N-bullets to battle joint ailments
Seven million letters pile up
Teachers resent pay cut for CM fund
Gun-point hijack
Desert duo deserted after celebrations
Held for gold biscuit theft
Gang escapes with staff pay
Stamps document past glories, says Governor
Plea to strengthen animal safety law
Tripura achieves 87 per cent literacy

 
 
N-BULLETS TO BATTLE JOINT AILMENTS 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
Calcutta will soon be thanking nuclear scientists, not for the bomb, but for the radio-isotope “bullets” working wonders in medicine. Patients of rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and haemarthrosis (blood disorder affecting the joints) will soon have access to a form of treatment that has just been started in only two other centres in the country.

Radiation synoviorthesis, or RSO, provides hope for those who have gone through various conventional treatments to be rid of the pain and inflammation of their joints and soft tissues due to rheumatism. And, for the first time, they will have treatment that will not just control their ailment but, in most cases, even cure them.

RSO is a form of local treatment for chronic inflammatory joint disorders and is specially recommended in conditions where conventional systemic drug therapy has failed to bring relief to the patients.

“The process involves the emission of low-dose beta radiotracers that are injected into the joint cavity under X-ray monitoring, which helps kill the tumour-like growth in the synovium (the membrane that forms the sac enclosing a freely movable joint),” explained Soumen Ray, nuclear medicine specialist at EKO X-ray and Imaging Institute.

It is at this centre that, by the middle of next year, the treatment will be available. “We have approached Bhaba Atomic Research Centre for the supply of holmium, which will bring down the cost of this treatment,” said Dr S.K. Sharma, director of the institute.

Two other centres, Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune and Sanjay Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Lucknow, have started the treatment, using imported radio-isotopes.

The procedure was developed 30 years ago and is in use in many western countries, said Gynter Modder, professor of nuclear medicine in Cologne, Germany, during a lecture on Thursday. A pioneer in this field, the professor, who conducts over 630 such procedures in a single month, pointed out several advantages. “This treatment involves minimal intervention, can be conducted in the out-patients’ department, is useful for inoperable patients, does not require rehabilitation and can be conducted simultaneously on several problematic joints.” RSO should not be performed on pregnant women and during lactation, he said. “And studies over the past 30 years have not shown any gene damage through the procedure.”

Dr Ray said 85 per cent of patients treated the world over have shown marked improvement.

The introduction of this treatment will add a new chapter to therapeutic nuclear medicine in the city. So far, three centres, B.R. Singh Hospital, B.M. Birla Hospital and the Thakurpukur Cancer Centre have installed gama cameras that are used in diagnostics only.

   

 
 
SEVEN MILLION LETTERS PILE UP 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
Over seven million letters and parcels have piled up at nearly 300 post offices in Calcutta as the country-wide postal strike entered its third day. Nearly 5,000 postal employees in the city did not attend duty on Thursday.

“Those with National Savings Certificates and other savings schemes are the worst-hit, as nearly one-third of the postal employees on strike handle postal savings. Telephone bills, too, are not being received,” admitted a senior official at Yogayog Bhavan.

Bandana Bose, postmaster of Kalighat, said: “Even if the strike is called off in the next few days, it will take some time for services to return to normal, as the lakhs of letters and parcels that have piled up will have to be sorted first.”

Union communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan, in Calcutta for the inauguration of Indepex Asiana 2000, felt the strike would end soon as the government “has already accepted three of the five major demands of the postal employees”.

Asked if the army will be deployed to tackle the crisis, Paswan said: “The postal staff are all like our family members and it would be unfortunate if we have to call in the army. I sincerely hope things will be sorted out amicably.”

Tapan Sikdar, minister of state for communications, said the Talwar Committee recommendations for the postal staff were being reviewed. “But we can’t give them pension, as they are not permanent staff, so we are setting up a social development fund to take care of their post-retirement needs,” Sikdar added.

With post-offices in the city shut, private courier services are in brisk business. A large number of people can be seen queuing up in front of courier service offices.

“The number of customers has increased almost three-fold since the strike began on Tuesday. We have been told to make use of this opportunity and convince the people that our services are far better than that of the postal department,” said a customer relations manager of a leading courier company on Camac Street. “Our management is planning to announce major discount offers in the coming days for customers harassed by the postal strike.”

Those awaiting interview calls for jobs are in a fix. “I am awaiting a call letter from a company in Mumbai. I think I’m going to miss out this time too,” said Suryendu Chakraborty of Salt Lake, who had failed to turn up for an interview in 1998 due to a postal strike which lasted seven days.

   

 
 
TEACHERS RESENT PAY CUT FOR CM FUND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s first visit as chief minister to Rabindra Bharati University’s Emerald Bower campus on Thursday turned out to be more action-packed than he would have preferred.

A section of teachers and officers boycotted his programme — the inauguration of a new auditorium — protesting the authorities’ decision to deduct Rs 150 from their salaries “without informing them” as contribution to the chief minister’s flood relief fund. The teachers alleged that vice-chancellor Subhankar Chakraborty had ordered the deduction to “impress the new chief minister”.

“We don’t mind contributing. But we should have been told before the amount was deducted from our pay packets,” said Subudhi Charan Goswami, teacher of Sanskrit and secretary of the CPM-controlled Siksha Ganatrikaran Sangstha on the campus.

University sources said that in “a sudden decision” last month, the vice-chancellor had ordered that Rs 150 be deducted from the salaries of teachers and officers as contribution to the chief minister’s relief fund for flood victims.

Finance officer Sunil Sarkar confirmed that he had been ordered by the vice-chancellor to carry out the cuts .

“We came to know about the deduction only after we were handed our salaries last week,” said a senior teacher, preferring anonymity. “The amount is nominal. What we take serious exception to is the manner in which it was done,” he added.

The teachers said that vice-chancellor had taken a decision after discussing the matter with some members of the CPM-controlled teachers’ council.

“This will set a dangerous precedent. Today, the authorities have deducted a small amount for a noble cause without our consent. Tomorrow, they might deduct a lot more for anything they think fit,” the teachers argued.

Subhankar Chakraborty was not available for comment. S.P. Acharya, president of the university’s officers’ and supervisory staff association, remained tight-lipped.

   

 
 
GUN-POINT HIJACK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
Former national swimmer Madhusudan Saha’s car was hijacked in front of Victoria Memorial Hall late on Wednesday at gun-point by five miscreants, who also robbed him of Rs 2,000 in cash.

Saha, a former 200m national butterfly champion, was returning from his brother’s liquor shop in Mominpur around 9.30 pm when his car, an Ambassador (WB02-3731) was stopped by five youth in a taxi, who demanded “all the cash”. When told the occupants were not carrying too much cash, the criminals broke into the car and drove away, dumping Saha and his kin off the Race Course.

   

 
 
DESERT DUO DESERTED AFTER CELEBRATIONS 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
There’s no way one can miss them. The moment one steps off a local train and onto the platform of Madhyamgram rail station, they wade into view, their huge humps jutting out. Thanks to the bungling ways and Puja gimmickry, two camels from the deserts of Rajasthan are now languishing in a field adjacent to Madhyamgram station.

Members of the local Subhaspally Sporting Club had bought the camels for a princely sum of Rs 20,000 from Rajasthan to create a “desert ambience” in their pandal during Kali Puja.

Now, the club is burdened with the beasts of burden, unable to sell them off and struggling to feed them.

“We decided to recreate the Thar desert at the Kali Puja pandal this year and for that, the puja committee hit upon the plan of procuring the camels,” says club president Monimohan Dutta. “It has, indeed, been an expensive exercise for us, as we had to spend Rs 22,000 on transportation alone,” laments Ramkrishna Dutta, cashier of the club’s puja committee. In all, the club had to cough up a whopping Rs 56,000 on the desert duo.

But now, they are saddled with the animals. “We were confident that we could sell them off after the puja, at least at cost price. But, so far, we haven’t found any takers, and it’s a huge strain for us to try and maintain them,” admits Dutta. “We really can’t afford to keep on feeding the animals till the next Bakr-Id, when camels are slaughtered,” he adds.

The ordeal of the camels, as well as the club, is likely to end soon. Local residents first approached the police, and then petitioned the People for Animals. The animal welfare organisation has decided to perform a rescue act before the camels join the caravan of cattle smuggled across the Bongaon border to Bangladesh.

“The club members have requested us to do something as it’s beyond their means to look after such big beasts. We will support the animal rights group in its bid to save the camels,” explains Shankar Chowdhury of the Madhyamgram Investigating Centre, under Barasat police station. The PFA will first send a team of vets to examine the two camels, who have lost a lot of weight over the past weeks. Then, if things go according to plan, they will be shifted to an animal shelter on the EM Bypass.

   

 
 
HELD FOR GOLD BISCUIT THEFT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
The police chased three men who had robbed gold biscuits from a businessman in the Hare Street area, posing as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers, and arrested one of them.

Deputy commissioner of police, central, Raj Kanojia, said the businessman, Raj Madanwal, had arrived from Kanpur on Monday. He telephoned a “contact” and they decided to meet behind a Hare Street shop to strike a deal. Madanwal paid the money and had packed the gold biscuits in his bag when the three men, later identified as based in Gujarat, flashed CBI cards and demanded a look at the bag. When a shaken Madanwal gave them the bag, the three ran off with it. Madanwal raised an alarm, which attracted the attention of a police patrol.

The four-member police team chased the criminals along Hare Street and managed to catch one. The other two escaped. The stolen gold biscuits, however, could not be recovered.

Kanojia later told reporters that the police were verifying whether Madanwal was undertaking a legal deal of gold biscuits with the city businessman.

“We will send a team to Kanpur with details of the escaped persons,’’ Kanojia said.

In a related incident, a Jorasanko police team, which had gone to Kanpur in search of some criminals, returned with stolen gold ornaments after a series of raids there. The team had gone there after three Kanpur-based criminals stole the ornaments from seven goldsmiths in the city in the last week of November.

   

 
 
GANG ESCAPES WITH STAFF PAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
A van carrying the salaries of the employees of a private company was looted on its way from New Alipore to Bishnupur, in South 24-Parganas, on Thursday morning.

Police said the robbers could lay their hands on only Rs 50,000, as the rest of the amount, Rs 11 lakh, was hidden in different parts of the van.The robbers, in an Ambassador, trailed the van after it picked up the cash from the company’s head office in New Alipore, police said.

When the van was about a couple of kilometres away from its Bishnupur factory, the Ambassador overtook it and blocked its path. Four armed men got off the Ambassador and threatened the driver, forcing him to hand over a packet containing Rs 50,000.

They then drove off in their car, thinking that they had robbed the entire sum of money in the van.

   

 
 
STAMPS DOCUMENT PAST GLORIES, SAYS GOVERNOR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 7: 
Indepex Asiana 2000, the first major international stamp exhibition being hosted by Calcutta, was ceremonially declared open at the Town Hall on Thursday, before the action shifted to the venue, Netaji Indoor Stadium.

Glowing tribute to D.N. Jatia, leading light of philately in India who passed away in Calcutta recently, marked the inauguration. Governor Viren J. Shah, after lighting the ceremonial lamp, presented the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for ‘DN’ to his widow, Ratni Jatia. Paying his “personal tribute” to the Jatia family, the Governor said: “The stamps of a nation reflect the work of the country and Mr Jatia’s pioneering work in the field of philately has pitchforked India onto the global stage.”

Releasing an album of special stamps on gems and jewellery, he observed: “Philately is an interesting medium of social and historical documentation, a repository of knowledge and the past.”

Knud Mohr, president of Federation Internationale de Philatelie (FIP), the world body of philately, described DN, his predecessor, as a “master educationist” and promised that the FIP would “do everything in its power to spread philately at the grassroots level in India”.

The exhibition, to continue till December 12, features 1,267 frames from 24 countries, 18 in the competitive class and six in the official class. On display will be such rare stamps as the Penny Black, the world’s first postage stamp, the world’s first airmail which was sent from Allahabad to Naini, inverted heads, war maps of Latvia and many others.

“This exhibition celebrates 50 years of the Republic of India and is an important feather in the cap of the Philatelic Congress of India,” said Union minister for communications Ram Vilas Paswan.

The state government has commissioned 500 buses to bring schoolchildren to the Indepex on all six days.

   

 
 
PLEA TO STRENGTHEN ANIMAL SAFETY LAW 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 7: 
State animal husbandry minister Viswabhusan Harichandan today admitted that the low penalty provisions in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 were coming in the way of implementing the Act. Replying to a question by Biju Janata Dal member Roshni Singh Deo during the Question Hour today, Harichandan said every year more than 300 cases are lodged by the inspectors of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and a fine of Rs 50,000 is imposed on the violators. F

The animal husbandry minister said overloading, employment of the sick and injured animals, inhuman transportation of animals and experimentation were treated as cruelty.

At present, only six SPCA inspectors are working in Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Puri, Balasore, Bhadrak, Nayagarh, Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Jagatsinghpur and Ganjam districts.

The government has authorised the SPCA inspectors to exercise powers under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Prawn culture: Revenue minister Biswabhusan Harichandan today said his government is seriously considering a revised Chilka lake policy.

Replying to an unstarred question on whether the state government has decided to ban prawn culture in Chilka lake, Harichandan said pending finalisation of the revised policy for regulating fishing in the lake, collectors of Puri, Khurda and Ganjam districts have been instructed not to grant any lease for pisciculture.

No lease should be granted or renewed within the lake area either in favour of any Primary Fishermen Co-operative Society or in favour of groups or societies of non-fishermen inhabitants of the adjoining villages, he said.

The minister said the memorandum and the draft ordinance relating to the regulation of fisheries in Chilka lake, prepared earlier had not been approved by the previous Cabinet.

A committee is going through the memorandum prepared earlier and formulated recommendations to incorporate necessary changes for finalising the revised fishery policy on Chilka lake.

Religious institutions: There are 16,206 Hindu religious instituions under the control of Commissioner of Endowments in Orissa, Orissa law minister Biswabhusan Harichandan said today.

Replying to an unstarred question by Bir Sipka, the law minister said of these institutions, 15,867 are temples and the rest are maths.

   

 
 
TRIPURA ACHIEVES 87 PER CENT LITERACY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Dec. 7: 
Tripura has been successful in implementing the total literacy and the post literacy campaigns despite insurgency. According to an assessment by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta, the state has achieved 78 per cent literacy. Women have surpassed men by achieving 83 per cent success rate.

Braja Gopal Mazumdar, director of the State Resources Centre (SRC) and pioneer of the literacy movement in the state, said, “The institute based its calculations on the number of identified illiterate people in the state.’’

Mazumdar said while launching the campaign in 1995, altogether 4,90,129 “illiterate” people had been identified. The success rate was pegged at 87 per cent after the enrolment of 4,41,754 learners.

Spurred by the success in total literacy programme, the State Resources Centre and the Saksharata Samitis in all four districts launched post-literacy campaigns. But the success rate in all the three districts, barring West Tripura, dwindled because of militancy. Citing IIM figures, Braja Gopal Mazumdar said, “Though we have achieved 64 per cent success rate, only 48 per cent tribals are literate. Insurgency has taken its toll on the tribal populace.’’

Moreover, many areas in the remote interiors were “virtually inaccessible,’’ he added. While carrying out the assessment, the IIM also conducted a random survey among the “neo-literates” on various aspects of their lives, habits and healthcare. Of the 150 tribals surveyed, only 80 exhibited good health awareness and 50 were listed in the “fair” and 20 in the “average” categories respectively.

On the other hand, out of the 305 non-tribals surveyed by the IIM experts, 165 people displayed “good” knowledge of healthcare.

The implementation of the total literacy and post literacy campaigns in the state have also been followed by imparting of vocational skills to the “neo-literate” people. Quoting an “impact study,” Mazumdar said 455 women had been taught to sew, make pickles, jam, jellies and bake in areas like Mohanpur and Bishalgarh blocks in Dhalai district. These women, who have been divided into “self-help” groups, are earning a fair amount of money every month, Mazumdar said. He said six youth, trained as bakers, have become self-employed in Bishalgarh.

The IIM team, in its report, lauded the efforts of the West district Saksharata Samity and the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samity, a non-governmental organisation led by Braja Gopal Mazumdar, in providing vocational training to “neo-literates.”

As the success ratio in North Tripura district has not been “impressive’’, the IIM team plans to re-assess the progress of the campaign in the district.

Claiming that the success rates of the total literacy and post literacy campaigns would be reflected in the next census, Mazumdar said, “But for Tripura’s low per capita income and insurgency, the success rate would have been higher.”

He said in 1997-98, Tripura had a per capita income of Rs 6,569 as against the national average of Rs 10,771.

   
 

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