Cop din keeps neighbours awake
Jeep disaster cuts short honeymoon
Treasury forms missing, fraud of crores feared
Three arrested for alleged gangrape of maidservant
ICSE Council opens centre in city
homoeo goes hi-tech
State balks at resettlement term for aid
Godown raid in Bowbazar yields tonnes of crackers
4 militants killed in Manipur
2 NLFT rebels shot in Tripura

 
 
COP DIN KEEPS NEIGHBOURS AWAKE 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
These lawmen have an “envious” track record: they have joined in communal riots, instead of restoring peace; they have openly teased girls, instead of protecting their honour; they have thrashed taxi-drivers in a drunken state, instead of showing them the way.

And they have got away with it.

For three days this week, policemen of the Alipore Bodyguard Lines — comprising five battalions of the Calcutta Armed Police — kept an entire neighbourhood awake while the Calcutta Police Association held night-long soirees on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Violating all rules and with loudspeakers blaring till early morning, the cops carried on with their merriment, ignoring all protests, even from senior IPS officers who live in the nearby residential quarters.

Other residents with complaints, including patients in the nearby cardiac care hospitals, did not stand a chance.

And this time,too, the policemen are getting away with it.

According to the Environment Protection Act of 1986, there is a ban on the use of loudspeakers from 10 pm to 6 am.

Section 15 of the Act says that any violation of this norm can result in a fine of Rs 50,000 or five years in jail, or both, depending on the nature of the case.

In this case, the loudspeakers were turned on in full volume till midnight on Monday, till 2 am on Tuesday and, once again, till midnight on Wednesday.

But all that the joint commissioner of the Calcutta Armed Police had to say was: “I have checked up with the authorities and there are absolutely no complaints.”

On whether any action would be taken against the organisers for flouting rules, joint commissioner Kiriti Sengupta simply shrugged his shoulders and said he had no comments to offer.

“This is why the CAP personnel get away with all sorts of crimes,” said a senior IPS officer, who had been kept up for the better part of nights early this week. “With the CPM-affiliated police association backing them, there are few officers who are willing to take action against them.”

It is little wonder then that the association has been thumbing its nose at the senior officials.

“If there is any IPS officer who felt uncomfortable during our celebrations, he could have come to us and stated his position. We may have considered his complaint,” said Prodyut Mondal, president of the Calcutta Police Association, adding: “In any case, we had taken permission for the programme and it was within our campus; so we had the loudspeakers on for as long as we wanted.”

Aghast at what had happened, the chairman of the state pollution tribunal, Justice Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee, said that this was an “especially appaling incident”, since its was the protectors of the law who had been flouting it.

“If lawmen turn law-breakers, then the others will feel encouraged to flout all norms and there will be anarchy all around,” Justice Banerjee said. “This calls for the firmest punishment, so that an example is set for everyone.”

Officer-in-charge of the Watgunge police station, Dipak Dutta, said he had received a number of complaints and, in fact, had even gone to the Bodyguard Lines and requested the organisers to “tone down” the volume. “They listened to me,” Dutta said.

But residents differ. A deputy commissioner of police, who stays in the nearby residential complex, said: “They may have toned it down a bit, but it was cosmetic. In any case, the loudspeakers should have been shut altogether. It was a horrendous experience for all of us.”    


 
 
JEEP DISASTER CUTS SHORT HONEYMOON 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
Husband Kaushik,30, had promised Paromita a dream honeymoon high up in north Sikkim’s valley of flowers — the Yumthang valley. But by a cruel twist of fate, her honeymoon was cut short on Wednesday. The couple, along with seven other holiday-makers, including two Dutch nationals, met with a tragic accident at north Sikkim’s Phodong.

Inspector-general of police Omha Hung Subba said their jeep collided with an army truck before hurtling down a 300-ft gorge.

Paromita was thrown out of the jeep as it fell into the gorge, while husband Kaushik, along with the driver, died on the spot. Paromita, who sustained head injuries, was taken, along with six others, to Sri Tashi Namgyal Memorial Hospital in Gangtok. The injured include three women fellow-travellers.

A pall of gloom fell on the Das residence in Raja Lane, off Amherst Street. Uncle Sukumar Das said: “When the call from the Sikkim police came at around four last afternoon, we just could not believe our ears. Kaushik and Paromita got married only six months ago. Kaushik had just started his own engineering firm.”

His mother, uncle, aunt and a friend have reached Gangtok to claim Kaushik’s body. Paromita will accompany them back.

Sources at Marco Polo Tours and Travels, which organised the tour, said: “Only yesterday morning, we booked the young couple for a two-day conducted tour of north Sikkim. Kaushik and Paromita were referred to us by another travel agency. We are helping the family in sending Kaushik’s body to Calcutta.”

Kaushik’s uncle, Sukumar, said: “Kaushik was a civil engineer and the only child of his parents. He was a valuer too. He had just started his career independently.”

Jaisalmer mishap: Meanwhile, in another mishap near Jaisalmer, in Rajasthan, on Tuesday afternoon, three tourists of a group of 30, which started from Behala last Saturday, were killed. Those killed were Shukla Mukherjee of Shakher Bazar in Behala, Shakeel Ahmed of Broad Street and Shankar Haldar from Namkhana, in South 24-Parganas. Altogether 17 persons were injured.

The three bodies will arrive by train at Howrah station on Friday morning.The other tourists, too, will return by the same train. Bhabaranjan Mukherjee, father-in-law of Shukla, said both his daughter and her husband were government employees. Saswati Mukherjee, her sister-in-law, said: “Arrangements are ready in Calcutta to hospitalise Asim and other persons when they arrive.”    


 
 
TREASURY FORMS MISSING, FRAUD OF CRORES FEARED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) fears misappropriation of public funds amounting to crores of rupees as 2,999 blank treasury forms (TR forms) are missing from the civic treasury department since the Pujas.

This came to light early this week and the CMC has lodged a complaint with Taltala police station. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee advised municipal commissioner Debashish Som to issue a public notice cancelling the 2,999 forms.

According to a senior officer in the treasury department, these treasury forms were used to deposit cash in the general miscellaneous account of the CMC. Any amount of money can be accepted against a single treasury form. Various organisations pay fees and outstanding through TR forms.

“Dishonest employees can easily misappropriate more than Rs 5 crore by using these TR forms,” a senior treasury officer said. More than Rs 5 lakh is deposited daily with the CMC through these TR forms. Additional chief of municipal finance and accounts Abdul Wahid said: “Fortunately, the case was detected before the TR forms could be issued from the stores.”

Still, there is enough scope for an unscrupulous civic employee to pocket a sizeable part of the daily collection by issuing these stolen forms, said a vigilance officer.

Depositors would be in a quandary, as the missing TR forms are genuine. But even after depositors make payments, their outstanding account remains unaltered in the civic register.

Earlier this year, a similar case was brought to light in the licence department, where some tax collectors (bailiffs) were involved in the racket. They themselves got receipt books printed privately and continued to collect licence fees by issuing them.

According to CMC estimates, at least Rs 2-crore worth of licence fees have been misappropriated over the past 10 years or more.

But the bailiffs were thwarted as the civic authorities notified traders to deposit their licence renewal fees directly to the CMC office.    


 
 
THREE ARRESTED FOR ALLEGED GANGRAPE OF MAIDSERVANT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
Three traders have been arrested for the alleged rape of a 21-year-old woman in Shyampukur.

Officer-in-charge of Shyampukur police station Tarapada Dutta, said the girl from Hasnabad, in North 24-Parganas, was employed as a maid at the residence of Sudhanshu Banerjee on Bagbazar Street. Shyamal Saha, son of Banerjee’s landlady, and his two business partners, Harvinder Singh and Vivekananda Sharma, “all in an intoxicated condition”, allegedly raped the woman in their flat on Wednesday morning.

The victim was sent to Medical College and Hospital for medical examination. Shyampukur police have lodged a case of gangrape against the three youth on the basis of a complaint lodged by the victim’s husband, Biplab Raut. All three have been remanded in police custody for seven days by the chief metropolitan magistrate.

Police said Harvinder had come to the city from Punjab for Durga Puja. Shyamal invited Harvinder and Vivekananda to his room on Thursday. The trio apparently drank through the night.

The next morning, when the girl was coming down the stairs from the first floor, the three men dragged her to their room and allegedly raped her.

The woman headed straight to Hasnabad and narrated the incident to her husband. Shyampukur police swung into action as soon as Biplab lodged the complaint, raided Shyamal Saha’s residence and arrested the three accused.

Police said preliminary medical examination has revealed scratch marks on the woman’s body. “We are waiting for the details to be confirmed before proceeding on the case,” Dutta said.    


 
 
ICSE COUNCIL OPENS CENTRE IN CITY 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination conducting the ICSE (Class X) and ISC (Class XII) examinations has decided to set up its first centre outside New Delhi in Calcutta.

There are, approximately, 200 ICSE schools in the city and the districts, with more than two-and-a-half lakh students. “Opening of a centre in Calcutta is needed to cope with the considerable growth of the Council’s activities over the past few years,” said chairman Neil O’ Brien.

The new centre, to be set up at the Bhowanipore Education Society on 5, Elgin Road, will start functioning from November. According to sources, Donald Alney, former principal of La Martiniere Boy’s School, will head the Calcutta centre. Recruitment of other members is in progress.

The Council, set up nearly a century ago, was originally based in London and conducted the erstwhile Senior Cambridge and subsequently, the Indian School Certificate, examinations for several decades. The council’s management was transferred to a body of Indian members in 1963.

With a sharp increase in the number of ICSE schools in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal in the Ninenties, the Council has decided to set up a centre in the city to ensure better interaction between officials, teachers and students, and improve supervision and monitoring of the institutions.

Professional courses will also be conducted at the Calcutta centre. “Initially, we will start two courses in information technology and journalism. We will introduce courses in other professional subjects shortly,” said the chairman.

After Uttar Pradesh, Bengal has the largest number of ICSE schools and a majority of them are located in Calcutta. Besides schools in Bengal, the Calcutta centre will monitor functioning of all ICSE-affiliated schools in Bihar and Orissa as well.

The centre is expected to start functioning in full swing by April 2001, Neil ‘O Brien added. According to the Council chairman, a proposal to open a similar centre in south India is under consideration.

“A Council office in the city will definitely improve efficiency, as we will not have to rush to Delhi for minor matters,” said the head of an ICSE institution in central Calcutta.

“All important correspondences, like question papers and examination results, come to us from Delhi by post. This often results in delay, leading to confusion among students and parents,” said an official in an ICSE school.

The Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools has welcomed the move to open a city centre. Ismail Nehal, former president of the Association and a teacher of St James School, said this will ensure that schools meet and maintain infrastructural and academic stipulations laid down by the Council.    


 
 
HOMOEO GOES HI-TECH 
 
 
RITA BHIMANI
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
A cough or a cold or a fall
Has quite often had its cure-all
With those little white pills
That can tackle all ills
And can leave you in perpetual thrall

The wooden box with fragile glass bottles stopped up with cork and filled with white sugary globules has been an abiding memory from childhood. It was the ubiquitous medical ally in the family to fend off narking everyday crises. And if things got steamier, we were marched off to a person who asked a whole lot of rather personal questions about habits and temperament before he made up globules or powders wrapped in tissue to be popped into our mouths.

While I talk of this in the past, it is a scenario that is enacted today in just about every other household in the country. Blind belief with one lot of people; alternate strategies with others who resort to it when all else seems impossible.

And yet, with so many competent practising homoeopaths and the scores of those who are self-proclaimed dispensers of this branch of medicine, why haven’t we seen any formal medical centres grow? Why is it that we find ourselves waiting endlessly to see our magical homeopaths who have become institutions over the decades? Why do people from villages have to queue up for hours, nay even days, to get their healing potions from those demigods? And why do so many of these dispensaries have to be dark and dank and humourless?

One more thought: Acknowledged as a cheaper alternative, with fewer side-effects, why has the market remained so small?

Break with tradition

With the launch this Monday of the Positive Health Clinic, the whole appearance and approach of homeopathy seems poised for a facelift.

Billed as “India’s most modern and technologically-advanced chain of homeopathic clinics”, the Calcutta branch near Minto Park has the best elements of pulchritude and positivism.

In a city where only a handful of medical centres and clinics take pride in their total appearance, the Positive Health Clinic marks a stunning break with tradition. Fully marbled and heavily air-conditioned, its decor is smart without being snazzy, comfortable not crude and with Husain prints and other paintings on all the walls.

Why Husain? Because chairman and managing director of PHC, Mukesh Batra, has many of his works in his possession, apart from a whole ceiling in his clinic in Mumbai having been painted by the master himself.

Patients register for Rs 200 at the reception where all their data is fed into the computer. From then on, every detail of progress gets recorded. The treatment costs around Rs 500 a month, depending on the duration of the treatment, not the disease.

The use of imported raw material, which is then manufactured in an associated company’s fully air-conditioned factory in Mumbai, the quality control, the way the medicines are dispensed in blister packs and the tolerant hour or so that is given to each patient make this the safe alternative medicine route for those willing to pay the price for homoeopathic cure in sleek surroundings.

This is a holistic system of homoeopathic treatment, geared to provide mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being. As the first corporate healthcare centre in homoeopathy and the first to have received the ISO 9002 certification, the Positive Health Clinic has created a databank of case studies of more than a lakh of patients. This is then used to carry out research for developing speciality practices. The instance given is of having created speciality clinics for ailments such as hair and scalp and skin diseases.

Why Calcutta? Batra’s unabashed reply is that it is the “mecca of homoeopathy” and hence the challenge of setting up a state-of-the-art clinic is “not only more daunting, but also more necessary”.

It’s amazing, isn’t it, that there are 124 teaching institutions for homoeopathy which is a five-and-a- half-year course, and there are five lakh homoeopathic doctors. Despite such statistics, the whole market for alternative medicine is a mere Rs 280 crore compared with Rs 52,000 crore in Europe.

To compound the fact that the western world gets ahead with such forms of medicine over us is the point that homoeopathy is on the National Health Scheme. Whereas in India, getting reimbursement for homoeopathic treatment, particularly from such hi-tech centres, is something that still needs to be sold to corporates for consideration.

The British love to flaunt their association with homoeopathy. They publicise the Queen Mother carrying her personal homeopathic kit and Prince Charles has been known to espouse the cause of alternative medicine.

On my travels to Britain in the recent past, the scenario at Boots quite zapped me. There was a whole counter on one side of the store with beautifully-packaged homoeopathy medicines and well-illustrated brochures giving details of each type of preparation and what ailments these could combat.

If only homoeopathy back home could be made more transparent like this, I had rued. Today, when such hi-tech centres are opening up with plenty of material that can be accessed, perhaps that remorse can turn to regard for such new systems for an age-old science. The brochures give you answers to whether homoeopathy and allopathy are compatible, whether homoeopaths believe in modern diagnostics and even dissolve the doubts about steroids used in the formulations. Other brochures give a graphical representation of cure rates from the clinic of diseases ranging from arthritis and asthma and diabetes to gastroenterological and gynaecological problems, psoriasis, sexual disorders, leucoderma and underweight problems.

Cure at fingertips

There’s more. A Cyber Clinic with on-line consulting. The clinic can be accessed from anywhere and a disease profile can be sent for receiving treatment. The site: http://www.indiawatch.com/positivehealthclinic.

Their concrete establishment incidentally is at Gardenia Homes, 227/1A AJC Bose Road opposite La Martiniere School.

And the man behind this concept,-Mukesh Batra, has a truly ‘r-to-r’ story to tell. Son of homoeopath parents, Batra has come a long way from the Rs 150-a-day charitable clinic to sales figures touching Rs 9 crore, having grown a thousand per cent in the last four years. And the 15 countrywide and foreign centres intend expanding into all the states of the country and several key world-wide centres, from Sharjah to San Francisco.

So, the next time you want to casually reach out for that Natrum Mur or Nux Vom, these spanking new surroundings could just be the answer.

However, even though homoeopathic cure could be a mouse click away, for every person willing to give this ultramodern approach a go, there will be thousands of die-hards who will continue to repose faith in the grandmasters of the homoeopathy game whose healing touch and cures will never cease to amaze.    


 
 
STATE BALKS AT RESETTLEMENT TERM FOR AID 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
The government has decided to request Asian Development Bank (ADB) not to make a rehabilitation clause mandatory for aid. Rehabilitation accorded to encroachers evicted from the banks of the city’s five drainage canals could set a precedent for other illegal settlers elsewhere in Bengal.

To augment Calcutta’s drainage and sewerage network and to improve the city’s environment, the ADB has agreed to provide a loan of Rs 1,600 crore. These five canals are Churial Khal, Manikhali Khal, Begor Khal, the Tala-Panchannagram channel along with its intercepting and feeder channels and Keorapukur channel.

There are nearly 4,000 encroachers living in shanties along the banks of these canals and the ADB, after conducting a survey, has said that these settlers cannot be summarily evicted.

The bank said the encroachers would have to be rehabilitated in such a manner that they did not have to slide to a lesser standard of life.

But, the government feels this condition is “impractical and unacceptable.” It fears that if the government sets a precedent, there will be no end to demands for rehabilitation by thousands of other encroachers.

“This condition of the ADB is not at all practical.We have asked municipal affairs secretary P.K. Pradhan to hold talks with the ADB on the issue,” said urban development minister Ashoke Bhattacharya. The rehabilitation of these encroachers is likely to send out wrong signals to other illegal settlers, he said.

The irrigation department, which maintains the five drainage canals, along with 12 others around the city, is also against rehabilitating the encroachers. Minister of state for irrigation Ganesh Mondal said: “Why should we rehabilitate the encroachers ? They should not be living on the banks of the drainage canals in the first place.”

Mondal said irrigation secretary P. K. Basu and Calcutta Municipal Corporation commissioner Debashish Som would visit the ADB headquarters in Manila in October-end and discuss the issue.    


 
 
GODOWN RAID IN BOWBAZAR YIELDS TONNES OF CRACKERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 19: 
In a drive against banned fireworks, the police on Thursday seized 2.5 tonnes of crackers, worth about Rs 3.5 lakh, from a godown in Bowbazar.

Two teams from Bowbazar police station raided the factory of Samrat Traders at 59, Trading Street, in the Bowbazar area. The officers had to force their way in as owner Gauhar Abzur, alias Guddu, a resident of Ekbalpore, refused to cooperate even after being shown the search warrant. But no contraband was found on the premises.

Another team, posted in front of Abzur’s godown on Haren Bari Lane, was then given the go-ahead. Police sources said the crackers were found packed in several gunny bags in a corner of the godown.

Asit Chakraborty, officer-in-charge of Bowbazar police station, said though Abzur has a licence for trading in fireworks, all the crackers found in his godown are banned by the state pollution control board.

“The factory has been sealed and Guddu remanded in police custody,”, added Chakraborty.

Crackers are being smuggled into the city from the neighbouring districts, according to deputy commissioner (detective department) Narayan Ghosh. “We will undertake more such drives to ensure a noise-free Kali Puja”, he added. Crackers emitting noise more than 90 decibels have been banned by the pollution control board.    


 
 
4 MILITANTS KILLED IN MANIPUR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Oct. 19: 
Manipur police commandos killed four militants in different parts of Imphal today. The police blitz followed the government’s decision to crackdown on rebels.

While two militants were killed at Samakeithel, one each was killed in Keirao and Chingamakha. The entire police were on its toes as commandos tried to block movements of militants in the capital as part of the operation.

A Cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister W. Nipamacha Singh yesterday had decided to launch a combing operation in the entire state. The ministry decided to give the task of the operation to both the Army and the state police.

The decision was taken following the recent spurt of violence in the state. The killing of non-Manipuris and the attack on an IAS officer recently “compelled” the government to take up “strict measures”, sources said.

Law and order situation in the state had deteriorated over the past month. This was evident when a visiting parliamentary team cancelled its trip to the border town of Moreh after two bomb blasts on the Imphal-Moreh highway.

The chief minister will be meeting central leaders in New Delhi soon to press for deployment of more central forces. The state government had said the present strength of security forces was inadequate to take on the rebels.

Sources said the government would urge the Centre to redeploy the Army troops which were withdrawn from Manipur during the Kargil conflict.    


 
 
2 NLFT REBELS SHOT IN TRIPURA 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Oct. 19: 
Police, Tripura State Rifles and CRPF jawans gunned down two hardcore National Liberation Front of Tripura militants this morning.

The operation followed the killing of a sub-inspector, Tapan Das, by the NLFT in an encounter at Golokpur tea estate of Kailasahar sub-division on October 14.

Sources said the combined force launched Operation Sunlight to flush out militants from North Tripura and Dhalai districts.

The Gandacherra police were tipped about rebels taking shelter at Hiramoni Chowkidar Para. As part of the operation, sub-divisional police officer Manoranjan Debbarma promptly raided the hideout.

It was around 6.30 am when the militants sighted the police force crawling up the hills and opened fire.

Immediately, taking cover behind stone boulders, the police retaliated. The encounter lasted for nearly 25 minutes after which the militants fled.

The police later recovered bodies of two rebels. Two countrymade guns, a few incriminating documents and other materials used by the militants were also recovered.

The slain militants are yet to be identified because their identity cards were destroyed in the firing, the sources said.

The police also nabbed a leading collaborator of the rebel outfit.

In yet another instance of the NLFT’s religious bias, rebels gunned down a tribal youth Charu Debbarma under Kalyanpur police station while he was returning home from North Maharanipur market last night.

The police said the slain youth, a pump operator with the PWD, was a resident of Sudrai Thakur Para village under the trouble-torn Kalyanpur police station of West District

Sources said Charu had received threats from the NLFT “defying their diktat and for participating in the Durga Puja” organised by Jamatya community in Hodrai area under Teliamurah police station.

No arrests in this connection have been made so far.    

 

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