Killer of family held on return
Auto emission norms miss the bus again
Youth arrested for bid to enter tiger enclosure
Doctors’ lobby stalls move for fees display
Home, sweet home for Tollywood
Warm response to proposal for trauma care unit
Tourists keen on German art quiz
Suction machine to drain abattoir blood
Dispur tops crime chart
Young artists display modern artwork

 
 
KILLER OF FAMILY HELD ON RETURN 
 
 
FROM A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
After staying a step-and-a-half ahead of the police for two weeks, Bireswar Poddar, the man who murdered his wife and five daughters, was finally arrested late on Sunday, at Babughat. Clad in grey trousers, white check shirt and sweater, 41-year-old Poddar was produced in Sealdah court on Monday and remanded in police custody for two weeks.

Poddar had drugged and strangled wife Rita, and daughters Rima, Preeti, Smriti, Bhavna and Sweta, between 13 and five years old, on the night of December 16, at his Muraripukur Road residence, near Maniktala. He then slashed a neighbour, Digvijay Sharma, who he suspected was having an affair with his wife, before fleeing.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of police, detective department, said that Poddar had confessed to his crime during interrogation. Basu said Poddar was “blinded by jealousy”.

“Even though I had five daughters, I was not really bothered by that. It was not the son-daughter issue. My only target was that man (Digvijay)... I had repeatedly warned him not to talk to my wife... I had caught them together a few times... My anger kept rising and then it just boiled over...,” Poddar said.

Recounting the day of the crime, Dwijen Chatterjee, officer-in-charge of Maniktala police station, said that after 33-year-old Rita and the five girls had fallen asleep under the influence of the Valium that Poddar had fed them, he used a dupatta and a scarf to strangle all six of them.

There was no sign of resistance. While the children, all clad in frocks, lay dead on a double-bed when the police entered, their mother lay on the floor in a sari, with strangulation marks clearly visible on her throat.

After wiping out his entire family, Poddar left his Muraripukur Road residence early on December 17 and headed for Howrah station. He spent the entire day at the station, then boarded the Mithila Express as “S. Saha” and reached his elder sister’s house in Muzaffarpur. Poddar, too, hails from the town.

He told his sister that his wife and five daughters had died “under unnatural circumstances” and he had stabbed a man with whom he was convinced his wife was having an affair. His sister panicked and pleaded with him to leave Muzaffarpur.

Poddar then headed off to Darbhanga, where another sister of his lives. This was on December 21.

Meanwhile, the city police launched a massive manhunt in the state and even alerted their counterparts in Bihar. Officers from the detective department reached Muzaffarpur the day Poddar left for Darbhanga.

In Darbhanga, too, Poddar’s sister refused to give him shelter. This prompted him to leave for Purnea, to try and put up with another sister of his. There, his brother-in-law and a friend helped him slip away to Birgunj, in Nepal.

By then, Poddar’s relatives in Calcutta had contacted those in Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Purnea, urging them to ask the man to surrender. This, possibly, prompted Poddar’s brother-in-law and friend to pressure Poddar to return to Calcutta from Nepal and give himself up.

Police said Poddar attempted suicide a few days ago but was stopped by some of his relatives, who advised him to return to Calcutta. When he reached Babughat on Sunday night, the police, acting on a tip-off, were waiting to arrest him. While the police remained tight-lipped about how and when Poddar reached Calcutta from Nepal, sources said one of his relatives had tipped off Dwijen Chatterjee, of Maniktala police station.

Run over: A 26-year-old man was run over by a private bus on route 12 on Circular Garden Reach Road on Monday night. Police said the man was trying to cross the road when the accident took place. Residents tried to block the road but police intervened and prevented a flare-up.

   

 
 
AUTO EMISSION NORMS MISS THE BUS AGAIN 
 
 
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
Bharat Stage II automobile emission norms could not be introduced in the Calcutta Metropolitan Area once again as the official notification bringing into force the new norms is yet to arrive at the state public vehicles department (PVD).

The Bharat II norms were to come into force from December 31, 2000. PVD director T.V. Venkitaraman said on Monday that registration of passenger vehicles, both public and private, was put on hold till his office received the notification.

The Calcutta Metropolitan Area includes the Calcutta, Howrah and Chandernagore municipal corporations and 39 municipalities. New cars are registered in the city public vehicles department and at the office of the regional transport authority at all district headquarters.

Venkitaraman visited Writers’ Buildings during the day to inquire whether the notification was ready or not. “The officers of the transport department told me that the order will be ready by this week,” he said.

The Bharat II norms, modelled on Euro II norms taking into consideration the Indian driving cycle, were to have come into effect from November 1 last year. The new rules will be enforced under the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act of 1981.

The Bharat II norms are meant for cars with a seating capacity of and up to six persons, including the driver. Both petrol and diesel cars fall under the new emission jurisdiction.

The government as well as the pollution control board postponed enforcement of the norms last year as both vehicle-owners as well as fuel companies were not ready to comply with the new standards. Last August, the state government put on hold the introduction of Bharat II and amended its order.

The new standards are being introduced in accordance with a notification made by the Union ministry of surface transport in January last year.

Oil companies on Monday began supplying improved fuel needed for Bharat II engines to function at their optimum performance levels. This comes two years after oil companies began supplying the fuel.

All fuel outlets within the Calcutta Municipal Corporation area have received supplies of petrol and diesel with a sulphur level of less than 0.05 per cent.

Thirty-eight petrol stations in the outer city limits but within the Calcutta Metropolitan Area, too, are selling petrol and diesel of a better quality.

The oil companies have assured the state government that they will supply the fuel to all stations within the Calcutta Metropolitan Area within the coming six months.

About 1,500 vehicles are registered daily in Calcutta and its suburbs. A third of these are four-wheelers and the rest two-wheelers.

   

 
 
YOUTH ARRESTED FOR BID TO ENTER TIGER ENCLOSURE 
 
 
FROM A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
A 19-year-old student, Bapi Hazra, was arrested at Alipore zoo on Monday when he tried to clamber over the fence of the tiger enclosure, police said.

Policemen had already been posted around the enclosure after a man entered it and was mauled to death by a tiger named Bob last month.

The policemen suddenly noticed that a young man was climbing up the fence and had already put a foot on the other side. They rushed towards him and grabbed him.

Hazra had come to the zoo with his friends on Monday afternoon. He looked around several enclosures before arriving near the one for tigers. On being challenged by his friends, Hazra decided to jump across the first iron fencing.

Hazra, a resident of Rai Bahadur Road, will appear for his Madhyamik examination. Police ruled out the possibility of his being either drunk or mentally retarded. They also ruled out the possibility of him being driven by suicidal instincts.

   

 
 
DOCTORS’ LOBBY STALLS MOVE FOR FEES DISPLAY 
 
 
FROM A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
A doctors’ lobby is trying its best to stall the finalisation of a new set of rules and regulations that will bring more transparency in private-sector hospitals and nursing homes, and compel doctors to display their rates.

The rules, the outcome of an amendment to the West Bengal Clinical Establishments Act, 1950, adopted in the Assembly as way back as June 1998, will modify those drawn up in 1975 and tighten the government’s hold on private-sector clinics, including diagnostic centres. They will also introduce, for the first time, several amenities for patients at hospitals and nursing homes, as well as doctors’ chambers. These include adequate seating arrangements, fans and toilets.

The new rules may have to be placed in the House again for ratification in a bid to overcome the lobby, which is against the move to enforce display of rates at a doctor’s chamber or clinic. Unless the rules are formalised, the government cannot issue a gazette notification on the amendment. The lobby, apparently, has sought several modifications.

“Work on finalising the new rules has been going on in fits and starts, owing to various representations made by different parties,” health department sources said.

Broadly, the new rules include the prominent display of rates for each type of medical treatment that a patient may seek at a private hospital, clinic or doctor’s chamber, and a number of new conditions for granting and renewing licences.

Though the Indian Medical Association, Calcutta branch, welcomes the move “if this will help the public,” organisations concerned with doctors say the fraternity does not approve of the step.

First, the doctors say, such a rule does not exist in any other state. When a patient, even from the rural areas, visits a doctor, he usually is aware of the fees charged. Then, a major area of concern for the doctors is the fact that their fees, even for house calls, will be public knowledge. Income-tax officials said the display of charges could be an indicator of what the doctor is earning.

The West Bengal Medical Council, the sole authority to grant registration to doctors after they pass their MBBS and with about 39,000 doctors on its rolls, has no stipulation on what a doctor should charge. “We have heard about the amendment but are not sure of the provisions as yet,” said council registrar D.K. Ghosh.

Enquiries revealed that scheduled meetings, where the new rules were to have been finalised, are not taking place because of the absence of one or another official. Even minister Partha De was away on occasions. The minister said the rules were being finalised, and that this required a session with all the senior officials concerned. “For some reason or the other, all the officials have not been able to get together.”

But department sources said: “If the minister wants, can he not call a meeting where all the officers concerned are present?”

   

 
 
HOME, SWEET HOME FOR TOLLYWOOD 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
There’s a space jam in Tollywood and houses are being turned into filmi floors to keep the cameras rolling. Many Calcuttans are now renting out their houses to filmmakers and TV serial-makers working on moderate budgets. At least 30 such houses, mostly near the Tollygunge studios, are now ‘permanent’ shooting spots.

“It is convenient for filmmakers and artistes to come to our place and shoot because there is enough space and it’s located very near the studios,” said Laxmi De, who lets out her house for both feature films and TV serials.

At the New Theatres-I in Tollygunge, there are only three floors. A recording hall is also being used for shooting these days. Indrapuri studio has three floors, Technicians-II two and Aurora Film Studio just one.

These nine floors provide about 30,000 sq ft area, which “is just not enough” for a film industry churning out at least 50 films every year. The floors are also used to shoot many a television serial.

With producers desperately scouting around for suitable ‘indoors’, some film and theatre personalities are also learnt to be remodelling their houses to rent them out.

But actress Mita Chatterjee has cried a ‘cut’ to shooting at her home. “I used to rent out my house but have stopped it now because after the shooting is over, it takes a lot of time and energy to get my house in order again,” she explained.

The shutdown of a number of film studios over the years has contributed to the space crunch. Calcutta Movietone, Radha Film Studio, M.P. Studio, Eastern Talkies and Debdutta Film Studio have all downed shutters.

These have now been replaced by large houses like B. Das’, on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Road, in south Calcutta.

“Producers prefer my house as they get a huge garden with seasonal flowers and bushes for outdoor shoots, and a nice decor and ample space for indoor shoots,” he said. “Upasana from Bollywood shot here for days during the filming of Bidhatar Khela,” he added.

Another favourite with producers these days is a house in Jinjirabazar. Sisir Pathak, who lets out the premises for such shoots, said: “We charge Rs 2,500 a day to let out the premises to producers. Apart from this, we also charge a nominal electricity fee for using our rooms, and the garden. But we don’t allow any shooting during weekends for obvious reasons.”

   

 
 
WARM RESPONSE TO PROPOSAL FOR TRAUMA CARE UNIT 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
The first constructive step has finally been taken to set up a system where Calcutta’s road accident victims have a better chance of survival. Several city-based organisations, including Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan, Missionaries of Charity, Rotary and Goodwill Mission, have responded favourably to the setting up of an Emergency Medical Service Council that would coordinate trauma-care delivery and management in road accidents in Calcutta and suburbs.

The Telegraph had reported last week that representatives of the Association of American Physicians of Indian origin (AAPI) and a member of the Nobel Prize-winning organisation, Doctors Without Borders, would be meeting like-minded people at the initiative of the city branch of the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine.

The purpose was to float the idea of an emergency medical council, on the lines of the ones set up recently in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. It will set up trauma centres, coordinate ambulance and hospital services and arrange for installation of essential equipment required once a victim is rushed to hospital. Training in trauma care will also be imparted.

About 30 individuals turned up, and all agreed that an organised system, along with designated trauma-care centres at existing hospitals, was a crying need. “We read in the newspapers that accident victims are being brought dead or are dying at hospitals because there is no mechanism and equipment for urgent specialised treatment,” said Dr Saurav Kole, Calcutta branch secretary of the critical care society.

Once the council is set up, the first step would be to “organise the 265 ambulances that operate in the city so they have the necessary equipment like oxygen, volume (blood) loss replacement kits, splints, and communication with hospitals in their designated zones,” he said.

The initiative was given impetus by Dr Bharati Ghosh, a paediatrician based in California. At a meeting of AAPI about 18 months ago in Los Angeles, eminent trauma-care interventionist Dr M.S. Bala had stressed that road deaths were among the highest in Indian cities. He suggested that AAPI, of which he is chairman of the trauma sub-committee, help out.

But eastern India did not figure in his proposal. Dr Ghosh pointed out that a need existed in Calcutta as well. She was asked to take the initiative. Dr Bala requested a colleague of his, Dr Peter Meade, director of the surgical intensive care unit at the Martin Luther King Jr Medical Centre, to accompany him on his mission to India. Meade is also a member of Doctors Without Borders.

The movement is receiving a good response from key Calcutta organisations. “Subroto Maharaj of the Ramakrishna Mission hospital, Sister Andrea of the Missionaries of Charity, Mr Chandra Mohan of Rotary, among others, have agreed to help out,” Kole said. The government, police and the municipal authorities will have a major role in the council.

   

 
 
TOURISTS KEEN ON GERMAN ART QUIZ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
A quiz contest, jointly organised by Indian Museum and Max Mueller Bhavan, will be held for the first time in the city on Wednesday. Foreign tourists visiting the exhibition on ornament and medieval German art at the museum, organised as part of the German Festival in India, will participate in the contest.

Max Mueller Bhavan programme officer S.V. Raman will conduct the quiz. Prizes will be distributed on January 7, the concluding day of the festival, said museum director Shyamal Kanti Chakraborty.

Apart from foreign tourists, the organising body is expecting historians, students and scholars of history at the contest. “The quiz will be based on medieval German art. Participation of history students will make it more lively,” said Raman.

A large number of foreigners is expected, as an average of 75 visited the exhibition every day. “Almost all of them agreed to participate when we told them about the contest. They are elated over the exhibits on display,” Chakraborty added. The exhibition has recorded a turnout of more than 25,000 visitors over the past three days.

After visiting the exhibition, German tourist W.H. Bubble wrote in the museum’s guest book: “I am really charmed to see the exquisite objects and feel that I am still in my country.”

Eve Loh, another German tourist and a student of Sydney University, said she will inform her acquaintances back home about the exhibition.

   

 
 
SUCTION MACHINE TO DRAIN ABATTOIR BLOOD 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Dec. 1: 
The civic authorities have decided to deploy a suction machine to drain blood and dirty water from the Tangra slaughterhouse and ferry the refuse to the storm water channel near Bantala, as the slaughter-house sewerage connection has been temporarily disconnected by the irrigation department, which is re-excavating the Tangra drainage canal.

Work at the Tangra slaughter-house came to standstill late last week because of an agitation by residents of the area, who were protesting against the accumulated blood and water from the slaughter-house flooding the locality.

Member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan, said: “The disposal problem has become more acute as there are no underground drains in the Tangra area, where the abattoir is situated. Even if surface drains were used, there would be an outcry over so much blood being poured into them.”

Moreover, surface drainage could turn into a health hazard, as blood is congenial for bacteria growth, pointed out chief municipal health officer Sujit Ghosh.

So, the civic health department has sought the help of the drainage and sewerage department to collect the 10,000 litres of blood in the tanker of a jetting -cum-suction machine first and then to dump them in the storm water channel.

According to CMC estimates, 450 cows and buffaloes are slaughtered daily at Tangra. Disposal of accumulated blood had not been a problem until the Centre imposed a ban last year on the use of the waste for the preparation of a health tonic.

A pharmaceutical company would buy the blood from the slaughter-house for Rs 2 lakh a year. The blood would be collected in containers and transferred to the company’s plant in Topsia, where it would be processed into various blood components.

Javed Khan said: “I don’t think it’s proper to drain raw blood directly into outfall channels. We must treat it first in an effluent plant”. The health department has already requested the CMC’s project and development department to set up an effluent plant. Stup Consultants, which recently set up such a plant in Aurangabad, has been tapped. for the project.

   

 
 
DISPUR TOPS CRIME CHART 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Jan. 1: 
The irony could not have been more stark. Dispur, the seat of power in the state, tops the city’s crime chart.

Statistics provided by city police show that no matter what the crime is, Dispur police station recorded the highest number of cases in the year 2000.

Overall, though, the number of crimes in the city showed a marginal decrease from the previous year, 1999.

Of the 16 police stations in the city, north Guwahati turned out to be the most “peaceful place” with “only” five cases of theft, two cases of abduction and four burglaries in 2000.

However, in the previous year there were only one case of rape and one kidnapping.

Dispur’s statistics turned out to be the most surprising as most of the VIPs live in the area which automatically attracts heavy deployment of police personnel.

Superintendent of police G.P. Singh, however, attributed the large number of cases to the fact that Dispur police station covers a “large area”. He said most of the police personnel deputed in the Dispur area are engaged in security duty of the VIPs.

While Dispur registered 15 cases of murder, the next highest number was nine in Basistha police station. As against 46 cases of abductions in Dispur, Jalukbari came second with 17. The number of robberies were 55, while burglaries touched an astounding 180 — the next highest were nine and 44 respectively. Other cases recorded are 281 thefts, 10 rapes and 10 dacoities.

The 1999 figures for Dispur police station shows that there were nine murders, 345 thefts, 10 rapes, 51 abductions, 43 robberies, 194 burglaries and 17 dacoities.

Singh said the decline in the number of cases show that “crime has been more or less controlled due to effective policing”. He assured more vigil from the police force to bring the crime graph down.

On law and order, city police managed to eliminate 10 militants — eight belonging to the Ulfa and two to the National Democratic Front of Boroland.

Fifty-three militants of different outfits were also arrested in the year 2000, police sources said. A large number of arms and ammunition were also recovered from the rebels.

“The killing of Bodo Sahitya Sabha president Bineswar Brahma was the only instance when militants managed to strike within the city,” the superintendent of police said. There were no cases of militant extortion within the city limits though there were “stray cases” by anti-social elements, he added.

Singh highlighted the various schemes taken by the police to improve traffic management in the city.

   


 
 
YOUNG ARTISTS DISPLAY MODERN ARTWORK 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Guwahati, Jan. 1: 
An exhibition of paintings, graphics and drawings by Prabin Kumar Nath and Aditi Chakravarty was inaugurated by noted folklorist Biren Kumar Dutta at the Earth Song art gallery here today.

A total of 35 exhibits were displayed with the majority of them done in acrylic, while the rest in crayons and silk screen.

Dutta said both artists have displayed excellent skills in their drawings and choosing the themes. “They are bright future stars for Assam,” he added. The exhibition would end on Saturday.

Fine arts graduate Prabin Kumar Nath has done exhibitions at different venues in the country, including some premier ones at the All-India Fine Arts and Craft Show in New Delhi. He has a gallery collection at the Birla Academy of Art and Culture in Calcutta. He won the state-level award at the show in New Delhi.

A government merit scholarship holder, Nath’s paintings — Man and women in the mirror, Residence on earth, Nirabatat and Yatra — attracts attention.

Aditi Chakravarty, armed with a short-term course in textile designing, specialises in prints. She has done a group show at exhibitions of contemporary print makers in Calcutta and New Delhi and a graphics exhibition at the Sankardev Kalakshetra.

A member of the Gauhati Artists’ Guild, Nath is at present involved in a scheme for involvement of designer’s in the handloom sector in the Orissa capital, Bhubaneswar.

Aditi, winner of the Artfest’97 graphics section award, has participated in many workshops in the region, including Lalit Kala Academy’s eastern zonal young painters workshop in the North Eastern Hill University in Shillong.

Aditi is also proficient in computerised paintings. She has a collection in New Delhi, Nepal, and the USA. Nath has one in Russia.

   
 

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