Mystery of ˜anonymous' hospital
Leading Kolkata newspapers fight shy of mentioning the name of a well-known hospital found guilty by consumer court.
Something is seriously wrong in the way journalism is being practiced in West Bengal, writes Ranjit Sur
Wednesday, Jul 25 16:36:17, 2012
On July 2, The Times of India, Kolkata, published a front-page report, “Negligence death: Doctors, hospital to pay 29 lakh”. It was an interesting and encouraging report for the people of West Bengal and rights workers in particular. The case was argued in court by the claimants themselves led by Mr. V. K. Khanna, uncle of the deceased with the help and support of a patients’ rights activist Uttan Bandhopadhyay.
The introductory paragraph of the TOI report read: “Two doctors and a leading cardiac hospital of Kolkata have been directed by the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to pay a compensation to the tune of Rs.18 lakh for negligence leading to the death of a 23-year-old patient in 2005.” Justice Kalidas Mukherjee passed the verdict on June 28, 2012. The hospital was ordered to pay back Rs. 6,15,000 to the patient’s party for overcharging. It was a case of “medical negligence, deficiency in service, and unfair trade practice”, and the compensation package was Rs. 29 lakh.
The report did not identify the hospital, though the judgment did. Did the newspaper choose to keep it anonymous as it was a Birla-owned Hospital, the B. M. Birla Heart Research Centre, at Alipur in Kolkata? The B. M. Birla Hospital is a flagship hospital of the Birla group.
Some more interesting things happened with this news that should be shared with The Hoot readers.
The order was passed on June 28. Since that evening, Mr. Khanna and Mr. Bandhopadhyay tried their best to get the story published in Ananda Bazar Patrika. The ABP claims its readership is greater than the total readership of all daily newspapers published in Bengali. Going by the claim, its reach is widespread. The two approached an ABP reporter with the story. They say the reporter responded positively. But the story did not appear. After waiting in vain for a couple of days, they handed over the story to the Times of India which published the news, but, as mentioned earlier, without identifying the hospital.
The Hindustan Times, also partly owned by the larger Birla family, did not carry the news at all.
Meanwhile, unfazed and keen that the news of the judgment should reach Bengali-language readers, Mr Khanna and Mr Bandhopadhyay approached the second largest Bengali daily, Bartaman, which carried the news on July 3. The report, as in the other papers, did not identify the hospital. It also did not name the concerned doctors who figure in the judgment, Dr. Srirup Chaterjee and Dr. Anil Mishra.
Now, why these newspapers did not identify the hospital is open to speculation. Was it just an error of editorial judgment, or were there other special interests at work?
Whatever the reasons, the lay reader cannot be blamed if he or she comes to the conclusion that there is something seriously wrong in the way “free and independent journalism” is being practiced in progressive West Bengal.