Demands retraction of government statement blaming CPI(M) for tragedy

The Opposition Left Front on Monday walked out of an all-party meeting convened by the West Bengal government to find out ways of combating social maladies like alcohol consumption.

The move was in protest against the government's refusal to retract its statement that the recent hooch tragedy was a conspiracy by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to relegate into background the AMRI-fire issue since it had allegedly exposed the nexus of some CPI(M) leaders with a section of industrialists.

“Slanderous”

Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra said it was “slanderous” to even suggest that CPI(M) supporters had poisoned the illegally distilled brew that has killed 187 persons till now.

“Let alone apologising, they are not budging an inch from their stand,” he said, adding that in the 212-odd days since the new government came to power, nearly 350 people have been killed in the State.

“They are now making such allegations to cover up their own failures.”

Slow reaction

Dr. Mishra alleged that while the government had no information on the December 13 incident the next day till Deputy Leader of the Opposition Subhas Naskar brought it to the attention of Public Health Engineering Minister Subrata Mukherjee, the death toll climbed as the authorities failed to treat the matter with the speed and alacrity that it deserved.

“It was taken very lightly — the wails of the bereaved families did not reach the ears of the government,” he said.

“They neglected it and a medical team reached the spot, which is only 50 km away from here, nearly 18 hours later. The delay needs to be investigated.” Dr. Mishra also accused the State government of conducting irregular raids on illegal hooch dens unlike in the past. The last one was held on May 31.

Speaker Biman Bandopadhyay said the Opposition had decided to scuttle the all-party initiative by “planning the walkout beforehand.” He said that at the meeting, which was attended by other parties too, it was decided to send a package of recommendations to the Chief Minister to help combat this social malaise.

Awareness campaign

It has been decided to conduct campaigns to create social awareness. Joint raids would be conducted and a monitoring committee would keep a tab on the progress of matters in this regard.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee told reporters that he would not budge from his statement on “a CPI(M) hand” behind the entire episode. He described the walkout a “drama,” saying that the Left parties walked out 30 minutes into the meeting. “The Chief Minister had convened the all-party meeting with all good intentions and the government was happy with the outcome since the SUCI, the GJM and the Congress sat and discussed the problem.”