The Mamata Banerjee government suspects sabotage behind Saturday’s fire in Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital, while the Opposition Congress says the tragedy resulted from a systemic failure that warrants judicial probe.
Former minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, who is chairperson of West Bengal Medical Services Corporation, said on Sunday she sensed foul play behind the blaze that killed three people .
“Many strange things happen in Berhampore. There may be a conspiracy behind this incident,” said the ex-MoS for health and law, who visited the accident spot for an inspection following chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s instruction.
The comment drew sharp reaction from the Congress. “We will move court to get the tragedy investigated by a judge,” said the party’s state president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who is the Berhampore MP. “The incident exposes a total absence of administration in state-run hospitals.”
The Congress also ridiculed the government decision to task Bhattacharya with the post-fire inspection. “Chandrima is a lawyer. The CM is despatching lawyers where doctors are needed,” said Abdul Mannan, Congress legislature party leader in the Assembly.
The hospital, which was upgraded to a medical college five years ago, is located in the heart of Berhampore town. Saturday’s fire broke out just before midday reportedly from an AC in a VIP room on the first floor.
The blaze, which was soon contained, triggered a scramble. Two adults and a three-year old child died—the first two in a stampede.
The government has ordered a CID probe. Forensic experts, along with CID officials, reached the spot on Sunday.
Over the past few weeks, the relation between the chief minister and her rival party touched a new low after the ruling Trinamool engineered a steady erosion of Congress leaders and workers in Murshidabad and neighbouring Malda.
The two districts, which are traditional Congress bastions, saw Trinamool wresting three civic bodies and nearly 100 gram panchayats from the Congress and the Left in October last year. The results intensified the bitterness between Chowdhury and the CM.
Banerjee, 61, has, earlier too, made accusations of conspiracies against her.
In March this year, when Trinamool leaders were seen accepting cash in videos published by nascent website Narada, she said it was a foreign-funded conspiracy to malign her party ahead of the assembly polls this April.
The weekend tragedy at Murshidabad rekindled horrific memories of a massive 2011 fire in Kolkata’s AMRI that killed more than 90 people—the worst hospital tragedy in the country.
Three years later, in April 2014, a fire broke out in a Malda hotel where the chief minister was staying, prompting Banerjee to claim it was a conspiracy to kill her.