Calcutta, June 20: The mounting tension between the chief minister and his health minister on the child deaths in Murshidabad came out in the open today when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asked the CPM leadership to enable him to make key ministries “caring and responsive to people’s needs”.
Back from Murshidabad, where he hauled up doctors for the deaths since early June, Bhattacharjee informed the leadership that his act was in response to the people’s need for a “healing touch” and should not be perceived as a put-down for Surjya Kanta Mishra, the health minister.
CPM officials said Bhattacharjee presented his findings on the child deaths to the party secretariat at a meeting in the Alimuddin Street headquarters today and rounded up an overwhelming support for his approach.
“I had no other option but to reach a decision on the spot and announce it,” Bhattacharjee said about his orders to take “action” against doctors who were missing from duty even after leaves had been cancelled by the health department.
A section of the Burdwan lobby sought to stop him midway, asking whether it was “absolutely necessary” to announce punitive measures against the doctors without consulting Mishra, but state CPM secretary Anil Biswas stepped in.
The party endorsed the chief minister’s line of action.
At the end of the day, the government showcaused three doctors in the district. The assistant chief medical officer was showcaused earlier.
The CPM felt Mishra should have shown a “faster and more caring response” to the crisis. “There is no denying that a child’s death of a mystery disease or because of lack of facilities demands utmost attention from the administration,” Biswas is learnt to have told the secretariat.
“We fully endorse his action. After all, Bhattacharjee is chief of the Cabinet and if he feels it is necessary to go to Murshidabad, he goes. In fact, we are very happy at the way he decided to visit Murshidabad and handle the issue on his own,” Biswas said.
The party secretariat got a clear idea about the bad vibes between Bhattacharjee and Mishra when the chief minister began reading out his findings from one file after another. His account was an indictment of Mishra’s department.
“When we came to power, we announced that our government will not confine itself to Writers’, it will actually go out to the people. What are we doing now, if not sitting only at Writers'” Bhattacharjee asked.
The chief minister asked the party to allow him a free hand in pushing the key ministers to make them “more responsive”.
The party’s approach to the issue was made clear yesterday when Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Biman Bose said that in the party’s view, Mishra was found wanting at a time of crisis.
Apparently, the CPM leadership, too, was surprised when it learnt that Mishra chose to visit Left-ruled Tripura for party work and, in all likelihood, to advise the government there on setting up a medical college.
But though the party appeared to be gearing up to back Bhattacharjee in his efforts to stem the rot in the system, not much seemed to be moving in Murshidabad.
A day after the chief minister convened an emergency meeting with officials in Behrampore and issued instructions to extend all possible medical attention to the children, no medical camp was in sight in the worst-affected subdivision. Officially, 22 children have died in Jangipur.
Till this evening, camps had only been set up at three villages in Lalgola.