Mamata Banerjee’s departure from the UPA could have meant that she and her senior partymen would have more time to devote to matters in the state. But when her ministers at the Centre got back to Kolkata, that hope was quickly belied. The recent deaths of 41 children in the Dr BC Roy Memorial Children’s Hospital seem of a piece with earlier deaths in other hospitals in Kolkata. Then on Sunday, 67 children, all under five years, were hospitalised after it was discovered that they had been given the hepatitis B vaccine orally instead of anti-polio drops. Many of us have not forgotten Mamatadi’s fury over infant deaths in the city’s Neelratan Sarkar Memorial Hospital just after she took over. She sent shivers down the spines of the hospital staff when she demanded accountability. But well begun is certainly not half done in this case.
To say nothing has changed in social development indicators in terms of infant and maternal mortality would be a kindness to the Trinamool regime. Instead of focusing on the people, Ms Banerjee has chosen to tilt at windmills, namely the Left and the Maoists. In each calamity, she has discerned the hand of the Maoists, to the extent of suspecting journalists and poor farmers going about their business to be agents of the Maoists. She has been unable to rein in the more unruly elements in her party who have become a law unto themselves as seen in their blatant attack earlier on Presidency University. Now come reports that many professors are leaving their jobs and seeking better opportunities and no doubt safer environs elsewhere. Today, if we were to look at a report card of the state, apart from painting buildings and bridges blue, there is nothing much to show. In fact, there have been attacks on women in which again Mamatadi spotted a Red conspiracy. Of course, the question of investment does not even arise. After the Tata episode, investors are giving West Bengal a wide berth and the Trinamool is doing nothing to win them over.
Whether these recent infant deaths were due to illness or starvation is besides the point. The issue is that children are dying. And the state administration is doing precious little about it. The very fact that people from distant rural areas have to trek to Kolkata with their sick children tells a tale of its own. Instead of getting into a political slugfest, the first priority should be to prevent further deaths. But as of now, the Trinamool seems totally indifferent to this tragedy taking place right under the nose of its leadership.