Samir and Kajal Biswas of Baguiati, Urmila Hela and Ashraf Khan and Naseema Begum of Tikiapara belong to three different families. But on Friday, as the world outside their windows celebrated Diwali, personal tragedy and its aftermath united them all.
No punishment — even if it was a mere formality — was in store for those apparently responsible for the deaths of six-month-old Shabana Parveen and Santosh Hela. Shabana died in her parents’ arms as they were taking her back home after a three-hour rally-delayed journey from Howrah to Medical College and Hospital. Santosh died after going missing from his bed at Howrah State General Hospital.
The Biswases may have had lesser reason to be as angry and disappointed as the Helas and the Khans. The state government, after all, had “punished” those it felt were responsible for the death of their daughter, Susmita.
But the mood at the Gauranganagar home was similar to that at the two other bereaved homes in Howrah’s Tikiapara. On Friday, after they learnt from the morning papers about the “punishment” meted out to the SSKM brass, the Biswases tried to call chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, on the number he had given them. They wanted to tell the chief minister that the “stern disciplinary action” the government had promised, when they had met him at Writers’ Buildings, was not reflected in the mere transfer of the SSKM superintendent, deputy superintendent and two other doctors.
But no one picked up the phone — Writers’ Buildings was shut for Kali puja — around 11 am. “I wanted to tell the chief minister that… this is no punishment for people who have no right to continue as doctors,” said Samir Biswas.
He added that those who behave so badly with patients have no business to be part of the medical profession. “I told Buddhababu the same thing over and over again when he gave us such a patient hearing on Tuesday… I am grateful to him for that, but I do feel let down by Thursday’s announcement,” he added.
The Helas and the Khans, of course, expressed “no faith” in the government’s avowed intention to improve the condition of state-run hospitals. “What can I say'” asked Santosh’s widow, Urmila. “They have already branded my husband a drunkard, as if that absolves the government of its failure to keep a watch on a patient who has been admitted to a state-run hospital,” she cried.
“I do not expect people who take out rallies and then suggest that we were responsible for our daughter’s death to be more sympathetic,” added Ashraf, Shabana’s father.