The Telegraph
Saturday , December 10 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Prompt CM razes chances of rival barbs

Calcutta, Dec. 9: Mamata Banerjee today moved quickly to douse any political flame from singing her government by announcing the immediate arrest of some of the AMRI bosses, cancellation of the hospital’s licence and compensation for the kin of those killed in today’s fire.

In one stroke, she sent out the message that her government was prompt in taking action against those responsible for the tragedy and ensured that her party and administration were insulated against charges of inaction by the Opposition.

“There is now very little space left for the Opposition to attack the government,” a senior Trinamul leader said. “Our chief minister has acted promptly and taken all possible steps against those responsible for the incident.”

Microphone in hand, Mamata spent two hours in front of AMRI this morning, managing the crowd and directing police and other officials, making it clear that she was the person in charge of affairs.

“It became evident today that she leads from the front,” one of Mamata’s party colleagues said. “She prevented what could possibly have been a stampede.”

The scenes were similar at SSKM Hospital, where she went from AMRI. She ensured that the bodies of the victims were handed over to the relatives as soon as possible. The chief minister also assured CPM leaders that she would see to it that the relatives did not face any problems in taking the bodies back home.

Firm on not allowing party politics to come in the way of providing relief to the kin of the dead, she walked up to CPM state secretary Biman Bose, who had come to SSKM to oversee the release of the bodies, and promised speedy action. Bose told her: “There are many people from the villages who are not aware of the formalities that have to be completed before they can take away the bodies of their relatives. Please see that they are not inconvenienced.”

Holding Bose’s hands, Mamata replied: “Chinta korben na. Kono oshubidha hobey na. Ami shob shamley nebo. Shei jonnoi to ekhane achi (please don’t worry. They will not face any problems. I will manage everything. That is why I am here).” The CPM leader thanked her and left.

The effect of Mamata’s political management became clear this afternoon when CPM MLA and leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra, held a news conference on the AMRI tragedy. Not only did he refrain from criticising the government, he also appeared defensive, given the fact that the hospital had got all its clearances during the Left Front regime.

“This is not the time to conduct a post-mortem of the incident. The government is taking appropriate steps and will conduct an inquiry. Action will be taken against the guilty according to law,” Mishra said.

Asked about the clearances given to AMRI during his tenure as health minister, Mishra said: “The licences were granted after applications came in and inspections were done. A probe will find out if there were loopholes. But this is not the time to go into all this. Immediate attention should be given to the treatment of the survivors and identification of the bodies. I appeal to the government to declare this Saturday as a day of mourning and not hold any events to mourn the loss of lives.’’

A Trinamul leader said an inquiry would “reveal if the previous government had bent rules to favour the hospital”.