The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Child death case admitted

Calcutta, July 4: Calcutta High Court today admitted a public interest litigation alleging political motive behind the death of “at least 95 children” in Murshidabad and asked the government to file an affidavit in three weeks.

A division bench presided over by Chief Justice A.K. Mathur admitted the PIL filed by Congress MP from Murshidabad Adhir Chowdhury. The government was told to state its stand on the allegation in the affidavit.

In his petition, the MP alleged that the authorities were directly responsible for the deaths. The hospitals had all the facilities but they had been withdrawn after the CPM suffered a heavy defeat in the panchayat polls in Murshidabad, said Chowdhury.

His lawyer told the court that various arms of the government started “non-cooperation” with the people of the district after the panchayat results were announced. “Between May 26 and June 13, at least 95 children died due to lack of treatment in hospitals. Even oxygen cylinders were not supplied. The doctors, too, had been withdrawn from duty,” he alleged.

Most children died in the district of influenza during that period, a fact that was confirmed by tests carried out by the Indian Institute of Virology in Pune.

The district health officials had put the child toll at 22 but reports from subdivisional hospitals, especially those in Farakka and Jangipur, indicated a much higher figure.

The spate of child deaths prompted the health administration to cancel all leave for doctors. When the situation refused to ease in the second week of June, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee went to Behrampore and convened an emergency meeting with health and other officials. Officials of the health department’s vigilance wing, who went to the district after Bhattacharjee returned, reported against seven doctors for continuing with their leave after they were cancelled. Three of them were suspended.

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