Hospital in strike paralysis
Vision of justice for Nayana
Teachers, students join to choke BE College
Tagore archive plan at Rabindra Sadan
Heritage tour on birthday
Metropolitan makeover move
Li’l master of the game
South-east Asia meet to fight polio
Buddha plea for good films
Assam joins ‘Bimaru’ club

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Calcutta’s 310th birthday finds the city’s oldest and largest hospital gasping.

About 170 interns, house staff and post-graduate trainees at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital continued to abstain from work on Wednesday, leaving patients in the lurch.

Only a handful of admissions took place in the emergency ward on Wednesday, according to a resident medical officer.

Those already admitted to the hospital before the strike started, waited anxiously for doctors to resume their rounds and things to return to normal.

The hospital staff struck work on Tuesday afternoon after some of them had been assaulted by a mob, following the death of an accident victim.

The 15-point charter of demands that the protesters have placed before the hospital authorities after the incident remains unfulfilled and the general body of trainee doctors has decided to continue the agitation till Thursday noon, when another meeting will be held with hospital superintendent S. Sinha.

The ward and other departments of the hospital are being manned by resident medical officers and medical officers. A few visiting surgeons made the rounds on Wednesday morning.

The authorities have not sought the help of state health service doctors “from outside”, yet.

Patients already admitted in the various wards had a trying time, as no treatment was forthcoming. Only one or two emergency operations were conducted by some senior doctors.

The outpatient departments of all disciplines, including the eye infirmary, were kept open, but the number of cases attended to was far less than on other days.

Of the 15 demands, the general body of trainee doctors has sought the immediate fulfilment of four: re-establishment of a police post opposite the emergency block, debarring patients’ relatives and friends from the wards outside visiting hours; curtailment of “floor admissions”, and the filing of an FIR against those involved in Tuesday’s attack.

“We were told that an FIR has been lodged at Bowbazar police station, but we weren’t given any case number,” said spokesman S. Biswas, a post-graduate trainee doctor.

“There is no supply of Betadine, spirit, gauze and even dressing trays in all departments. Worse, without a generator, we have had to work with torches and candles on two occasions in the recent past. There was a power cut for almost 24 hours in one of the OTs as well,” Biswas complained.

“We don’t have running water in the OT taps after 9 pm every day and are forced to wash with stored water. We don’t have spirit to clean the patient before administering injections, and we don’t have a proper biochemistry, pathology or radiology department that is open round the clock. How can we ensure proper treatment of the patients in these primitive conditions?” demanded a doctor.    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
After studying by day, and working by night as a sex worker, actor Mithun Chakraborty’s offer to Nayana Sen (not her real name) of a job and a home is “the best thing that could have happened to this unfortunate girl,” feels senior CPM leader Sudhangsu Sil, now a councillor of Jorabagan, under which Sonagachhi falls.

Sil, a former mayor-in-council of the CMC, has been trying his best to help Nayana ever since he learnt that she had turned a sex worker to finance her studies. “This is really a remarkable case,” Sil told The Telegraph. “This girl had sent me a number of petitions, asking me to help her and her sick mother who is now dead, but unfortunately we had been unable to do very much for her,” he said. “So it is really wonderful to know that help is finally at hand.”

Good news for Nayana came from another quarter on Wednesday. The superintendent of police, Howrah, Surajit Kar Purakayastha, said that since Nayana’s father, Ranjit, (surname withheld to protect her identity) had served well at Golabari police station, he would look into ways of helping her lead a normal life.

“Ranjit was a brave and dashing policeman,” Kar Purkayastha said. “It is very unfortunate that he died in an accident. So now, I think every effort should be made to help Nayana get out of the hell-hole that she is living in.I was glad to know that she will get a chance to resume her studies.”

On reading of Nayana’s plight in The Telegraph, Mithun Chakraborty offered her a job that would fetch her Rs 3,000 every month and assured her that he would finance her studies. (Nayana lost her father, a police sub-inspector, in an accident, and her mother died of leukemia last year. She had to take to prostitution so that she could study in a junior colege in the city.)

Nayana told The Telegraph on Wednesday that her ordeal really began when her father, a sub-inspector with Golabari police station, died in an accident in the early Nineties.

“Before that, we were a happy family, living in our house in Liluah,” she said. “Then my father died, followed by my mother after some years, and I was left to fend for myself.”

Sil said: “We had organised several meetings with Durbar Mahila Samity, an organisation looking after the welfare of sex workers, asking them to chip in for a good cause, but I think their resources were rather limited.”

“It is a great pity that we could do very little for the treatment of her mother who was suffering from leukemia,” he said.

Recounting the difficulties Nayana faced while going to college from her room in the redlight district, the Jorabagan local committee secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, a youth wing of the CPM, Ajit Chaudhuri, said: “At times, we had to escort her to her college as some of the hoodlums in this area tried to create problems for her. Since this girl was trying to make something of her life beyond the boundaries of Sonagachhi, we tried to do whatever we could to make life that much easier for her.”    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
A string of student clashes over ragging and an indefinite work-to-rule by teachers demanding a pay hike have paralysed academic activities at Bengal Engineering College, Shibpur, since Tuesday.

An incident of ragging triggered trouble on Monday night, spreading disquiet on the campus the following day. The college authorities are struggling to defuse the tension, as most of the teachers are on a work-to-rule and refusing to interact with the students in this matter.

The teachers on Tuesday rejected vice-chancellor Amal Jyoti Sengupta’s request to join an inquiry by the authorities into the incident. “We are trying to find an alternative,” said Sengupta. The teachers are abstaining from all official work except taking classes and attending to research work.

Students have been away from classes since Tuesday and the Bengal Engineering College Students’ Union has threatened an indefinite agitation from Thursday.

Trouble started around 10 pm on Monday when a group of final-year students tried to rag some freshers at Institute Hall, where they had assembled to attend rehearsals of a cultural programme.

Student union leaders, most of whom are fourth-year students, had organised the rehearsal. They objected to the ragging and attempted to take all the first-year boys back to their hostels immediately.

But, another group of senior students prevented the newcomers from leaving the place and insisted that the union leaders ask them to stay back at the hall for some time. An altercation ensued and the two groups came to blows, which left two students injured.

Minutes after the clash, a group of students took the two injured boys to hostel officials and demanded action against those who had beaten them up. With the hostel superintendents failing to take any action, the students lodged a complaint with the police.

The arrival of the police aggravated the situation as a large number of students felt that calling the police into an educational institution was “highly unethical”.

Student union president Soumyakanti Nanda said the vice-chancellor’s not staying on campus was an encouragement for students to indulge in violence.”    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Nearly 60 years after his death, the city where Rabindranath Tagore breathed his last is set to host the first full-fledged archive on the man.

The venue: Rabindra Sadan. The two-storeyed cultural centre will display rare photographs and nearly 500 Rabindrasangeet records and cassettes of veteran exponents. “The Rabindra archive will be a unique one in the city, housing a number of precious photographs and gramophone records,” said K.K.Guha, director of culture, government of West Bengal. He added that the department concerned has already approved the proposal and released the necessary funds.

Sakti Dulal Dutta, Rabindra Sadan administrator, said an abandoned room on the southern side of the building is being renovated to convert it into an archive. “The archive has been a long-standing demand here, as a good number of rare photographs of Tagore and those of persons associated with him have been gathering dust for years,” said Dutta.

Pabitra Sarkar, chairman of the Rabindra Sadan Advisory Committee, said the archive will also preserve some rare manuscripts of Tagore, including one which the state government procured from London three years ago. “The manuscript is lying with the Bangla Academy. We will keep the manuscript at the Rabindra archive once it is made centrally-airconditioned,” said Sarkar.

Previous efforts to create an archive had failed due to various reasons, including protests from certain quarters of the administration.

“But if we don’t start preserving these things at once, they are bound to perish,” declared Dutta. A particularly-rare photograph of Tagore — without his beard and with very little hair on his head — is now in their possession. “I believe this photograph of Tagore, taken a few months after his father, Debendranath Tagore, died at Jorasanko in 1905, will surprise many admirers of Kobiguru,” he said.

Besides photographs, there are nearly 500 rare gramophone records and cassettes of legendary Rabindrasangeet singers like Angurbala, Pankaj Mullick and K.L. Saigal. The old records, lying unused for years, have turned to junk. “We have asked experts help restore these valuable records,” said a Sadan official.

Several Rabindrasangeet singers in the city welcomed the move. “The preservation of records will help the younger generation familiarise itself with some great exponents of Tagore songs,” said Subinoy Roy.

“We are thankful to the Sadan authorities for undertaking such an innovative programme,” Purabi Mukhopadhaya said.    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
The city fathers will provide an opportunity for citizens to savour the splendour of heritage buildings on Thursday, when five restored structures will be opened to the public.

Thursday being the birth anniversary of Calcutta, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and other government agencies will allow the people, especially schoolchildren and architecture students from BE College, Jadavpur University and IIT Kharagpur, to take tours of these colonial edifices.

These five structures are the first among several hundred heritage buildings to be restored. They are Metcalfe Hall, Vidyasagar’s house on Amherst Street, Metropolitian Building at Esplanade, the Town Hall and the pagoda in Eden Gardens.

The city’s birth anniversary has also been declared its Heritage Day, CMC sources said.

Municipal commissioner Asim Barman said Thursday’s event will be an opportunity for the future citizens to catch a glimpse of the past. “It will, hopefully, make them aware about the need for conservation, as well as give them a first-hand experience of heritage,” Barman said.

The public works department (PWD) has restored the Eden Gardens pagoda with teak wood recovered from warehouses in the city jails and Writers’ Buildings.

“The PWD has done a fabulous job by using original material instead of substituting it with some other modern building aids,” said Bonani Kakkar of People United for Better Living in Calcutta (Public), an NGO closely working with the CMC in its heritage programme. She feels the effort put in by the PWD engineers should be showcased as a major achievement.

Barman said that restoring all the buildings had been a very difficult task. Besides the five to be thrown open on Thursday, work has begun on the Jorabagan police station building. “We are in touch with the Centre regarding the restoration and conservation of the old Currency Building as well,” Barman said.

There had been some delay in getting legislation passed on heritage sites. “There will be provisions that will impose certain conditions on the owners of heritage buildings, but they have not been finalised yet,” the commissioner said.    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Now that a panel of Metropolitan Building facing S.N. Banerjee Road has been restored, the tender for breathing new life into the rest of the huge pile will, hopefully, be floated next week. So hopes Dulal Mukherjee, speaking in his capacity as restoration consultant to Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), which owns this prime property on Chowringhee.

Initially, the facade and the adjoining pavement will be given a facelift and structural restoration, which includes plugging the holes in the leaking terrace, undertaken. Only after the entire operation, which will take more than two years, is over, will they proceed to the interiors. Mukherjee said even the stained glass atrium, which used to be a showpiece before it collapsed some time ago, will be reconstructed with the salvaged portions.

O.P. Dube, LIC zonal manager, sounds very positive about the operation. “We definitely want to give it a very good facelift,” he said, though he admitted that the budget had overshot and a new allocation was expected soon.

But he was very definite about one thing — LIC was not spending good money on Metropolitan Building just because it had been declared a heritage building by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). “LIC will decide how to use the building. It just cannot be left like that,” said Dube. If Metropolitan Building is a part of the city’s heritage, why should LIC alone foot the bill? What about the government, is what he implied.

In the meantime, a good part of the terrace is being repaired. There is a yawning hole in the second-floor corridor, which happens to be the roof of the northern bay of the enormous first-floor hall.

The contract was given to a firm named Mass Construction, which has no previous experience in restoration. They reportedly used hammers to demolish the roof, and there is every possibility of the vibration damaging the building constructed in 1911.

Since the building is apparently being restored, the question is, was it necessary to knock out that part of the roof next to what used to be the atrium?

Because, according to a CMC architect, that is “debatable” as the structure is still strong.

Rajat Roy, faculty of TVB School of Habitat Studies and visiting faculty of the Delhi School of Planning and Architecture, feels demolition for reconstruction was not imperative.

But the iron support system definitely needed to be strengthened. Biswadip Sen, managing director of Caltech India, who had restored the facade, also is of the same opinion.

Mukherjee says it was a “semi-temporary measure” meant to stop waterlogging on the roof. But G.M. Kapoor, convener for West Bengal and regional chapters of INTACH, stresses it was done to cut costs.

Says Kapoor: “We don’t see eye to eye with the policy of treating conservation and restoration as akin to ordinary construction and repair work, where the lowest tenderer, irrespective of his credentials, is awarded the job.” If LIC wants restoration, it has to pay the price for it.    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Fourteen-year-old Rohan Vijay Shandilya could scarcely believe his luck when his “evenly-balanced game” against Sheik Shahid Ahmed in the last round of the recent The Telegraph School Chess 2000 was adjudged the best game of the tournament by a panel of five judges.

Rohan, from Jamshedpur, plays his chess at the Tata Chess Centre, bagged the Horlicks Trophy, a reward instituted for the first time in the 13-year history of the meet. The tourney was sponsored by The Telegraph. Horlicks was co-sponsor.

A student of S.R. Singh High School in Munger, Rohan was initiated into chess by Varghese Koshy and Vishal Sareen, both international masters and students of his father, a professor at the Jamshedpur Cooperative College.

Rohan idolises Kasparov and feels Anand doesn’t have the “killer instinct” to reach the summit. “I won the under-eight age group prize in The Telegraph meet in 1994 when Sachin Tendulkar gave away the prizes, but this one (the Horlicks best game trophy) was very significant, as mine was chosen the best game among 1,200 played in the whole tournament,” he told The Telegraph over phone from Jamshedpur.

Meanwhile, Saptarshi Roy, who bagged the overall champion’s trophy for the second year running, is aiming for a hat-trick.

Now preparing for the world age-group meet in Spain this October, Saptarshi said: “The Telegraph meet gives us good exposure and provides us with a chance to improve our ratings in our own backyard.”

The 14-year-old trainee at the Goodricke Chess Academy tries to follow the methods of idol Bobby Fischer on the board.

He has set a target of becoming an international master by 20 and then give the grandmaster norm a serious shot.    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Starting Thursday, about 250 representatives of governments and NGOs in the south-east Asia region will be meeting in Calcutta for three days in a bid to achieve a goal set 12 years ago: eradicating polio by December 2000.

The region, along with sub-Saharan Africa and parts of West Asia, remains a zone where the wild polio virus still exists and is being transmitted from child to child with crippling and even fatal consequences.

Calcutta and Delhi are the two metropolitan cities in south-east Asia where fresh cases are still being detected, which is why WHO chose this city as the venue for the seventh technical consultative group meeting on polio eradication and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Four states in India still causing concern despite a substantial fall in the incidence of the disease are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi and West Bengal. “Transmission is still intense in these states, where segments of children have missed out on being vaccinated during the intensified pulse polio immunisation programme,” said Jon Andreus who, till June this year, was WHO’s regional adviser for vaccine preventable diseases.

“We are holding the meet here not just for the city’s strategic location but to get a greater commitment from the agencies and people. We need to bring the incidence of polio to zero in the region,” he told The Telegraph on the eve of the meeting.    

Calcutta, Aug. 23 
Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya on Wednesday urged directors, actors, actresses and technicians of Bengali cinema to work together in a bid to regain the industry’s past glory.

“The Bengali film industry is passing through a crisis. Let us hold our heads high and take the quality of our films to new heights. Satyajit Ray and Uttam Kumar have left us but it does not mean that the tradition of good cinema will leave us too,” he said.

Bhattacharya was inaugurating the reconstructed floor at the Technicians’ Studio in Tollygunge, devastated by a fire in March this year.

The government, he said, is willing to help build up adequate infrastructure for the industry but the artistes, directors and technician s should ensure quality. “There are 700 cinema halls in Bengal, but only about 40 films are produced annually. How can the South Indian states make five times the number of films we do?” he asked.

Bhattacharya said the government-owned Technicians’ Studio would be modernised at an estimated cost of Rs 2 crore by the CMDA and the opinion of those closely linked to the industry would be sought in this regard.

At the state-owned Radha Studio, also in Tollygunge, an information bank and archives on cinema will be created to commemorate 100 years of world cinema.

Maintaining that 80 per cent of the halls in Calcutta and the districts are running films in languages other than Bengali, he said the Tollywood film industry should take up the challenge and produce better films.

“The Left Front has always tried to promote good cinema,” he said.

“We are also the first to build Rupayan, a government-owned colour film laboratory.” The government took over the Technicians’ and the New Theatres 2 studios to revive them, he said.

Actor Subhendu Chatterjee, executive president of the Bengali film artistes’ forum, urged all those linked with the industry to come forward and help Bhattacharya in his endeavour to revive the Bengali film industry.

Arun Bhattacharya, secretary of the information and cultural affairs department praised the Technicians’ authorities for being able to rebuild the sprawling floor in only about five months’ time.    

Guwahati, Aug. 23 
The Union ministry of health and family welfare has included Assam in the Bimaru (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) category of states due to the poor condition of its health sector.

Health adviser to the North Eastern Council B.K. Borgohain said: “Assam along with Orissa and Jammu and Kashmir are the three new states which have been put in the Bimaru category”.

The move is likely to ensure more funds for the state. “Assam will certainly get a larger chunk of the funds due to its poor health performance,” Borgohain said.

A health official said Assam had the fourth highest infant mortality rate of 78, adding that the chances of improvement were remote as most of the deliveries still took place at home. According to the national family health survey, only 38.6 percent of the women surveyed in the state had “safe” deliveries.

Nearly 70 per cent suffered complications as most of the deliveries were conducted at home due to lack of proper medical care in the rural areas and prevalent socio-cultural attitudes.

The survey also revealed that 59 per cent of the women did not think it necessary to avail antenatal care services while 17 per cent did not know about it.

The ministry has formulated an integrated Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) programme aimed at improving the health status of young women and children in the country.

The RCH programme will be implemented on a “differential approach” in which the basic facilities will be strengthened in the weaker districts and the relatively advanced districts will get sophisticated facilities.

The RCH programme will upgrade the facilities for providing comprehensive emergency obstetric and post-natal care. The facilities at the primary health centres will also be upgraded.

The programme will improve the access of the community to various services which are commonly required. Facilities will be provided for medically-terminated pregnancies at the primary health centres and counselling at the sub-centres. Special strategies will be incorporated to strengthen family welfare facilities in urban slums and tribal areas.

The immunisation rate is very poor in the state. According to the survey, primary immunisation rate is 17 per cent while for women it is only nine per cent.    


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