting with Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury, who has emerged as a major anti-CPM force. The chief minister convinced him to drop his plans for a Congress-sponsored bandh in the district tomorrow to protest the deaths.
“I have called off the bandh because I am happy with Buddhadeb babu’s display of concern,” said Chowdhury.
According to an official estimate, over 40 children have died in Lalgola and Jangipur sub-divisions of the district since early June. The unofficial toll is 75.
The government is awaiting the report of Pune’s National Institute of Virology, which had sent experts to the affected villages to collect blood samples for analysing the virus.
Bhattacharjee claimed that the children were not dying for any one reason. “That a single mystery disease did not kill the children is clear from the preliminary reports we have received from the Pune institute. I will get their final report tonight in Calcutta. So far, 20 children have died.”
CPM district secretary Madhu Bagh had said yesterday that 42 children had died.
A team of 17 doctors from Calcutta will reach the affected areas shortly to set up camps.