Calcutta, Nov. 3: If the hospital doesn’t get you, the rally will.
Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress today unleashed its own “rally code” on Calcutta, sending 5,000 unruly supporters marching down streets to set right the healthcare system.
“We don’t want to be lectured by the government on when and how we will bring out our rallies. It is a political party’s intrinsic right that I will not allow to be diluted,” Mamata said soon after her youth wing brought the city centre to a standstill by a protest march.
“We are on the streets to condemn Saturday’s late-night attack on journalists by junior doctors and ruling party goons,” Trinamul leader Pankaj Banerjee told the rally.
It would appear the party is more worried about the “attack on the media” than the unending stream of tragedies in hospitals. The thinking is not very dissimilar to the chief minister’s ban on the media, announced on the day, entering hospitals, as if this would improve his government’s healthcare record.
There is little to choose between the two in the reaction to rally restrictions also. “The government is trying to restrict rallies in an attempt to prevent people from protesting against corruption and misrule,” Mamata said today.
The CPM had reacted in the same fashion, calling the high court’s rally curbs an offence on democracy.
Curiously, only 72 hours ago, Trinamul had suggested the rally restrictions proposed by the government were really its own ideas in an indication that it was not averse to practising them. It did reserve, though, the right to bring out rallies as and when “emergencies” arose.
Today’s procession wound its way down Nirmal Chandra Street, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and SN Banerjee Road, stalling traffic for about an hour.
Trinamul youth wing chief Sanjoy Bakshi tried to persuade the foot soldiers to stick to the left flank of the road. But the appeal was trampled under 10,000 feet as the participants spread out and occupied the entire road. The traffic policemen on duty were reduced to hapless spectators. “We don’t have enough force with us to stop such a huge gathering,” said an officer on duty.
Mamata made concessions only for hospitals.
“In my entire political career, I have not personally held any rally in hospitals. I was indeed present at the BC Roy Children’s Hospital when infants had died (last year). But I had gone there to rescue the superintendent from a gherao.”
Her former party, the Congress, did not grant even that respite. Youth Congress activists held a meeting in front of RG Kar Hospital, loudspeakers blaring.