Punish the guilty, Kolkata echoes in one voice

December 10th, 2011 - 5:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee Kolkata, Dec 10 (IANS) It was a collective chorus of anger and shock in Kolkata as intellectuals, celebrities and commoners demanded exemplary punishment for culprits and a mechanism to keep a tab on the working of private hospitals Saturday, a day after India saw its worst hospital fire tragedy.

As many as 90 patients and staffers died a horrible death in Kolkata’s well-known Advanced Medicare Research Institute (AMRI) Hospital when a blaze in the basement engulfed its annexe building early Friday with noxious smoke, trapping helpless patients while doctors and others fled to safety.

It was a sorry saga of ignorance in basic firefighting norms, leading to the second major fire in Kolkata in 20 months after the March 23, 2010 blaze at the British-era Stephen Court in the heart of the bustling Park Street claimed 43 lives.

“The culprits should be given an exemplary punishment so that from next time, nobody even thinks of ignoring basic fire safety norms for saving some money. The culprits should be punished as early as possible,” fashion designer Agnimitra Paul told IANS.

“Punishment should be given but at the same time, the government should also prepare a mechanism to keep a tab on private hospitals who charge enormous amount of money for treatment and that too by confusing people,” writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhay said.

Time and again there have been allegations against private hospitals that they charge huge amount of money from patients. Last year, a renowned private hospital was rampaged after it denied basic treatment to a poor local as he could not arrange the money the hospital demanded.

“Harsh punishment is a must and government should also wake up after the death of these 90 people. They should keep a strict vigil on private hospitals which charge astronomical amounts for even basic treatment. The deaths should not go in vain,” actor Kaushik Sen told IANS.

In the last few years, many incidents of callousness in private hospitals have come to the fore.

Two years ago, a renowned hospital here declared a newborn as dead. Later, when the baby was about to be taken out for cremation it was found that he was alive. By way of explanation, the hospital said since the delivery took place at night, there were no specialised doctors to give a thorough clinical check to the baby.

“It is true that private hospitals charge in an inhuman way. I have heard that license of the hospital has been cancelled. It is a good decision. But I would like to request that on that same hospital ground, a new government hospital come up for the poor,” noted writer Sunil Gangopadhay told IANS.

“A system should be brought into force to ensure private hospitals and other public places follow security and fire safety norms,” theatre personality Bihbas Chakroborty echoed.

After the death of 43 people in the Stephen Court fire last year, the Trinamool Congress and the then ruling Marxists were at loggerheads with Mamata Banerjee blaming the latter for negligence.

Since then political power has changed hands and Banerjee is now the chief minister. But little seems to have changed in terms of acquiring modern equipment and infrastructure to fire brigade personnel or imparting proper training to civil defence staff to deal with such emergent situations.

The announcement of compensation on the part of the hospital seems to have added more fuel to the public rage.

“Deaths cannot be counted against the money given by the authority or the government. A strict check should be kept at all hospitals to avert such incidents,” fumed Jayanta Das, a private bank official.

“The most sickening part is that after killing so many people, AMRI is talking about compensation. How can these businessmen be so insensitive to the shattered families by literally equating death with compensation,” Sangeeta Sengupta wrote on social networking site Facebook.

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