Rats nibble at dead patient
Bus fares raised,review on rollback
Barber’s throat slashed over Rs 10 claim
Weekday rally, venue vows broken
Clinic for Calcutta chromosome
Writers’ a tinder box, says probe
Teen attack sparks raids
Asit Baran kin eye rights panel
School for mute seeks upgrade
Pillai backs judicial inquiry into firing

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
What was first put down as yet another case of “death due to cerebral attack” at SSKM Hospital on Wednesday night took a beastly turn early on Thursday.

Relatives of Joykrishna Chongdar had been told that the 80-year-old from Garden Reach had died in the hospital’s New Emergency Ward of a cerebral attack on Wednesday night. But when they saw the body, they were horrified. It was evident, they said, that “a rodent had nibbled at his cheeks, forehead and right eye”.

Prasanta, son of the dead man, said: “It was clear to us that my father’s body had been bitten by rats. It must have happened when his body was lying for nearly four hours on the ward bed... We demanded an explanation from the nurses, but they failed to come up with a plausible reply.”

Soon, the horror turned to outrage. Around 60 relatives and friends of the deceased went on the rampage, early on Thursday, assaulting hospital superintendent D.D. Chattopadhyay, and the nurses on duty. Heavily outnumbered, the few policemen on the campus watched while the mob went berserk. Prasanta claimed that neither he nor any other member of the family had assaulted the hospital staff.

But the nurse on duty, Sulata Mondal, said she had been “pushed around” when the patient’s relatives “snatched the body... I have bruises on my shoulders and neck,” she alleged.

Another nurse on duty, Dipali Pal, said: “I suddenly heard someone shouting ‘Oi jey palachhey, dhor okey’. Then, they caught hold of me, dragged me to the dead patient’s bedside and started beating me.”

Superintendent Chattopadhyay, who tried to intervene, said he was “dragged by the shirt collar, abused and assaulted”.

“I apologised on behalf of the hospital and assured them that a thorough inquiry would be conducted. But they forcibly took the body away. How can we carry out an inquiry now?” demanded Chattopadhyay.

To protest the attack on them, nurses announced a ceasework and gheraoed Chattopadhyay in his office on Thursday morning, demanding “adequate police protection”. They called off their agitation after additional forces were deployed from Bhowanipore police station and a two-member team from the state health department visited the hospital to assured the nurses that “the culprits would be arrested as soon as possible”. An FIR was lodged by the hospital authorities at Bhowanipore police station.

But deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh, said it was “not possible” to provide the number of policemen the hospital authorities have demanded at different buildings.

However, a team of policemen will patrol the hospital premises from Friday.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
Bus fares will go up from Friday. Announcing a substantial hike in government, private and minibus fares on Thursday, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said the revised fare structure would be “reviewed” if the Centre declared a rollback in petroleum prices.

Taxi fares are likely to be reviewed after a fortnight. Chakraborty said taxi operators’ representative Kalyan Bhadra has demanded that the minimum fare be raised from Rs 12 to Rs 15.

While Bengal Bus Syndicate president Ajit Saha and Joint Council of Bus Syndicates general secretary Sadhan Das said they were “unhappy” with the revised structure, they were accepting the government’s decision “grudgingly”. They had wanted a minimum fare of Rs 3.50, later pegged at Rs 3.

With the Opposition parties, and their youth wings, gearing up to protest the fare hike, there are fears of sporadic trouble on Friday.

Operators of ‘limited stop’ bus services in Howrah have decided not to accept the new fares. In the districts, bus fares will go up from 23p per km to 28p. On long-distance services, fares have been revised to 32 p against the existing 27 p per km.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
He had to lose his life only for Rs 10. A 34-year-old barber, Ramdas Thakur, was murdered when he demanded the money from a man, who owed him the paltry sum for services rendered.

It happened on Wednesday on the crowded pavement of Kalighat Road, near the Kali temple. Horrified residents panicked and shopkeepers downed shutters after the murder.

Ramdas, who lived nearby, had come from Monghyr district, in Bihar, two years ago.

Sanjay Rudra owed the barber his shaving charges for a week, and it happened when Thakur claimed the money.

On Wednesday, the barber went to a nearby stall for tea and snacks. Rudra, too, was drinking tea there.

When Thakur demanded the money, a quarrel ensued. Suddenly, Rudra whipped out a cut-throat razor and attacked Thakur. Within a moment’s time, Thakur’s throat had been slit. He began to bleed profusely.

Thakur slumped on the street and Rudra fled in the confusion that followed. Local people were so taken by surprise that they could not react for the first few moments. But soon, they recovered their senses, picked up Thakur and rushed him to hospital.

“Thakur was still alive when he was taken to Chittaranjan Hospital. He was gasping for breath. But within a short while, he succumbed to his injuries,” said Ratan Sarker, a shopkeeper.

Some people ran after Rudra, caught him and handed him over to Kalighat police station.

Local people said Rudra, who lives in a nearby slum, was in the habit of borrowing money.

New train: Railway minister Mamata Banerjee flagged off a local train on the Sealdah-Sonarpur section of Eastern Railway and laid the foundation stone of a stadium at Subhasgram, on the southern fringes of the city, on Thursday.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee broke her own vow of not holding rallies in the city on weekdays by organising one under Gandhiji’s statue on the Maidan on Thursday. She broke another promise by not taking police permission to hold the public meeting on the spot.

Thousands of supporters, gathered to hear her latest attacks on the ruling party for perpetrating violence in Midnapore, blocked what would have otherwise been a busy Mayo Road during office hours. “The meeting was illegal,” said chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “The police had asked Trinamul leaders to hold the meeting either at Shahid Minar, Brigade Parade Ground or on Rani Rashmoni Road. But they did not bother to respond to the request,” he told reporters at Writers’ Buildings.

Ironically, Mamata, in her address on Thursday, said: “Once the government changes, we will fix some venues for rallies.” She named the same spots that the police had requested her to hold her rally.

The chief minister, however, did not formally pull up the Trinamul. “No, I will not take steps against the party or its leader. Let the people judge for themselves what the party stands for,” he said.

The crowd on Mayo Road led to the disruption of traffic on J.L. Nehru Road, Park Street and surrounding areas for nearly two hours in the afternoon.

The party leaders apparently chose the venue as some “tortured” supporters from the districts were camping there for the past few days. “Most of these people have been unable to return to their homes in Midnapore because of the attacks by CPM cadre,” Mamata told the crowd.

“It will be difficult for the new chief minister to do any good for the people there in the coming months. He can only give assurances,” she said. She asked her supporters to “continue the fight against the CPM for another three months, until the people vote for us.”

Mamata announced several party conferences in Keshpur and Joyrambati, where Trinamul supporters had faced the “most dreadful attacks.” The Trinamul Youth Congress will meet at Keshpur on December 3, while the women’s congress will be held at Joyrambati on December 10.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to set up a 20-bed malaria hospital.

“Several thousands have died of the disease in Calcutta during Left Front rule and so the city requires a specialised hospital to treat malaria,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Thursday. “If required, we will take the help of NGOs to the run the hospital.”

The Corporation plans to convert one of its maternity homes or health clinics into a malaria hospital. The proposed centre will be a hospital-cum-nursing home, with AC cabins and outdoor and clinical facilities. Blood samples will be tested at “a reasonable rate” and the reports made available “within an hour”, a health official claimed.

A speciality hospital for malaria was first proposed by the regional epidemiologist of the ministry of health of the Sultanate of Oman, Dr Kamalesh Sarkar, who is in charge of the malaria eradication programme in that country. Malarial cases in Oman have dropped from 32,720 in 1990 to 901 in 1999.

“He is interested, being a son of the soil, to offer his expertise in controlling malaria in Calcutta,” said Javed Ahmed Khan, member, mayor-in-council. In a letter to Khan, Sarkar has stated: “I believe we will be able to tackle malaria in Calcutta using the appropriate technology, like in Oman, if it is supported by the CMC authorities.”

According to Khan, the hospital will be the “hub of the CMC’s 50 malaria-control clinics” spread over the city. All the clinics will be linked to the hospital to feed micro-level malarial data to the centre, where they will be stored in a computer. Hospitals, nursing homes and pathological clinics will also be requested to supply regular information of malaria cases treated or tested every day.

Analysing the data supplied by different CMC health units, government hospitals and private health establishments on a daily basis, the vector control officers in the hospital will chalk out an areawise anti-malarial drive for the next day.

The CMC runs 88 ward health clinics, 50 malaria clinics, 22 dispensaries, 9 chest clinics, 4 maternity homes and one TB clinic with an annual budget of Rs 12 crore. The number of qualified doctors on the Corporation payroll is 227. Of the Rs 12 crore annual health budget, just Rs 1.2 crore is spent on “actual health care”, which works out to an annual per capita expenditure of Rs 1.20 on every citizen. The rest is used to pay off the department’s 7,000-odd employees.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
The new chief minister may be feeling safe and sitting snug in his office, but Writers’ Buildings is a veritable firetrap. And the state government, which is aware of the threat, has not done anything about it for three-and-a-half years.

Preliminary investigations carried out by the fire services department after the blaze in the finance minister’s chamber on Thursday reveals the following:

Live wires hang precariously outside the offices of tourism minister Manab Mukherjee, transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami, among others.

The chambers and ante-chambers of most ministers and bureaucrats do not have adequate ventilation. Either there are no windows, or they are kept shut.

The wiring has not been changed. Wires in the finance minister’s chamber, in fact, run underneath the carpet to various switch boards.

There is no fire alarm system in the chambers, although smoke detectors and sprinklers are considered essential safety measures in buildings of such size.

There is only one exit and entry point to the chambers, and it is also quite narrow. At least half a dozen officials attend the daily meetings in these chambers. In case of a fire, it would be difficult for them to get out.

With wooden furniture and papers strewn all over the place, all the electrical wires should be checked regularly. But, by the PWD minister’s admission, the circuits are checked at random.

A PWD engineer said it is not possible to carry out checks regularly. But all incidents of fire at Writers’ Buildings have occurred due to short circuits in electric wires.

Fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee admitted on Thursday that a Rs 30-lakh proposal to revamp fire-fighting operations at Writers’ Buildings, submitted three-and-a-half years ago, is still gathering dust.

“All of us who stepped into the finance minister’s office shortly after the fire could have been electrocuted, as none of the engineers knew that the wires run along the floor underneath the carpet,’’ Chatterjee said.

“If the incident had happened at night, Writers’ Buildings would have been razed,’’ he added.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
The South 24-Parganas police on Thursday conducted extensive raids in Behala, Thakurpukur, Sonarpur and Bishnupur in connection with the attack on 16-year-old Biplab Sarkar by three youth in Jyotirmoynagar, in Thakurpukur, on Tuesday night.

However, no arrests have been made till Thursday, sources said.

Biplab, admitted to SSKM Hospital with serious bullet injuries on Tuesday night, was responding to treatment, hospital sources said on Thursday.

Police sources said they have identified some persons on Thursday who might have been involved with the incident. According to them, the attackers were looking for a person close to Biplab’s family.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
Narayan Chakraborty, father of the 29-year-old handicapped woman who was molested by some youth on November 4 at her Karunamoyee residence, is planning to move the human rights commission for justice.

Chakraborty said on Thursday: “We are fearful of a fresh attack at any time. With no alternative, I am thinking of moving the rights panel.”

On the other hand, though Chakraborty had lodged a complaint with the local police station, no inquiry has been made at his house even after five days of the incident.

No arrests have been made till Thursday, either.

The victim, Arpita Chakraborty, is the grand-daughter of Asit Baran, filmstar of yesteryear.    

Calcutta, Nov.9: 
The government-aided Deaf and Dumb School at Rajabazar is set to be upgraded to the Madhyamik level. The 160-year-old school will be the state’s first Madhyamik-level institution for students with hearing and speech impairment, once the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education approves the proposal, said Samir Samanta, principal of the school.

“The government is considering the proposal which was forwarded to it a few months ago,” Samanta said.

The school, controlled by the state mass education department, offers classes from nursery to VIII. Around 500 students are on the rolls at present.

The need for introducing the Class X-level was felt following long-standing demands from guardians, who faced immense problems in admitting their wards to Class IX in other schools. As there is no provision to continue after Class VIII, students have to switch schools.

The guardians said that as most schools have limited seats for the higher classes, their wards are forced to terminate their studies even if they have the capacity to pursue higher education. “The crisis of seats in the higher classes is so acute that even normal students are often refused admission after Class VIII. It is all the more difficult for handicapped students to get seats under such circumstances,” said a guardian.

However, sources in the mass education department said the school’s proposal was, at present, being examined by the education department. Before granting approval, its infrastructural facilities will be checked. After the inspection, the government will forward its findings to the Board for the final approval.

President A.K. Chakraborty said the board had no objection to granting recognition to the school, but it would be in a position to do so only after the government completed its inspection.    

Imphal, Nov. 9: 
Senior Union home ministry official Gopal K. Pillai today backed the demand for a judicial inquiry into the killing of 10 people in allegedly indiscriminate firing by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom village near here last week.

However, he said the onus was on the state government to order a judicial probe into the incident.

Terming the law and order situation in the Manipur as “serious”, Pillai told newspersons here that the Centre was ready to announce a ceasefire with militant outfits in Manipur, provided the latter came to the negotiating table. He also said the Centre had instituted an inquiry into allegations of a nexus between politicians and militants in the state. “Intelligence agencies have informed the home ministry that some politicians and bureaucrats in the Northeast have links with militants. The matter is being investigated,” the joint secretary (Northeast) added

On the killing of 10 civilians by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom village on November 2, the home ministry official said it was an “unfortunate” incident. “The home ministry is not averse to a judicial inquiry to find out the truth. But the probe has to be instituted by the state government,” he said. The W. Nipamacha Singh-led coalition government has ordered a magisterial inquiry, but has been silent on the people’s demand for a judicial probe.

Pillai said if any Assam Rifles personnel was found guilty of indiscriminate firing, he would be prosecuted in accordance with the rule of law. He said there was no need to be pessimistic about the outcome of the inquiry as security personnel guilty of such excesses had been prosecuted earlier.

Pillai, who arrived here yesterday to assess the law and order situation, today held a meeting with top Army, police and para-military officials. He will be leaving for Tamenglong district tomorrow to address a seminar on development.

On the demand for withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur, the home ministry official said the legislation had been misinterpreted by some people. He said the Act would come into force in a particular area only when the state government declared it as “disturbed”. Pillai said if the state government withdrew the “disturbed area” tag, the Act would automatically cease to exist.

The senior bureaucrat rued the fact that there was nobody to remove misconceptions about certain issues. “The onus is now on the people to find a solution to the problem. Three things are required to take Manipur forward — maintenance of law and order, focus on generation of employment and a marked improvement in the standard of governance,” he said.    


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