In a statement that is certain to take the bitterness between the Trinamool Congress and the Congress to new heights, chief minister Mamata Banerjee cited a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) report to assert that the Berhampore hospital fire that killed three people on Saturday was an act of “sabotage”.
“I have got the preliminary CID report. It was a conspiracy and the whole incident was engineered to trigger panic and kill people at the Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital (MMCH),” Mamata Banerjee said at a Netaji Indoor Stadium programme on Tuesday.
On Saturday, August 27, three persons, including a three-year-old girl, were killed and around 40 injured in a stampede triggered by the mad scramble to flee the fire on the first floor of the hospital building. The fire apparently started from the AC machine in a VIP cabin of the building.
On Saturday itself, the state government ordered a CID investigation to find out if it was a case of sabotage. The cops have already arrested Berhampore Town Congress committee vice-president Amol Gupta for his alleged role in the incident, drawing sharp criticism from his party’s leaders. State Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury has already described the government probe as a witch-hunt and a ploy to divert attention from what he termed as “the total absence of administration at hospitals in Bengal”.
Incidentally, Gupta, who is known as Poltu is Berhampore, is the representative of local MP Adhir Chowdhury in the hospital which was elevated to a medical college in 2010-11.
Over the past few weeks, relations between the chief minister and her rival reached a new low after the ruling party engineered a steady erosion of leaders and workers from Congress in Murshidabad and neighbouring Malda district that are traditionally known as the bastions of the party. In these two districts, Trinamool recently wrested three civic bodies and nearly 100 gram panchayats from Congress and the Left --- something that has intensified the bitterness between Adhir Chowdhury and the chief minister.
On Saturday night itself, former law minister and MoS health Chandrima Bhattacharya, who was sent by the chief minister to the hospital, said that the incident appeared to be “a conspiracy to defame the Mamata Banerjee government”.
Congress leaders in Murshidabad argued that far from being a conspirator, Amol Gupta in fact saved many people during the fire. Adhir Chowdhury said on Tuesday that they will move court for a CBI inquiry into the incident.
“As soon as the incident took place, chief minister said it was a case of sabotage and after that she ordered a CID inquiry. The CID sleuths only obliged her. In the name of investigation, it was a farce,” said Abdul Mannan, leader of the opposition in the Assembly.