The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cracker ruckus repeat in hospital

Calcutta, Nov. 1: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may have said he does not want any disturbance in hospitals; police may have threatened hospital staff creating a ruckus with dire consequences; but the group -D staff of NRS Medical College and Hospital couldn’t care less.

After keeping patients — including little boys with leukaemia and thalassaemia —awake with their chhat puja revelry through Thursday night and into Friday morning, they merrily burst crackers all afternoon today.

“When will this ever stop'” asked Shibram Chakladar, a 63-year-old patient in the hospital’s haematology ward. “When will we be spared these crackers'”

On Thursday night, the group-D staff had celebrated the puja by bursting crackers and playing music on loudspeakers. Today, they were content bursting crackers.

Hospital superintendent Shyamal Rudra initially refused comment. “I am too tired. I would not like to make any comment,” he said. “Only thing I can say at this moment is that the health minister will soon hold a meeting.”

Rudra said the practice of bursting crackers began with marriage processions some years ago and carried over to religious functions. “We have complained to police and the health department but nothing has come of it.”

His deputy, Dilip Kumar Jha, also pleaded helplessness in “taming” the employees. “We had requested them not to burst crackers inside the hospital, but obviously they have not been listening to us.

“Earlier, they used to burst crackers near the academy building so that the disturbance to patients was minimal. But now they are doing it near the hospital wards.”

Most group-D employees are affiliated to the CPM-backed Coordination Committee, which possibly explains the hospital authorities’ reluctance to take action against them.

Only yesterday, the son of a group-D employee was arrested after authorities filed a complaint at Entally police station that he had been bursting crackers in the hospital. But he was released after police were given suitable “assurances”.

The employees are, however, both defiant and unrepentant. “We burst crackers during chhat puja every year and we did it this year as well,” said Shyam Lal, pulling out a couple of chocolate bombs he had been carrying.

“This happens only once a year and not everyday, so why should patients be so inconvenienced' We will continue to celebrate chhat puja with fanfare inside the hospital,” said Kanhaiya Lal defiantly. “We also serve the patients.”

A spokesperson of the West Bengal group-D Government Employees’ Association seemed equally unconcerned. “We have asked our members not to burst crackers on the hospital premises. But we can hardly be expected to control everyone.”

State health department special secretary Soumen Banerjee said he had read reports about the incident at NRS hospital and even received complaints from patients’ families.

“I have asked the hospital superintendent to meet me on Monday so that we can put a stop to this practice of disturbing patients.

“Holding such functions on the hospital premises is prohibited. But since employees and their families live there, we have not objected to pujas being held on a small scale.

“However, what has been happening in NRS is certainly not permitted.”

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