Ending the Medical Students’ Strike

Ultimately it required Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s direct personal intervention to resolve the fortnight long deadlock in the Calcutta Medical College, precipitated by adamant bureaucrats. The medical students on hunger strike, some of whose condition had become critical, broke their fast on Monday evening after all their demands were accepted by the political leadership of the State Government, overriding the obstinacy of the bureaucrats who had taken the confrontation with the students as a battle of egos. Two floors have been allotted to the medical students in the new hostel and a written assurance given them that the unhabitable hostels would be repaired within 15 days. As soon as the official announcement to this effect was made, the students broke their fast. The State Government also transferred the Health Secretary whose recalcitrance is believed to have precipitated the crisis. Along with him the Director of Medical Education has also been transferred.
If the students’ demands that were accepted on Monday were conceded at the very outset, the crisis could have been nipped in the bud. The then Health Secretary had antagonized both students and a section of doctors allegedly by his rude behaviour. Many doctors in government hospitals had recently started resigning allegedly because of the same reason of bureaucratic arrogance. It is a shame that the top bureaucracy at Nabanna could not take these decisions on their own and that much earlier. It necessitated the intervention of the Chief Minister herself. Senior bureaucrats are expected to resolve such simple problems at their level. The question of providing hostel accommodation to students could and should have been settled at that level.
The ruling Trinamool Congress wants to see their leader as the next prime minister of the country. That dream will, however, never be fulfilled even if a consensus evolves among the opposition parties to accept her as the leader. If even petty problems cannot be sorted out without her personal intervention then who will run the State during her absence?  In the seven years that the party has been in power, it has failed to evolve a chain of command from top to bottom and groom local leaders who will be able to shoulder responsibilities at different levels. The reason is that except the party supremo nobody is willing to accept anyone else as the leader whose command has to be obeyed. A party solely dependent on one leader for every decision cannot play a major role in national politics.

Tuesday, 24 July, 2018