Jaundice jolt in high heat
Hit-and-run kills doctor
Pollution level higher inside cars
Metro to cut intervals
Youth wings of Cong twins go on rampage
Freed hostages face jail for hedging cases
Hrithik whirlwind arrives today
Surrendered rebels await Ulfa end
Attack on youth sparks tension in Tripura dist
Bengal revolt ignites Orissa Cong dissidents

 
 
JAUNDICE JOLT IN HIGH HEAT 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, April 4 
With the mercury on a steady rise, hospitals and clinics in the city have begun reporting an increasing number of cases of water-borne diseases, especially Hepatitis A, or the common jaundice.

Diagnostic laboratories across the city, too, have been detecting hepatitis antibodies in a large number of tests they have been conducting recently.

“I do not want to sound alarmist, but it is time to issue a warning to all Calcuttans to be careful about the water they drink,” said Manoj Agarwal, consultant gastro-enterologist at the Kothari Hospital and Medical Research Centre

In fact, Kothari Hospital, which has an advanced gastro-enterology department, has been admitting some acute hepatitis patients recently. However, in most cases of jaundice, hospitalisation is not required and patients are treated at home.

“There has been a marked rise in the number of hepatitis patients I have been treating in the last month,” said R.B. Lhila, a general practitioner and treasurer of the Calcutta chapter of the Family Physicians’ Association.

“From a situation where there were no detections in December-January, I am now treating two to three new cases a week,” he said. “And all of them have been found to have bilirubin counts of between 9 and 9.5,” he added.

(The normal count should be under 0.9 mg for every 100 ml of blood.)

Lhila will raise the increase in the number of ‘jaundice’ cases at a meeting of the association, fixed for Sunday. In the meantime, he is advising complete rest and restricted but adequate diet for his patients. “In fact, that is the only acknowledged form of treatment for the majority of jaundice cases,” said B.L. Binani, current president of the association.

Explaining why there was a rise in cases, Manoj Agarwal says that with the onset of summer and the heat, the urge to drink water goes up.

“People have an affinity to drink water whenever possible and from wherever, and this is dangerous,” Agarwal said.

“The viruses causing Hepatitis A and E are water-borne and there is as yet no guarantee of water purity here,” he added.

The city has several water pipes which are old and cracked. Some of these pipes run next to sewage pipes, and inadvertent contamination could occur. “This is especially the case in Topsia, where water supply pipes run into drainage pipes,” said Calcutta Municipal Corporation commissioner Asim Barman.

In addition, water drawn from a tubewell may not always be safe. In summer, as the underground water level recedes, drinking water is tapped from a level that is not deep enough to be as safe as it is in other times of the year.

“With so much construction in the city going on, underground water levels have also dried up considerably,” points out a scientist at the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health.

Director of medical education Shyamal Bandopadhyay said: “We are worried about the situation and have asked all the medical college hospitals to send a report on the turnout of patients seeking treatment for hepatitis.”    


 
 
HIT-AND-RUN KILLS DOCTOR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 4 
Doctors and local residents blocked roads in central Calcutta for more than seven hours on Tuesday afternoon following the death of an intern of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital in an accident near Presidency College.

Shashikant Yadav, 28, was knocked down and killed by a private bus on route 3C/1 near Presidency College, a few yards from Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. Yadav was a resident of Hind Motor.

Traffic in north and central Calcutta came to a standstill, with senior police officers remaining silent spectators as angry doctors took to the streets.

The accident occurred around 12.30 pm, when Yadav slipped and fell while getting off the bus he was travelling in.

He was instantly run over by another speeding bus. Drivers of both the buses fled the site of the accident with their vehicles.

Immediately after the accident, Yadav was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

Residents of the area said the hit-and-run case occurred due to reckless driving, so common on the crowded streets in the area.

After the death of their colleague, doctors of Calcutta Medical College gathered on the spot and raised angry slogans against the failure of the police, led by deputy commissioner of traffic K. Harirajan, to rein in reckless bus drivers.

Soon, the residents joined in and a blockade was put up on the crossing of Surya Sen Street and Mahatma Gandhi Road around 1 pm. The agitating doctors demanded the arrest of the errant drivers.

Senior police officers rushed to the site with a large contingent of men. They tried to persuade the doctors to lift the roadblock, but failed to convince them till late in the evening.

“We could not resort to a lathicharge as it would invite a lot of criticism, despite the fact that such traffic disruptions cause so much inconvenience to the people,” said DC (headquarters) Nazrul Islam.    


 
 
POLLUTION LEVEL HIGHER INSIDE CARS 
 
 
BY KUNAL SEN GUPTA
 
Calcutta, April 4 
Travelling by car is injurious to health. A recent study undertaken by the state pollution control board has revealed that people in cars are exposed to as much as five times more toxins in the air than pedestrians and cyclists in Calcutta. The pollution level inside air-conditioned cars is almost just as bad.

People travelling in cars pass through a “tunnel of pollutants”, with toxins emitted by the exhausts of the car in front ending up inside the one behind. Those inside a car are also exposed to volatile organic compounds up to six times more than a person walking or cycling along a busy Calcutta street.

According to a senior official of the state pollution control board, the study, the first of its kind in the country, was undertaken in February during peak office hours. A passenger car, of an undisclosed make, was fitted with a high-volume sampler, a gadget that is used to monitor air pollution. Thus equipped, the car was taken on a two-hour-long drive along Calcutta’s main thoroughfares.

Starting at 9 am from Garia, it drove down to Gariahat, turned left into Rashbehari Avenue, and then headed for Esplanade via Ashutosh Mukherjee Road and Chowringhee. From Esplanande, the car took Chittaranjan Avenue to Shyambazar and then turned into APC Roy Road, before coming to a stop at Sealdah. Here, the sampler was turned off and sent to the laboratory for analysis.

The board’s scientists ensured that the intake point of the air sampler was positioned at par with the height of a person’s nose while sitting in the car. Analysis of the samples revealed alarming levels of harmful respirable particles and oxides of nitrogen.

“Besides these, level of carcinogens like benzene and carbon monoxide are also far more inside a car than out there on the pavement,” the official said. According to data available, the suspended particulate matter (SPM) inside the car was 817 micrograms per cubic metre. During winter, when atmospheric pollution is worst, SPM count in the “outside air” hardly ever crosses 600 micrograms.

Similarly, the level of harmful oxides of nitrogen were recorded at 171 micrograms per cubic metre inside the car. The same is not true outside the car, where the oxides of nitrogen hover around 60 micrograms, at worst. Rolling up the windows and vents or switching on the air-conditioner hardly made a difference.

“In fact, recent studies conducted by the California Air Resources Board have proved that car ventilation systems did help marginally in keeping out tiny soot particles, but toxic gases from diesel trucks and buses still leak into vehicles,” the researchers said.

However, the board is yet to determine to what extent an individual is exposed to toxins in the air. “For this we require personal samplers, which we do not have,” a researcher said.

Personal samplers are highly-sophisticated equipment which are attached to a person’s body. They trap the air that is inhaled for a particular span of time. Later on, these trapped air samples are analysed to determine the quality of air actually breathed in and the nature and amount of toxins in it.

The pollution control board and the environment department, with the help of experts, are preparing an action plan for the city’s vehicular traffic to ease air pollution. The mounting level of pollution has already led to registration of vehicles that conform to India 2000 emission standards. The plan is to be completed by next month.    


 
 
METRO TO CUT INTERVALS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 4 
The frequency of Metro services will increase from next month.

“There has been a rise by 20 per cent in commuter traffic in the past four months,” said Metro Rail chief operations manager, Jayanta Kumar Mitra.

Now, trains run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes in non-peak time.

“We are, however, yet to finalise whether the gap between services will be six minutes or eight during peak hours, and 10 minutes during non-peak hours,” he added.

For this increased frequency, more rakes and more motormen will be required, Mitra added.    


 
 
YOUTH WINGS OF CONG TWINS GO ON RAMPAGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 4 
Buoyed by Sonia Gandhi’s go-ahead to the state Congress to join Mamata Banerjee’s Mahajot, Trinamul Congress and Chhatra Parishad workers went on the rampage in front of Writers’ Buildings and Bikash Bhavan, at Salt Lake, respectively, on Tuesday.

The police were caught unawares when a group of Trinamul Youth Congress workers landed up in front of the state secretariat, around 3 pm, demanding the arrest of those involved in the murder of Bikash Basu, the party’s North-24 Parganas district president, last week.

Eyewitnesses said the police clashed with the demonstrators. Trinamul Youth Congress chief Sanjoy Bakshi later alleged that the police had injured some party functionaries in a “brutal lathicharge”. The police arrested 102 Trinamul Youth Congress activists, including 12 women.

At around the same time, nearly 100 Chhatra Parishad supporters ransacked state education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty’s office at Bikash Bhavan. They gathered in front of the minister’s chamber to protest the alleged leak of Higher Secondary business economics and mathematics questions in Hooghly district last week.

They demanded “stern action” against those at the helm of the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education for their “callousness”.

Trouble broke out when the police tried to clear the mob. A scuffle ensued, with the police resorting to a mild lathicharge. The agitationists retaliated by attacking some security personnel and ransacking offices.

The police alleged the demonstrators smashed furniture in the corridor and also removed nameplates from the ministers’ chambers, damaging the doors.

It took the police nearly 45 minutes to bring the situation under control. Altogether 13 Chhatra Parishad activists were arrested.

“The students are free to express their grievances. But I do not support the way the agitators behaved at a government office,” said Chakraborty.

The student body protesters insisted that the police had attacked a peaceful demonstration without any provocation.    


 
 
FREED HOSTAGES FACE JAIL FOR HEDGING CASES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 4 
The police have decided to initiate legal action against kidnap victims who have refuse to cooperate with investigators and identify the criminals after being rescued.

According to deputy commissioner of police (south), Ranjit Pachnanda, the police have faced several cases where victims not only refused to cooperate with the officers, but even petitioned them to take back the complaint.

“We are checking the case records. We will definitely file chargesheets against the criminals and also book the victims if they don’t cooperate,’’ Pachnanda said.

Those abducted and then rescued can be charged with “malicious prosecution” under Section 211 and Section 182 of the Indian Penal Code if they refuse to cooperate with the investigating officers.

The punishment in both the cases involves imprisonment of seven years.

On April 2, two young men, Kaseem and Nayeem Rasool, kidnapped a businessman, Kayum, from near a telephone booth at Beniapukur. He was taken to Topsia Road, in the Tiljala area, and detained in the house of a person called Naseer. The ransom demand of Rs 1 lakh was made, over phone, to Kayum’s friend Azad, who lodged a complaint at the Shakespeare Sarani police station. Police officers trapped Naseer, who directed them to Kayum.

According to Pachnanda, Kayum refused to go on record against his kidnappers and even wanted to take back the complaint.

In another case, promoter Vivek Chatterjee, who was kidnapped by a group of criminals last year, told investigating officers of the Tollygunge police station that he is not interested in pursuing the complaint. “Chatterjee, who was dumped by the kidnappers with the police hot on their heels, told officers that he had settled the matter amicably. He wants the police to drop the case,’’ a police officer of Tollygunge police station said.

In another incident, a businessman kidnapped from Park Street area early this year, but later rescued by the police, refused to cooperate with the investigators.    


 
 
HRITHIK WHIRLWIND ARRIVES TODAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 4 
Filmstar Hrithik Roshan is arriving on a whirlwind tour of the city on Wednesday. Hrithik’s visit has generated tremendous enthusiasm among the youngsters and the city police are on tenterhooks.

Hrithik will touch down at Calcutta airport from Mumbai at 10.45 am. From there, he is to head straight for Dum Dum on a factory visit.

He will then attend a charitable programme, organised by St. Xavier’s College Old Boys’ Association, where he will autograph his photographs.

His next stop will be a hotel from where he will proceed for a private lunch.

Hrithik will cap his Calcutta tour with a stopover at MusicWorld, the mega retail store on Park Street, before rushing off to the airport to catch a flight back to Mumbai.

With girls trying to sneak out of their homes and fly off to Mumbai to catch a glimpse of their favourite star, the principals of several city schools have got together and urged Hrithik to appeal to his fans to exercise restraint.

The Calcutta Police had caught at least a dozen teenagers trying to take a flight or a train to Mumbai after Hrithik’s launch pad, Kaho Na... Pyar Hai, hit paydirt.

Principals of some leading schools have even suggested that the Hrithik mania be put to some constructive use.

According to Veronica Ghosh, principal of Julien Day School, students will understand history, geography, biology and other subjects better if these are linked with the filmstar.

“For instance, the capital of Maharashtra is Mumbai, from where Hrithik Roshan hails,’’ Ghosh said. “Or, the longest bone in Hrithik Roshan’s body is the femur, which is between the hip and the knee,’’ she added.

Ghosh said she will “definitely’’ discuss with her other colleagues if Roshan and other filmstars can be introduced to make learning fun.

When the matinee idol was informed about the principals’ appeal by Mithun Chakraborty, Roshan immediately faxed a reply, stating: “The girls need not go to Mumbai. I will be in the city for them.’’

On Wednesday, Hrithik will keep that tryst with his fans.    


 
 
SURRENDERED REBELS AWAIT ULFA END 
 
 
FROM PULLOCK DUTTA
 
Sivsagar, April 4 
It was the spring of 1979 when six youth from Upper Assam met at the historic Rang Ghar here to float the United Liberation Front of Asom.

Today, just three days short of completing 21 years, the banned outfit’s dream of a “swadhin Asom (independent Assam)” lay all but shattered as 436 of its activists surrendered at the same venue and launched a virulent attack against its leadership.

Led by self-styled ‘lieutenant’ Amrit Phukon, a training instructor at an Ulfa camp in Myanmar, altogether 532 militants laid down arms in the presence of Governor Lt. Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha and chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.

While 432 of these rebels were from the Ulfa, 77 belonged to the Karbi National Volunteers and 19 to the National Democratic Front of Boroland. They deposited four AK-47 rifles, an AK-56 rifle, three carbines, six 9 mm pistols, 21 revolvers, two machine guns, 17 12-bore rifles and five 303 rifles.

The function, christened a “rehabilitation ceremony”, was the 14th of its kind in the state since the unified command structure came into being. Given the number of militants who surrendered, it was also the most successful.

“The Ulfa is no longer a revolutionary organisation. It has become a terrorist outfit,” said Phukon, who joined the militant movement in 1992. “We hope the government will not give us the short shrift,” he added.

Phukon, who had been training Ulfa activists in Myanmar for the past four years, said the outfit’s leadership was least bothered about the development of Assam. “The killing of social activist Sanjoy Ghose, who was working for the uplift of the people of Majuli, is a case in point,” he said.

Disillusioned with the militant movement, Phukon pledged to work for the development of the state and be “a good law-abiding citizen”.

Lakhi Saikia, another Ulfa activist, said there was a feud between the leadership of the political and armed wings of the outfit.

“It was becoming increasingly difficult for activists like us to survive. We had no idea whom to support,” he said.

Saikia, who led the Agnigarh unit of the Ulfa, said commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah had turned into a dictator. “There is no democracy in the outfit anymore,” he said. The just-surrendered militant said he wanted to see the Ulfa “finished” and would do “anything” to ensure that. “I have not surrendered because I fear being arrested or killed by the security forces. It is just that I am completely disillusioned with the Ulfa,” he said.

“We have shown the way and more are on the way,” added Sewali Neog, the lone woman to surrender. Welcoming the “misguided” youth back to the mainstream, Gen. Sinha said their surrender was a step towards restoration of normalcy. “Let this event be a new chapter in the history of Assam, which has witnessed bloodshed for the last three decades,” he said.

Though the Assam government is yet to work out a package for the rebels who surrendered today, the Governor said no effort would be spared to rehabilitate them. “They will not be offered government jobs, but provided the help necessary to become self-reliant,” he said.

The chief minister echoed Sinha’s views, saying the mass surrender was one of the most positive developments in recent times. “Assam has not gained anything from violence. We need change and these kind of ceremonies will help us achieve that,” he said.

Criticising the Ulfa leadership, Mahanta said, “If the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) and the Bodo Liberation Tigers can come forward for talks, why can’t the Ulfa? The outfit’s leadership is obviously not interested in the development of Assam.”

Lt. Gen D.B. Shekatkar, general-officer-commanding of the 4 Corps, urged the Ulfa leadership to come to the negotiation table before “time runs out” and the state disintegrates. “We will provide whatever help is necessary for their (Ulfa leaders’) rehabilitation,” he said.    


 
 
ATTACK ON YOUTH SPARKS TENSION IN TRIPURA DIST 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 4 
Two persons, including a tribal home guard, were injured and three militants arrested by the police in separate incidents during the past 24 hours.

Three government employees, missing since yesterday, are also believed to have been kidnapped by militants of the National Liberation Front of Tripura.

Police sources said a non-tribal youth, Ramesh Debnath had gone to the Bagma area from his residence in West Kupilong area of Udaipur subdivision to tend cows late in the afternoon yesterday. A group of four tribal youth, clad only in shorts, suddenly pounced on Ramesh and tried to abduct him. The youth resisted and was struck with sharp machetes by the four tribals. The tribals then fled from the area.

The injured Ramesh Debnath was admitted to Udaipur hospital in a serious condition. As news of the attack spread, ethnic tension gripped the area.

A group of irate non-tribal youth waylaid a tribal home guard, Nandalal Jamatya, 28, who was returning home to Jaleya area from Udaipur town. The group of non-tribal youth seriously injured him by hitting him with sharp weapons. Ethnic tension in the area escalated.

In a separate incident, two rebels were captured yesterday. Police sources said a group of jawans belonging to the 2nd battalion of the CRPF arrested two NLFT militants, Mangaljay Rea-ng, and Tabijrai Reang, yesterday.

The jawans seized a countrymade gun and a revolver from them at the remote Ganganagar area under Gandacherra subdivision. Sources said the two militants started running after seeing the CRPF patrol but were captured by the jawans, who caught up with them.

In yet another incident, the police in the Natun Bazar police station area of south Tripura yesterday arrested another NLFT rebel, Ratanmoni Uchoi.    


 
 
BENGAL REVOLT IGNITES ORISSA CONG DISSIDENTS 
 
 
FROM DEBASHIS BHATTACHARYYA
 
Bhubaneswar, April 4 
The upheaval in the West Bengal Congress may have a ripple effect on the party’s faction-ridden state unit. Several party leaders, angry with the high command’s style of functioning, are buoyed by the rebellion in the neighbouring state.

But agitated party members close to former chief minister Hemanand Biswal are unlikely to act in haste, sources said. They want to see the shape the rebellion will take before raise a banner of revolt, they added.

Congress heavyweights J.B. Patnaik and Hemanand Biswal, both former chief ministers, have been locked in a bitter power struggle since Ramakanta Mishra was elected leader of the Congress Legislature Party.

Biswal had eyed the post after he resigned as chief minister following the Congress’ defeat in the Assembly elections.

But Mishra, a Patnaik loyalist, was “elected” CLP leader by party legislators in a controversial meeting. Biswal, who had stayed away from the meeting, called the election a sham and accused Patnaik of manipulation.

Patnaik denied the allegations. AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was in charge of Orissa, supported Patnaik, saying most of the legislators had favoured Mishra as the CLP leader. Biswal and his supporters publicly railed against the high command for its handling of the state unit and called for Patnaik’s resignation as PCC president for his failure to lead the party to victory in the polls.

Biswal was humbled when Congress president Sonia Gandhi showcaused him for his public tirade against Patnaik and the high command.

Though Biswal vowed allegiance to Sonia Gandhi on receiving the punitive notice, he and his supporters stayed away from the Assembly in protest against Mishra’s election as the CLP leader most days during the last session. This reduced the Congress to an ineffective Opposition party and blunted its attacks on the Naveen Patnaik government.

The oust-Patnaik campaign could gather steam if Sonia Gandhi gave in to the rebels in West Bengal, a Congress legislator close to Biswal said. The Biswal camp, however, is unlikely to move beyond that and clamour for Sonia Gandhi’s scalp.

To forestall any rebellion, Patnaik yesterday formed a disciplinary committee packed with loyalists to take action against the dissidents.

The committee is expected to move against Biswal supporters who had openly clamoured for Patnaik’s scalp after the Congress lost the Assembly polls.

Congress leaders believed that the Bengal episode could turn out to be a watershed in the party, re-defining relationship between the party’s state and national leadership.

Relief measures

The Tata Relief Committee will construct 570 houses and four cyclone shelters in five villages washed away in the October 29 supercyclone in Jagatsinghpur’s Ersama block.

Uday K. Srivastava, secretary of the Jamshedpur-based committee, said the two-room houses with a verandah would be built in the Ambiki gram panchayat areas in Ersama at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore. Villagers who lost their homes to the cyclone would get the houses free.    

 

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