73 dead in fire at Kolkata hospital

The fire, which was suspected to have originated in the electrical department in the basement of the centrally air-conditioned building, swiftly spread, with the third floor and above being affected the most, fire brigade sources said

Kolkata: At least 73 patients suffocated to death when a massive fire broke out in a centrally air-conditioned seven-storey private hospital in the metropolis today, reports PTI.

Police and hospital sources said 73 people had died in the fire at the private 190-bed AMRI Hospital at Dhakuria in the southern fringes.

The fire in the annexe building of the hospital was detected at around 3:30am by local people who rushed to the gates, but were driven away by the security guards, following which the fire spread swiftly, West Bengal urban development minister, Firhad Hakim, said.

As smoke billowed out, firemen using ladders with platforms smashed the window panes in the facade of the building to rescue patients trapped inside the ICU, ICCU, intensive therapy unit and critical care units.

The firemen evacuated the patients with pulleys from the upper floors as they were not in a condition to be taken down by ladders put up by the fire brigade all around the building.

The fire brigade had difficulty in entering the hospital premises as the approach roads were narrow, he said.

Additional director general, fire services, D Biswas, said that the fire brigade was informed at 4:10am and responded immediately.

He said that patients who died, were admitted in the critical care and orthopaedic units, and were unable to move.

He said if proper fire fighting arrangements existed at the hospital, such a fire could not have taken place.

Chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, who visited the hospital, ordered cancellation of its licence. She urged the angry relatives of the victims to go to the state-run SSKM Hospital to identify the bodies.

Disaster management minister, Javed Khan, told PTI that the National Disaster Response Force team would be arriving shortly to determine if there was radioactive leakage from the oncology department.

Senior vice-president of AMRI, S Upadhay, said there were 160 patients in the annexe building at the time of the fire.

Mr Upadhay claimed that the hospital followed strict fire safety measures and conducted regular fire drills. “All statutory safety and fire licences are in place.”

He announced Rs5 lakh as compensation for the next of kin of those who died, while those injured would be treated free at the hospital.

Of the 46 bodies, 42 were taken to the SSKM, two to the AMRI Salt Lake and one each to AMRI Mukundapur and state-run M R Bangur Hospital.

The disaster management minister said that the chief minister had directed lodging of an FIR against the AMRI Hospital authorities. The state government has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Mr Hakim said that 250 firemen in 25 fire engines battled the blaze and smoke with a police cordon thrown around the hospital.

Family members of patients vandalised the reception counter, aggrieved that no list of the dead and injured was provided. They smashed the glass panes at the reception and threw away hospital registers.

Governor, MK Narayanan, expressed shock and hoped that the state government would take necessary steps to identify the cause of the fire and initiate appropriate action.

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CIC asks government to follow RTI Act in filling pane

In his letters dated 2nd June and 20th July to TKA Nair, then principal secretary to the prime minister, Satyananda Mishra had expressed anxiety over growing backlog of cases at the Commission due to the existing vacancies and said that Right to Information would become ‘pointless’ if a citizen had to wait for over a year to get information

New Delhi: Expressing concern over piling up of cases due to vacancies at the Central Information Commission, Chief Information Commissioner Satyananda Mishra has asked the government to stick to the provisions of RTI Act in filling up vacancies on the transparency panel, reports PTI.

In his letters dated 2nd June and 20th July to TKA Nair, then principal secretary to the prime minister, Mr Mishra had expressed anxiety over growing backlog of cases at the Commission due to the existing vacancies and said that Right to Information would become ‘pointless’ if a citizen had to wait for over a year to get information.

The letters have now been made available to one Amit Shanker of Varanasi under the RTI Act.

The Commission which should have a Chief Information Commissioner along with 10 Information Commissioners as per the RTI Act has only six members including Mr Mishra and faces over 21,000 pending cases even as the last appointment of information commissioner was done two years ago.

The Department of Personnel and Training had invited applications for the post of Information Commissioners at the CIC through a circular dated 29th October 2011.

In his letter to then principal secretary to the prime minister TKA Nair on 2nd June, Mr Mishra had said that the RTI Act itself has laid down procedure for appointment of information commissioners and any new method is ‘redundant’.

“The RTI Act itself lays down the procedure for appointment of information commissioners. It is the selection committee headed by the prime minister of India which has to recommend the names. Any other mechanism devised for filling up these vacancies is redundant,” he said.

He had said if the government wanted to advertise these posts to the press and invite applications, even that should have been done much earlier so that all the names could have been received by now and selection made.

Mr Mishra had said if the posts of information commissioners remain vacant, then by the end of the year the number of pending cases with the Commission would mount to over 21,000.

“The right to information would become pointless, if a citizen is to wait to for more than a year to get any information he seeks from the government,” Mr Mishra said.

In a separate letter on 20th July, Mr Mishra has questioned the new method of advertising the posts adopted by the government at this stage when such a huge pendency of cases is faced by the panel.

“I understand that new proposals are being mooted now for devising new ways and means for filing up these vacancies and the government has not yet finalised which method to follow... If the government wants to advertise these posts to the Press and invite applications, even that should have been done much earlier so that all the names could have been received by now and selection made,” he said.

He said at present most complaints and appeals filed before the Commission come up for disposal nearly after eight to 10 months of filing and if vacancies continued to remain unfilled, the pending cases would mount further.

Mr Mishra has expressed concerns over growing workload on the information commissioners and asked Mr Nair to bring the matter to the prime minister’s notice.

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COMMENTS

P M Ravindran

5 years ago

This is another fraud being bandied about- that the reason for in increasing backlog is the dearth of ICs. And look at this traitor asking the govt to follow the RTI Act (but only in filling up vacancies of ICs!) The first, foremost and main reason as well as the second and third reasons for the increase in the number of complaints/appeals is the failure of the ICs to impose the penalties mandated under Sec 20 of the RTI Act. This has led to PIOs treating the RTI Act with contempt forcing citizens to file complaint and appeals.

Exchange rate is always on RBI radar: RBI chief

RBI governor D Subbarao said it was not possible to say what the RBI had done in the forex market which will be known when the figures were released and would be able to get an idea to the extent or otherwise of intervention

Kolkata: Amidst high volatility in the rupee’s exchange rate in respect to the US dollar, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday said the currency’s movement is “always on its radar” and the central bank will come out with a definitive statement in this regard in its mid-quarterly meeting on 16th December, reports PTI.

“I cannot say whether we can intervene or not but the exchange rate is always on the radar of RBI,” governor D Subbarao told reporters after the central bank's board meet here.

Mr Subbarao said the rupee had depreciated 14% since early August due to inflationary pressures.

“We will be coming out with a more definitive statement in the 16th December review meeting,” he added.

“But as of now our understanding of some amount of rupee depreciation and assessment of oil price has been built into the projection of 7% WPI (wholesale price index) inflation by March 2012.

Any revision of this will come out on 16th December,” Mr Subbarao said.

He said it was not possible to say what the RBI had done in the forex market which will be known when the figures were released and would be able to get an idea to the extent or otherwise of intervention.

“But as far as rupee depreciation over the last three months is concerned, it had been a result of developments outside the country, particularly Europe,” he observed.

“This was because there were no inflows coming in a significant way and the exchange rate has been determined by the current account deficit,” he said.

“Three things which we should do to attract more inflows into India, are adjust interest rates for NRI deposits, increase FII limits in sovereign and corporate debt and finally asking the ECB borrowers to bring back money to the country,” Mr Subbarao said.

“In order to determine whether to intervene or not, our guide is our policy,” he said.

RBI’s policy of intervention was to manage volatility or macro-economic instability.

Another factor which would have to be taken into account was on how expectations would be shaped on what RBI did.

On the government’s part, efforts would also have to be made to bring more FDI flows into the country.

Asked to comment on criticism from certain quarters that RBI’s tight money stance had not been able to contain demand as reflected by high inflation rates, Mr Subbarao said “inflation has resulted from supply shocks and demand pressures.

“Our action had been to contain inflation and there had been criticisms to that,” he said. “Supporting growth is our objective as also to maintain price and financial stability.” 

Regarding food inflation, RBI deputy governor Subir Gokarm said that food prices were responding due to two good monsoons in a row and improvement in supply situation.

“We need long-term supply responses to moderate food inflation on a more sustained basis,” he added.

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