The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Regret rush but not for rallies

Calcutta, Oct. 14: Six-month-old Shabana Parveen had to die caught in a rally to let loose a barrage of regret and explanations — and solutions — from city police and politicians.

Deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh tonight said his men would have helped Shabana’s parents reach hospital in time if only they had known and prevent the “extremely tragic and regrettable” death.

“The entire stretch where the couple was allegedly held up always witnesses traffic jams, but the situation might have been worse yesterday,” Singh said.

Police have now been told to look out for patients and ambulances held up on city streets to prevent a repeat of the “entirely avoidable” death.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas, too, regretted the death “if it has really happened” and said “I will definitely inquire about it”. “But I don’t understand how the child was held up at Canning Street because, as far as I know, there was no rally there,” he added.

The party’s youth wing state chief Abdul Hai said: “I personally saw how an ambulance passed our rally smoothly on Rammohun Sarani near Shraddhananda Park. The road was not totally blocked and there was not even any need for processionists to move to make room.”

His organisation, the Democratic Youth Federation of India, had steered yesterday’s rally along with eight other Left youth groups. “Our processions are not organised to cause inconvenience to people but only to find a way to solve problems of the masses. However, now that I have heard of the incident, I will definitely inquire about it,” he said.

DYFI general secretary Asitanga Ganguly was more candid. “We admit there is a need to discipline rallies. Normally, we always try our best to give free passage to patients. But from now on, we shall be more vigilant and, if necessary, our volunteers will help people reach hospitals or nursing homes,” he said.

The national youth wing chief of the state’s main Opposition party, Madan Mitra of Trinamul Congress, said: “If we do not organise rallies in a more regulated manner, more such deaths will take place. We may have the right to take out rallies, but not at the cost of other people, particularly the ailing.”

Senior BJP leader Muzaffar Khan said all major political parties should arrive at a consensus on ways to take out a rally in the city. Congress state vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya was more specific. “Let us have a uniform code of conduct on the basis of which we can organise rallies in the city,” he said.

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