Fire in SUM Hospital: Be Naveen Patnaik fired by BJD

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

An instant reallocation of two departments – Health as well as Information and Public Relations – has been made yesterday as the holder of those two portfolios Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak has resigned from the cabinet, purportedly on moral ground, after fire accident in Bhubaneswar based SUM hospital took the toll of 20 lives, who, to save their lives, had got themselves admitted into that hospital.

Established in 2005 by a private trust, SUM is the most popular hospital in the capital city of Orissa that around 2000 outdoor patients visit every day. For indoor patients, it has 750 beds, 25 intensive care beds and 150 cabins. It provides excellent service at the lowest possible cost according to innumerable patients.

Since its inception, for the first time, it has such a fire mishap, which has led its founder Manoj Ranjan Nayak (MRN) into judicial custody, as Police has shown him arrested under section 304, 308, 285 and 34 of IPC. At the moment, he is remanded to Police for further investigation that may not or may subject him to more penal sections.

When thus, the matter is sub-judice, we may not go into the merit of the allegations. But the background of his arrest suggests that the police are not looking into the incidence in-depth with a free mind.

Firstly, the police have not captured MRN. He has presented himself in the police station at Khandagiri, under the jurisdiction of which the hospital is situated, on locating that the police had promulgated a look-out notice against him. To my common sense, this look-out notice was pregnant with an ulterior motive; because circumstantial evidences strongly suggest that MRN was not absconding. He was very much present in the hospital while conducting the rescue operation and guiding the emergency relief work. It is he who sent affected indoor patients to various hospitals of the city with all provisions for their care there. It was not and never an easy job. He did it efficiently and promptly for which many lives could be saved. He conducted instant enquiry into who of his staff could have ushered in the devastation for their negligence and put them under disciplinary proceedings begun with suspension. He decided to not only bear the cost of treatment of his indoor patients in hospitals he could got them admitted into, but also decided to pay Rs. 5 lakhs to whosoever succumbs to the accident. All these are and other ancillary actions were urgent and highly responsible administrative actions that he performed from his Office unperturbed, despite news of police look-out notice hammering his working desk. After all such responsible steps taken, he went to the area PS and presented himself to the police. I wonder when police, very much present in the hospital compound throughout the period of rescue operation, was absolutely aware of the official steps he was taking, who preferred and why preferred to promulgate the look-out notice against him! Was it under some conspiracy? The point should be clarified by administration, as no citizen should be subjected to any administrative conspiracy.

Secondly, in matter of arrest, the established judicial norm is that, the arresting officer must never delay in presenting the arrested person before the appropriate court as personal liberty guaranteed as fundamental right to a citizen is involved in the case. When MRN had personally and voluntarily presented himself in the PS after on-the-spot inspection and investigation into conduct of his officers-in-charge of concerned departments of his hospital and taking action against them including suspension and after discharging all his responsibility to his indoor patients, at 3.30 AM, the police, under the norm fixed by the Supreme Court in consonance with the Constitutional provisions, should have presented him in the appropriate court at the beginning of the official day, say at 10.30 or 11 AM, so that MRN could have tried to judicially gain back his liberty to which he was entitled. There was no bar for police to seek him for interrogation on remand at that stage also. But why was the entire day time killed? Was there any conspiracy to ensure a jail stay for him? The administration should make this point clear; because, no citizen should be a victim of administrative conspiracy.

Thirdly, police has no discernible action against any official whose negligence to his /her duty has resulted in loss of as many as 20 human lives who had come to the hospital to live. Under the National Building Code 2005, a designated officer of the State inspects personally a building of public importance and if he/she is satisfied that all norms and requirements are meticulously honored, grants occupancy certificate, after which only the structure becomes functional. In matter of medical facilities, when a private person or organization sets up a hospital, the duty of the State does not end in allowing it to establish the hospital. Its duty begins in ensuring that human life is not thrown into any danger thereby. Who are the officers of the State that should have ensured safety to the patients of the medical facility offered to the citizens of Orissa by the SUM hospital? Should not the administration make it clear to the people and identify the officers whose dereliction of duty or nexus, if any, with the private operator has led to the disaster?

As has transpired now, almost none of Orissa’s functional hospitals have the fire safety facilities. The lacunae had come to light on May 31, this year; when electrical short-circuits in the cardiology department of the State’s most prestigious SCB Medical College and Hospital had put about a hundred patients in front of death.

The State has fatally failed to formulate and promulgate legal stipulations with stringent penal provisions against all and any hospital that has not equipped itself with fire safety systems and the norms laid down by National Association of Fire Officers.

Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak alone cannot be held responsible for the failure. The habitually nonchalant chief minister is responsible much more than him. While receiving and forwarding the resignation letter of Atanu, the CM should have ordered for disciplinary action against the Health Secretary as well as the DMET for failure in forcing the hospital to honor the safety norms, which he has blatantly failed.

Is anybody of BJD not aware of how Naveen Patnaik has failed to ensure correct implementation of the Rules of Business and adherence of departmental heads to discipline on the departments assigned to them?

Atanu Sabyasachi has resigned. It is alright. In fact he had no control over the Secretary of Health. Due to the Secretary’s non-application of mind, I have information, the State is in a devastating quagmire that is bound to affect lakhs of people of Orissa. I will discuss it later. So, a minister, who had no control over his department, has resigned. It would have been better had he resigned earlier. But, members of BJD, whom people of Orissa have given the mandate to rule, should rise to the occasion and appreciate that their chief minister is indulged in misrule. In the instant case, Atanu Sabyasachi is not the only person to be held responsible; the CM is more responsible than him. They – the BJD members – would do justice to the people, if they ask Naveen babu to resign. Let them also prove, that the ruling party is not devoid of any talent to rule the State.

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