Five years after a massive fire in one of the buildings of south Kolkata’s AMRI hospital claimed lives of 92 patients, the hospital is planning to re-open the building despite the matter being sub-judice.
In order to increase its patient intake capacity in the main building, the AMRI group of hospitals is planning to shift its out-patient department and other day-care facilities in the fire-hit building, also known as Annexe I.
For this purpose, the management of the Emami group-owned hospital has applied for the No Objection Certificate from the state’s fire department. Once the hospital gets it, the privately-owned hospital chain is likely to seek permission from other government departments as well.
The families of the victims have called the plan a “travesty of justice” and “insult” to the deceased who choked to death due the bellowing smoke in the building on December 9, 2011.
“It gives a feeling like ‘let’s move on.’ The problem is that the matter is pending before the court. All the accused are out on bail and they are thinking of opening the building?” 44-year-old Paromita Guha Thakurta, who heads AMRI Fire Victim Association, told ScoopWhoop News.
Thakurta, whose 63-year-old mother was one of the victims, said the hospital hasn’t even given compensation the families of victims.
“The only compensation we have received was Rs 5 lakh from the state and central government. We have used it to fight legal battle. The court has to decide the compensation to be paid by the hospital,” she said.
While the hospital authorities in south Kolkata’s Dhakuria told ScoopWhoop News that “there’s no plan to re-open the building as it’s a legal matter”, the officials at West Bengal Fire & Emergency Service department confirmed that hospital has applied for the licence.
“Everybody can apply for a No Objection Certificate (NOC) but that doesn’t mean every application will be passed. The decision will be taken by the government and top officials of the directorate,” an official from West Bengal Fire & Emergency Services department told ScoopWhoop News.
Chief Executive Officer AMRI Group of Hospitals, Rupak Barua didn’t entertain calls or messages from ScoopWhoop News.
After nearly five years, a city court in Kolkata framed charges under section 304 (Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years , Section 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and Section 38 (effect caused partly by act and partly by omission) of the Indian Penal Code against 16 accused directors and officials of the hospital in July this year.
Dhananjay Pal, a father of a 14-year-old girl who died in the fire, said the slow court proceedings have delayed justice to the victims.
“It was the negligence and careless attitude of the hospital administration. 90 people died in the building due to that. The court has to establish first who’s responsible for that. It might take time but we will fight. We will oppose the hospital’s plan,” Pal, who works in a government department, told ScoopWhoop News.
He also appealed to common public to put pressure on the government and hospital authorities.
Another family member of a victim, Subhasish Chakraborty insisted that court should intervene to stop the hospital administration from re-opening the structure.
“We are not against hospitals and patient care. The practical problem is that there’s actually no scope for the hospital to restructure the building as per the norms of fire safety. There’s no road for the fire fighting vehicles to enter the hospital. How will they ensure fire safety norms are followed even if they go ahead with re-opening the building,” Chakraborty, who lost his wife in the fire incident five years back, told ScoopWhoop News.
President of victims association Thakurta said the group is facing difficulty in mobilizing other families to press for justice. She also said several victim families are finding it hard to travel to Kolkata for trial and court proceedings.
“We are ordinary people, involved in our ordinary lives. Most of us have no legal knowledge about how to go with this issue. Maybe we can file a PIL,” Thakurta, a computer engineer and mother of two, remarked.
“We are fighting on our own.”