Blood flows again in Kasba
Interns’ strike cripples hospital
Man killed as slab falls off ‘illegal’ house
Gandhian crown for Grameen cause
Police parade Kasba accused
Court grants aunt custody of 12-yr-old
Strikes unfair on ill: Basu
Sports goods shop-owner kills himself
Ambitious crafts village languishes in seed stage
Doctor returns with dream of genomic research unit

 
 
BLOOD FLOWS AGAIN IN KASBA 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Labour contractor Pijush Das was second time unlucky. Even before the blood has dried on the twin Kasba dacoity and murder case, gangland chieftains of the area struck again on Tuesday night, strangling the 57-year-old businessman for not paying heed to their “extortion notes”, according to the local police.

In August this year, Das had a lucky escape. Apparently not yielding to the extortion threats of some Kasba crimelords, the labour contractor was attacked just as he was leaving home and beaten mercilessly. Then his skull was cracked open with a revolver butt.

The parting words of the criminals, before they left him gasping on the floor, were: “The next time round, Raju will not be so kind. You will die a horrible death if you do not pay up.”

According to the preliminary post-mortem findings, Das did die a “horrible death” on Tuesday night, being pinned down to the ground, stabbed on the back and then strangled till his last breath escaped his body.

“Yes, all signs so far point to his being murdered,” said officer-in-charge of Kasba police station S.R. Dutta. “But we are yet to find out whether it was Raju or some other extortionist at work. It could also be due to some business rivalry, but we are investigating the matter thoroughly.”

Das’ family is convinced that he was a victim of the extortion racket. “My husband was doing very well in his business and had been the target of several gangs of extortionists. I am convinced that they killed him,” said wife Pushpa.

Family members said on Tuesday evening, at around 6 pm, Das left his K.P. Roy Lane residence for a chat with his friends. “This was his routine,” said Pushpa. “Every day, after paying off the labourers, Das would go off to meet some of his friends in the evening and come back after about two hours.”

On Tuesday, Das left at the usual time but there was no sign of him till late at night. “We were very worried as he never stayed out so late,” said daughter Bunty.

But at around 11.30 that night, a taxi pulled up outside their home. Four of Das’ friends emerged and called out to his 22-year-old son, Joydeb. They told him that his father had suddenly fallen very ill, which is why he was rushed home.

Joydeb promptly called two neighbours and the three of them then carried Das home. Meanwhile, Das’ friends disappeared from the spot in the taxi.

Das’ body was cold and lifeless. The family found injury marks on his back and blood oozing out of his nose. A local doctor confirmed Das had died at least an hour earlier.

As word of the murder spread, neighbours rushed to the homes of his four friends. They found two of them — Sajal Dutta and Rakhal Das — and handed them over to the police. The other two mentioned in the FIR filed by the family, Gouranga Acharya and Gopal Roychoudhury, were untraced till late on Wednesday.

The police, who say they will only lodge a murder case after they get the final post-mortem report, say the murder may have taken place in the presence of the four friends, who had been threatened into silence. “This is possibly why they fled from in scene,” said additional superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, Gyanwant Singh. “But the questioning is on and all possible angles are being investigated,” he added.    


 
 
INTERNS’ STRIKE CRIPPLES HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Work at the state-run Nilratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital was severely affected on Wednesday as about 500 interns and housestaff struck work for 24 hours. They were protesting the manhandling of several female boarders of Lady Eliott Girls’ Hostel by some unionised workers of the hospital on Tuesday.

Subsequently, all except some critically-ill patients were turned away from the hospital on Wednesday. Instead of the junior doctors and interns, senior doctors, resident medical officers and a few professors took charge of the 2,800-odd patients in different wards.

Junior doctors and interns decided to cease work on Tuesday, the first since 1995, after a group of workers, owing allegiance to the CPM-controlled Co-ordination Committee, allegedly beat up girl students, who are boarders of the Lady Elliot Hostel.

The boarders demanded the immediate removal of the hostel superintendent, as well as better amenities in the hostel.

The hostel superintendent had allegedly misbehaved with boarders. Earlier, she wanted to remove a critically-ill boarder to the first floor of the hostel from the ground floor. This had alienated the boarders.

After a verbal assurance from health minister Partha De on Tuesday afternoon that the hostel superintendent would be transferred, the SFI-led students’ union decided to withdraw the strike on Wednesday afternoon. It directed agitating students to report for duty immediately. But most of the junior doctors did not do so till Wednesday evening.

Other students’ bodies announced that the ceasework would continue till an official declaration was made about the superintendent’s transfer, and the Group D staff, guilty of manhandling the girls, were punished.

Hospital sources said though the name of Samir Banerjee was finalised for appointment as the new superintendent, a group of students refused to budge from its demand that the guilty staff be punished. Nonetheless, junior doctors are on duty in the emergency department and in the maternity ward labour room.

Classes were not held at the college on Wednesday, as most students had already left the hostel after some Group D staff living near it threatened boarders with “dire consequences.” Most students, who have already left the hostel, will return after the ex-students’ reunion from December 1.

A large police picket has been posted in front of both hostels but boarders of the girls’ hostel have not gone out since morning, fearing more trouble.

Most patients, who came for treatment at the outdoor wards, had to leave because the queue in front of the outdoor department was endless.

“We are admitting only extremely critical cases. We sent the rest to other hospitals,” said a nurse on duty in the orthopaedic department.    


 
 
MAN KILLED AS SLAB FALLS OFF ‘ILLEGAL’ HOUSE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
A fruit-seller was killed and five persons were injured when a portion of an unauthorised five-storeyed building collapsed Wednesday evening on 55, Madan Mohan Burman Street, in Kalabagan area.

Mohammad Hafiz, 30, a local fruit vendor, was eating at a roadside stall after his day-long roja when a slab from the illegally-constructed building fell on his head.

Hafiz was first taken to Calcutta Medical College Hospital and later shifted to Rahmatbai Vadnagarwala Hospital on Ganesh Chandra Avenue, where he was declared “brought dead”.

Safdar Hussain and his brothers, builders of the construction, are absconding. No one was arrested or detained for interrogation till Wednesday evening. The police have issued an arrest warrant against the owner of the building.

Municipal commissioner Debasish Som ordered demolition of the entire building on Wednesday evening. The building department of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation will raze the construction on Thursday in the presence of DC (central) Raj Kanojia.

Chief engineer (building) Ashok Roychowdhury said the construction came to the CMC’s notice only on August 16 and it was then just a single-storeyed building. The building department issued a ‘stop-work’ notice and posted guards at the site, but construction continued and the guards failed to report the matter to the executive engineer.

“We came to know that the building is a five-storeyed one only when department officials went to demolish it on November 9,” said city architect (north) Pradip Guha. A part of the building was demolished on that day.

“We planned to demolish the building in a phased manner, as police help was not always forthcoming,” Guha said.

Officer-in-charge of Jorasanko police station Sachi Majumdar said part of the building was being re-constructed without written consent of the CMC. “We have already identified the portions and we will demolish them tomorrow,” Majumdar added.

According to Guha, illegal highrises are mushrooming in the Kalabagan, Rajabazar, Kidderpore, Garden Reach, Behala, Jadavpur, Tangra, Topsia and Metiabruz areas. He said another building on 102, Madan Mohan Burman Street had been demolished by the CMC, but came up again in open violation of the law.    


 
 
GANDHIAN CROWN FOR GRAMEEN CAUSE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
When minister of tourism and culture Ananth Kumar announced the International Gandhi Peace Prize 2000 on Wednesday, Grameen Bank board chairman Rehman Sobhan was busy at a conference in Calcutta.

Grameen Bank and South African President Nelson Mandela had been chosen for the Government of India award, carrying Rs 1 crore and a citation, for their “exemplary work resulting in social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and Gandhian ways”.

Sobhan, attending a two-day conference on South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation, jointly organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Asian Development Bank, said: “It’s a great honour for Prof Younus, Bangladesh and most of all, for all those poor women who’ve made Grameen what it is. But I feel that this distinguished award is richly deserved by the biggest micro-credit bank for its pioneering contribution.”

Convinced that the hugely successful micro-credit model of Grameen Bank, founded by Mohammad Younus, could be replicated in West Bengal, he said: “As the condition of the people is the same on both sides of the border, such a programme can very well be taken up here. A delegation from West Bengal had even visited Bangladesh and discussed the matter with Grameen Bank officials recently.” But he wonders what happened after that.

“Micro-credit programmes, along the lines of Grameen Bank, have already been introduced in parts of Nepal and we have also broadened its scope in Bangladesh,” said Sobhan. The economist from Cambridge, a keen observer of economic developments in the region, is more than a little surprised at the state of industry in West Bengal. “There are reports which elaborate upon the huge potential of West Bengal in terms of trade and investment. But I wonder why the success in agriculture in rural Bengal could not be repeated in industry... Being next-door neighbours, a vibrant and dynamic West Bengal economy will definitely be good for us.”

Stressing the need for “greater economic cooperation” between Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and India, Sobhan said: “If consensus is achieved among the political parties in the member-countries, economic cooperation between the countries can work wonders for the region.”

Sobhan is executive chairman of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Bangladesh, a forum of politicians, bureaucrats, academicians and representatives of industry which he set up in 1994. The centre works in “close synergy” with the Centre for Policy Research in India.

A “classmate” of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Sobhan is also chairman of the Pratichi Trust in Bangladesh which plans to identify areas where it can “contribute to the empowerment of women”. An ex-student of St Paul’s, Darjeeling, Sobhan spent his early years in Calcutta. “I love coming back to this city and catching up with friends.”    


 
 
POLICE PARADE KASBA ACCUSED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
A joint team of officers of Kasba thana and the CID arrested five criminals from Joynagar, Canning and Bhangar, in South 24-Parganas, on Wednesday afternoon. Investigating officers said a few ornaments and Rs 10,000 was recovered from them. Police raids were also carried out in Howrah and North 24-Parganas areas.

“It is an inter-district gang and we are picking up criminals based on statements of the arrested accused,’’ a CID inspector said.

According to senior police officers who are a part of the special investigation team probing the twin dacoities and murder at Kasba, police were told about these criminals by Shyamal Mondal and his two associates during their interrogation.

Later in the evening, another police team proceeded to raid a spot in North 24-Parganas. They gave very sketchy information on the raids, arrests and materials recovered. “We cannot reveal anything unless investigators are absolutely certain that the stolen materials belong to either Shyamal Kanti Ghosh or Akshay Deb’s family,’’ said deputy inspector -general of police, CID, Chayan Mukherjee.

But insiders in the police said investigators are slowly zeroing in on the gang members involved in the twin dacoities. “We have firm reason to believe that the same gang was involved in the dacoity at a flat in Rajdanga, in Kasba, a month before this incident,’’ an additional superintendent of police said.

To reconfirm that Mondal was, indeed, involved in the Kasba incident, police on Wednesday once again paraded him in the Uttar Purbachal area, where the daring dacoity took place. Although he was not taken any one of the victims’ houses, the family members of Shyamal Kanti Ghosh and Akshay Deb were told to take a look at him from a distance.

Police sources said both Ghosh and Deb’s family members told police officers that Mondal was one among the two dozen criminals who stormed their houses on November 20.

Late on Wednesday night, police interrogated Mondal, his two associates and the five arrested criminals at the CID headquarters for three hours. “They have disclosed certain information. A police team will work on the information on Wednesday night,’’ DIG presidency range, Gautam Chakraborty said.    


 
 
COURT GRANTS AUNT CUSTODY OF 12-YR-OLD 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
In a rare judgment passed on Wednesday, Calcutta High Court granted the custody of 12-year-old girl Anjali Jhanjhania to her maternal aunt, even though the child’s paternal uncle claimed to be her legal guardian.

The court also adjudged the aunt as the caretaker of Anjali’s property till she became a major.

A person called Ramesh Jhanjhania demanded the custody of Anjali in August this year. Ramesh, who had arrived in Calcutta from Mumbai, claimed he was the brother of Anjali’s father, Arjun.

When Saira, Anjali’s aunt, refused to give up Anjali, Ramesh filed a petition in the court.

Anjali was born to Elizabeth and Arjun Jhanjhania in 1988. Elizabeth, an Anglo-Indian, had converted to Hinduism after her marriage and was renamed Jyoti. The family lived in their flat on Middleton Row, in central Calcutta. After Arjun died while undergoing an appendix operation in 1991, Elizabeth’s sister Selina, who became Saira Banu after marriage, took charge of both the mother and the daughter.

In the high court, Saira said she would not mind if the court became the caretaker of Anjali’s property. “I just want Anjali to live with me,” she said.    


 
 
STRIKES UNFAIR ON ILL: BASU 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Holding strikes at hospitals is against the well-being of patients and should be considered a crime, former chief minister Jyoti Basu said on Wednesday. “Employees can agitate, they have every right to do so. But stopping work can lead to deterioration of the patients’ health,” he said, while dedicating the renovated Medical College Hospital building to the people.

“The aggrieved staff can approach the authorities repeatedly and they will try for early redressal through negotiations.” Basu’s remarks come at a time when junior doctors and interns at NRS Medical College were on a 24-hour strike.

Despite the growth of the private sector, “70 per cent of the people continue to rely on government facilities. Subsidies must continue. We shall also be allocating more funds for modernisation, as many doctors have asked for this,” he said.

Health minister Partha De announced that two teaching hospitals in the city, SSKM and Medical College, would have dormitories for relatives of patients. “Lions Club and other NGOs have come forward to help in this.”

The historic Medical College building, the oldest hospital structure of its kind in India, was constructed in 1848. It fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was declared a condemned building. In 1984, the PWD started renovation and restoration. Till date, about Rs 8 crore has been spent on it, PWD minister Kshiti Goswami said.

He said nothing had been “replaced or stolen,” as alleged by some organisations. Marble tiles, statues of Greek gods and Burma teak doors and windows are reported to be missing or replaced with inferior material while the PWD was at work in the building.

Endoscopic surgery training: In a bid to introduce gynaecological endoscopic surgery in the east, the health department has agreed to conduct training at the Eden Hospital.

Prof. K.C. Dey, head of the obstetrics and gynaecological department at Medical College, has held discussions with Dr Gautam Khastagir, who has recently returned from the UK after 10 years’ training in this area.

During this, he has conducted over 250 laparoscopic hysterectomies, cystectomies, ectopic pregnancies as well as hysteroscopic surgery, including endometrial and fibroid resections.

“All these operations are now done through conventional open surgery, involving longer hospital stay and recovery, scars, greater chances of infection and bleeding,” Khastagir said on Wednesday while explaining the new processes at Belle Vue Nursing Home.    


 
 
SPORTS GOODS SHOP-OWNER KILLS HIMSELF 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Ramesh Kapoor, 60-year-old owner of GK Sports, one of the city’s leading sports goods-sellers, committed suicide “mysteriously’’ on Tuesday morning at his residence on the sixth floor of 52A, Ballygunge Circular Road.

His family said Ramesh went to the bathroom, adjoining his bedroom, at 8 am on Tuesday. His wife and son, Adip, were standing on the balcony when they heard a thud. Then Adip spotted his father’s body on the ground floor and broke into the bathroom.

Ramesh allegedly jumped out of the bathroom window, which is big enough for a man to slip out of. His family rushed him to Belle Vue Nursing Home but the doctors refused him admission.

Ballygunge police station officers were called in, and they took Ramesh to NRS Hospital, where he was declared dead.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh said: “The suicide raises suspicion. It is very unusual to have a bathroom window large enough for a man to slip out.”

DC, south, Ranjit Pachnanda said several prescriptions were found in Ramesh’s room, indicating that he was suffering from depression and undergoing treatment. Adip confirmed that his father was under treatment.    


 
 
AMBITIOUS CRAFTS VILLAGE LANGUISHES IN SEED STAGE 
 
 
SEBANTI SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Ten years after its conception, Craft Village on the EM Bypass is still in its primeval state with workers scratching surface dirt amidst a jumble of yet-to-be-used construction material. Much to the disappointment of Ruby Pal Choudhury of the Indian Craft Council. One of the prime initiators of Calcutta’s answer to Dilli Haat, she feels let down today: “I just don’t know what is taking them so long.”

The Village aims to preserve and develop the rich art and craft forms of eastern and northeastern India, many of which are on the verge of extinction. Through item display, research and sale.

After years in slow motion, Craft Village finally seems to be getting a move on. Enough to encourage the organisers to set a date for its opening: 2006. Standing in quelching grime at the site, opposite Science City, C. Dasgupta is supervising the first steps of the first phase of construction. Right now, he is concentrating on “putting up a strong, aesthetically-appealing, ethnic boundary wall”. Dasgupta, the current project in-charge, attributes the delay to the ambitious nature of the undertaking.

“Take this site, for instance. The land is architecturally unstable, because it was used as a garbage dump. So, in order to build any structure, piles have to be driven into the ground. Next door, the ITC hotels are having to cope with the same problem. We are deliberately keeping our structures light,” says Dasgupta.

Finance has been a major stumbling block. In 1994, the Bengal Chambers of Commerce, entrusted with the venture, formed the Indian Craft Village Trust. “In an effort to raise seed money, the Trust organised an art auction which could not generate enough to get us started. The original outlay was about Rs 5 crore, but expenses may run into Rs 15 crore or more, and even that may prove insufficient if there is more delay,” warns the project in-charge.

Now, Bengal is urging other state governments in the region to “participate actively in the project”, by providing funds for their respective pavilions as well as architects. Bihar has already contributed Rs 1 crore.

The master architectural plan was conceived by Satish Gujral’s Design Plus. The built-up area will take up 12 per cent of the total land area and will have rural structures suitable to the state it represents. For example, the Bengal pavilion will have curved, thatched-roof, mud huts or wood and bamboo Dochalas and Charchalas.

There will be buildings for recreation and culture — artisans’ nests where the craftsmen can be seen at work — an art and craft shop, eateries, auditoriums, a museum, dormitory accommodation for craftsmen, a design centre, seminar rooms, a library and documentation centre, a natural health care centre offering ayurvedic treatment, pavilions for fashion, leather and jute.    


 
 
DOCTOR RETURNS WITH DREAM OF GENOMIC RESEARCH UNIT 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, Nov. 29: 
Nihar R. Dutt is back in the city where he studied medicine 50 years ago, with a dream. The 75-year-old plastic surgeon, based in New York, is keen to set up a genomic research institute in Calcutta.

Dutt has already written to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee asking for 40 cottahs of land in Salt Lake. He has already explained the project to higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty and education secretary Hirak Ghosh.

“As a plastic surgeon with a research background, I really want to build a genomic institute, where human, animal, horticultural and agricultural research will be done,” says Dutt. “The focus will be on how to regenerate organs for transplantation, use genetic technology for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, longevity and beauty.”

Dutt plans to set up a two-storeyed building and provide all important equipment required for genomic research. “I have requested the government to provide me with the land free, as I will not be able to provide the market price. Let’s see what it thinks about the project.”

When contacted, senior officials of the state higher education department said: “We are examining Dutt’s proposal and it will be discussed at a meeting on December 1.”

The doctor, who came to study medicine at Calcutta University from Bangladesh in 1947, says: “I am also open to go along with private partners who have genuine interest in genomic research. If at all I do not get any co-operation from the West Bengal government, I have to think about other states for my institute. But being a Bengali, I would love to do something for my state.”

Dutt left India in 1974 to join New York University to pursue higher studies in surgery. He became diplomate, American Board of Plastic Surgery, in 1974. After serving several hospitals in Canada and New York, he started private practice from July 1965.

In case the Bengal government doesn’t respond “favourably”, Dutt is thinking of funding a genomic research centre at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology at Jadavpur. “I have already spoken to director Samir Bhattacharya about starting my centre, in the form of a trust involving academicians and philanthropists, in the institute.”    

 

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