There is a sharp distinction between public and private establishments in the recent legislation that envisages the payment of damages for vandalised government property, such as state hospitals and the Baker Laboratories of Presidency University (April 2013).
Earlier still, the West Bengal Assembly had been vandalised (December 2006), and thereby hangs a tale. On the face of it, the legislation is reassuring. Yet the core point of reference must be destruction per se, and the proprietary rights over the property is of lesser moment in the overall construct.
Sad to reflect, there is no such assurance, however, for the authorities of Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI), which was vandalised with abandon by goons in the immediate aftermath of the death of a 16-year-old girl.
And ironically enough, it was vandalised within a week of the passage of the legislation. The ugly incident has happened in an area where tension rages beneath the daily tenor of life and violence a further inch beneath tension. Hoi-polloi will have to react and behave more responsibly, and the caveat is as sincere as any condolence message to the bereaved family of Saika Parveen, who was in a critical state of septicaemia.
In death, she symbolises the effete police on the day of the incident and the calculated malevolence that fuelled the mob fury, not to forget the alleged negligence of the hospital staff. Indeed, the three parameters need urgently to be investigated in any enquiry that might be commissioned. A premier private hospital appears to have been targeted by locals with malice aforethought.
With the doctors, surgeons, medical and nursing staff now in a state of nerves, it is medical treatment in the wider canvas that has been attacked. Indeed, reports suggest that there is a marked reluctance on the part of the hospital staff to be back on track.
For all the juggling with Bengal’s Human Development Index figures, the irony in terms of public health could scarcely have been more cruel… with the patients being asked to follow a devious point of entry.
This isn’t the juncture to identify a sacrificial lamb, such as the OC and the second-in-command of a local thana who have been moved out to the relatively innocuous security control. Suffice it to register that the vandalism at CMRI has been collective; so too must be the acceptance of responsibility.
The fact that the mob had assembled and reassembled in two phases despite the mobilisation of RAF and forces from Lalbazar has bamboozled the authorities. There was a time-gap too between the occurrence and the arrests.
As it turns out, the forces watched helplessly as gangs from the peripheral areas had a free run of the hospital, assaulting and kicking the staff, hurling flower-pots at the glass panels of the ICU. A hospital exists for patients, not vandals. A death affords no scope for mob psychology.