Resale racket in used syringes
Picnic party car rams into bus, four killed
Weatherman signals mercury dip by weekend
Nightlong dacoities at Diamond Harbour
Doctors gather to see eye to eye
State floats loan schemes for urban jobless
Case position display boards put up in high court
Judge on trail of sun, free speech
Inter-state gang of thieves busted
Bodo outfit warns Bhutan

Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
Used syringes, empty saline bottles and other disposable material from government hospitals are finding their way back into hundreds of chemists’ shops, exposing Calcuttans to the risk of deadly diseases.

Medical officers of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) have identified one “collection centre” near Palmer Bazaar, in Tangra. Here, thousands of used disposable syringes and empty saline bottles, gathered by ragpickers from various government hospitals, are dumped and then sorted to be supplied to wholesalers every day.

A visit to this centre, close to a CMC clinic on D.C. Dey Road, revealed an ‘organised’ recycling racket. A group of five boys, under the guidance of a grey-haired veteran, was busy removing the needle and piston from the syringe. They were then arranged according to size — small, medium and large. There were some veterinary syringes thrown in as well.

Once the sorting was complete, a couple of young men, under the supervision Mohammad Aslam, took over. They bundled the syringes, the needles and the saline bottles into different gunny bags and hoisted them onto waiting rickshaw-vans. The loaded vans then headed back to the city, carrying vital medical equipment that would soon find a place on the shelves of chemists’.

“More than a thousand syringes and about 2,000 saline bottles are collected here every day. We sell them to wholesalers at Rs 5 a kg, with about 100 syringes making a kg,” said Aslam. But he refused to disclose the name or location of the wholesalers.

Irfan, who runs a similar ‘recycling’ unit at Narkeldanga, said used syringes reach his centre from the suburban areas, too. “More than a lakh used syringes are recycled every day in different parts of the city like Ultadanga, Kidderpore, Ekbalpore, Chetla, Tangra, Tiljala and Topsia,” he explained.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided to take up the issue with the chief minister, before moving the high court. “This is a very serious matter, endangering the health and lives of thousands of Calcuttans. The state health department has flouted the Green Bench directive to all government hospitals to hand over hospital wastes to the CMC,” Mukherjee said.

“The question of reselling used syringes and other medical equipment, like saline bottles, gloves and forceps, would not arise if government hospitals handed over their bio-medical wastes to the Corporation everyday, just as the private hospitals, nursing homes and pathological clinics do,” he added.

Member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), Mala Roy, said an “an old nexus” exists between a section of the Class IV staff in government hospitals and “some unscrupulous traders” in the city.

“That explains why, even after repeated reminders from the Corporation, government hospitals refuse to hand over their bio-medical wastes to the CMC for safe disposal,” she alleged.

There are 25 state and Central government-run hospitals in the city, with a total of 11,825 beds. According to civic estimates, each hospital bed generates 300g of waste a day, and so, the total bio-medical waste piling up in government hospitals over 24 hours should be no less than 1,600 kg.

A superintendent of a medical college hospital said, on condition of anonymity: “It’s unfair to blame us alone. For one, conservancy is the responsibility of the PWD, and second, the Corporation charges Rs 450 per bed for the collection. We have over 2,000 beds. How will we recover that cost?”


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
Four young men died and three others were seriously injured when an Ambassador rammed into a CSTC bus at Sikdarbazar, Falta, on Tuesday evening. While the youth were headed back to the city after a picnic, the bus was speeding towards Kakdwip.

The four revellers, all in their mid-20s, died on the spot. Police said it was a case of drunken driving. The young man at the wheel lost control and could not avoid the bus that was coming from the opposite direction.

“The young men were all drunk. They are yet to be identified, but it is apparent that they hail from well-to-do families... The injured youth have admitted that they were returning from a party where drinks had been flowing,” said Kalipada Bose, officer-in-charge of Falta police station. The injured are recuperating at Diamond Harbour Hospital.

Delhi Road mishap: In another accident in Howrah, two persons were killed and four others seriously injured early on Tuesday, when a speeding truck collided with a Trekker on Delhi Road. The victims were identified as Abul Laskar and Mohammed Sabib.

Officials of Bally police stations said the lorry, carrying two cows and three buffaloes, spun out of control and rammed into the Trekker. The injured were rushed to a nearby hospital.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
The weatherman has advised Calcuttans to brace themselves for a sharp dip in the temperature by the end of the week.

Though the minimum temperature over the past 24 hours climbed nearly three degrees, to settle at four degree Celsius above normal, a chill is likely to descend soon. On Tuesday, clouds gathered over the city and the Alipore Meteorological office recorded a “trace” of rain.

“The warm spell is due to an upper-air cyclonic circulation over eastern Madhya Pradesh. It is likely to move eastward and weaken rapidly. Under its influence, the temperature has risen by three degrees. The temperature will begin to drop as sharply as it has risen by Thursday. By the second week of January, we will have a proper feel of winter,” said R.N. Goldar, director of Alipore weather office.

Goldar added that rains lashed Delhi on Monday and light rain had been reported from Bihar and parts of north and south Bengal.

“Calcuttans waiting for winter to set in shouldn’t be disheartened,” he said.

“According to records of the past two years, the lowest temperatures have been recorded between January 7 and January 12. So, the second week of January is expected to be much colder than the first few days of the month. And the whole of winter should be quite cold,” he added.

Last winter, the coldest day was January 7, when the mercury had dipped to 10.4 degrees Celsius. In 1998-99, January 12 recorded 11.5 degrees, the lowest that season.

This winter, the mercury had dipped to 13.6 degrees and 13.4 degrees in early-December. But from mid-December, the minimum temperature has hovered around 14 and 15 degrees Celsius, one or two degrees above normal.

Met officials said that the early December’s drop had been caused by a strong high-pressure belt over Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which drove the North Wind over snow-covered Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar before hitting Calcutta.

The minimum temperature in districts like Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia had plummeted. In the first week of December, Purulia had recorded 9 degrees, Bankura 9.7 degrees and Midnapore 11.6 degrees.Darjeeling was still relatively warmer, with the minimum temperature around 9 degrees.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
Armed dacoits went on a looting spree at Maruiberia, Diamond Harbour sub-division, South 24-Parganas, in a night-long raid on Monday. They raided 45 houses and injured at least 12 people, including seven women, some of whom are in a serious condition. The dacoits escaped with about Rs 6 lakh in cash and jewellery. Villagers fled the area as soon as day broke on Tuesday, fearing further attacks.

They were incensed as no senior police officers, including the additional superintendent of police and the sub-divisional police officer, did not visit the area even 12 hours after the incident. The area falls within Jadavpur parliamentary constituency, from where Trinamul Congress candidate Krishna Basu won for the second time.

Around 12.40 am, when Maruiberia was asleep, about 60 masked youth brandishing revolvers, pipeguns and daggers, raided the house of Mujibur Mullick. They broke open the gate, entered the house and started beating up family members.

Sakina Bibi, Mujibur’s wife, said: “All of us were asleep when the dacoits asked us to open the door. They beat us with shovels and injured my 70-year-old husband. They took away about Rs 2.5 lakh in cash and jewellery”.

Rahamat Ali Mullick, another local resident, said: “ The dacoits formed three groups and surrounded Maruiberia so that no one could escape. After breaking into our house, they beat us up. They did not spare my paralysed sister Nunne Hara Bibi. When she entreated them not to beat us, they kicked her. ”

Rashid Mullick, a village schoolteacher, said: “ One of the dacoits punched me in the right eye and I started to bleed. They beat up other family members, including my wife and daughter, before escaping with all our possessions”.

Sahi Hossain Mullick of the village said: “When we asked policemen from the local outpost to shoot, they refused to do so on the excuse that the dacoits would throw bombs”.

Mukul Roy, officer-in-charge of Diamond Harbour police station, made light of the incident, claiming that only nine houses were raided and no valuables were taken. Moreover, he claimed the dacoities were committed in the houses of dacoits themselves”.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
The 59th annual conference of the All-India Ophthalmological Society, beginning in Calcutta on Thursday, will not be the only occasion when foreigners will be in the city in connection with matters relating to the eye. Unknown to many, several Americans, Europeans and West Asians, not to mention Bangladeshis, have been visiting Calcutta over the past two to three years for treatment by eye surgeons of this city.

“There has been a reverse flow of patients from outside India to Calcutta because they are getting the same treatment at a lower rate,” said Dr Divyesh Shah, consultant ophthalmologist, on the eve of the conference. For example, in refractive surgeries like LASIK, where a 20-minute process can permanently rid one of his glasses, the cost in Calcutta is Rs 25,000 for both eyes. In the US, the same process costs between $3,000 to $4,000 (approximately Rs 1.5 lakh).

“But more important is that these people from the West have confidence in the treatment facilities and doctors in India,” pointed out Shah, who himself has treated some patients from abroad.

The knowledge of this competence has spread mainly through word of mouth. Doctors in Delhi, however, are getting more patients, because they have their own web sites. “The technologies and facilities available in Calcutta match those of any other city in the world, leave alone Shankar Netralaya in Chennai and L.G. Prasad Institute in Hyderabad.”

Even then, there are still so many patients from eastern India travelling all the way for simple cataracts, retinal detachments, even to get a pair of glasses. This lack of confidence, health circles feel, has come about because of a period when the new technologies of the late ’70s and ’80s were not taken up by eye surgeons, who were content with the conventional methods they were taught in college.

But now, some of the latest technologies, like phaco-emulsification for the treatment of cataracts, where no injections, no anaesthesia and no stitches are involved, are being practised by several doctors in the city.

“The four-day meet at Science City will be very important. These technologies will be discussed at length, and attempts will be made to derive methods by which they can be taken to the rural areas,” said Shah, who is one of the joint organising secretaries.

“We will be having a full session on community ophthalmology, where ways to overcome a backlog of a million cataracts that are required to be performed in the country will be discussed.”

With about 2,500 topshot eye doctors attending, this will be the second largest ophthalmology conference in the world, after the one conducted in America. A trade exhibition, where the latest equipment from the UK, Japan and Germany, will also be held.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
Concerned at the increasing number of jobless people in the urban areas, the state government has announced a number of self-employment schemes for the unemployed youth residing in the city and the towns.

‘Atmasamman’ and ‘Atmamaryada’, schemes formulated by the youth services department, will provide a maximum of Rs 10 lakh in loans to an individual or to a group of five unemployed youth.

“We shall bear 15 per cent of the project cost. The applicants will have to arrange for 10 per cent, while the remaining amount will be provided by the bank,’’ said youth services minister Manab Mukherjee.

There would be no strict rule for selection of business, he said. Loans will be granted for manufacture of any item, trading or servicing.

The minister said the target for this year is a million loans.

The co-operative department has announced another loan scheme for the urban unemployed. In this scheme, the co-operative banks will provide financial assistance to a group comprising a minimum of six unemployed youth to start a business.

Chairman of the state co-operative bank, Ashok Banerjee, said: “Unemployed youth with proof of their unemployment and permanent address may contact us after forming a cooperative. Loans will be provided at low interest and some incentives will also be given.’’

Banerjee said ‘Self-help Group’, the most popular scheme in the rural areas, has also been introduced in the city.

The Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) has also decided to provide loan assistance to the unemployed. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, at a CMDA board meeting held recently, has asked the officials to formulate a self-employment scheme for the urban unemployed immediately.

Officials at Writers’ Buildings said the government had targeted nearly a lakh unemployed youth to bring under the self employment scheme within this financial year.

According to sources, the Left Front government attributes the loss of support among the urban youth to rising unemployment. With the Assembly elections round the corner, the government is trying to build bridges.

But Mukherjee brushed aside the suggestion. “There is no question of politics here. The number of unemployed is gradually increasing. We cannot sit idle on the matter,’’ said Mukherjee, also a former secretary of the party’s youth front, DYFI.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
A long-standing demand of the high court lawyers was met on Tuesday with the installation of electronic boards, displaying the position of cases being heard.

In the first phase, mini boards have been put up outside the entrance of each courtroom. A master board, containing information on all the cases, has been installed in the ground floor of the main building. High court sources said such master boards would be installed in every corridor of the three wings.

Calcutta High Court is the third in the country to have such boards. In Delhi and Allahabad High Courts, the boards are already in place. The facility was introduced in the Supreme Court.

The system will benefit 4,000 lawyers, their clerks and the litigants. According to an high court spokesperson, Rs 5 crore has been primarily allotted by the Union law ministry to modernise the century-old building of India’s oldest court. Also on the cards are central air-conditioning of the premises and construction of a fourth wing.

At present, the distance between the old premises and the new Centenary building is close to a km. Lawyers and litigants have to rush from one wing to another to gather information on the cases.

Members of the Bar Association, the Incorporated Law Society and the Bar Library Club were demanding the introduction of the system for years. Recently, a public interest litigation was also filed by social activist Subhas Dutta in this regard. High court sources told The Telegraph that the system will put a check on hearings being dismissed due to non-appearance of lawyers.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
He was at the races on New Year’s day but didn’t place a bet. “Lucky for me, since the the odds-on favourite horse came nowhere,” says the silver-haired man, at Bengal Club, on Tuesday. When he’s not seated in the RCTC box, he takes up position in the House of Lords. For right honourable Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead is a Lord of Appeal, one of the 12 law lords, to sit in Britain’s Upper Chamber.

Lord Nicholls is in town to deliver the second Sarkar Lecture on Wednesday. “Last year, eminent city lawyer Sudipto Sarkar sent me an invitation, which I gladly accepted... It’s bitterly cold in England now and the idea was to follow the sunshine,” he smiles.

The more immediate objective, of course, is to “hear what lawyers here have to say” on ‘political reputation and free speech’, his topic for the lecture.

“The Supreme Courts in all the Common Law countries, including India, have faced this problem in the past five years. When the then Irish Prime Minister sued The Sunday Times for defamation, we had to look at the Rajagopal versus the State of Tamil Nadu case in 1994, in which the government moved court to prevent publication of a jailed criminal’s autobiography. The question is whether proof of truth is the only defence. Increasingly, most countries are coming to a stand that publication shouldn’t be chilled, but the press must also behave responsibly.”

Lord Nicholls is all for globalisation of law. “We can’t have laws of one country entirely different from another’s. Every court stands to benefit from the experience of others,” he explains.

This is Lord Nicholls’ second visit to India — in 1991, he had toured Rajasthan and Mumbai — but first to Calcutta. “I had heard of the economic backwardness of the state, but haven’t see anything to prove that. Rather, India looks to be more prosperous now. There are definitely more cars on the streets,” he observes.

The law lord’s duty also takes him to Hong Kong, where he sits at the Court of Final Appeal as the British representative.

On Tuesday morning, he was busy chalking out his ‘discover Calcutta’ tour... “the Memorial, the cathedral, St John’s Church, Indian Museum...”.

And he’s “disappointed” to miss out on Darjeeling (“Bagdogra airport is closed, I hear”).

So, it’s destination Shimla instead, after the lecture. “My wife has done a lot of reading on the places to visit,” he smiles.


Calcutta, Dec. 2 : 
The police busted an inter-state gang that specialised in stealing gold ornaments and cash from the homes of the rich and circulating them in the national gold market. The gang leader is Dilip Khetry, and his accomplice, Narendra Agarwal, is a registered valuer of the Central Bureau of Investigation. Six persons were arrested in different areas of the city, Delhi and Bihar and several lakhs of rupees seized from their hideouts.

Police came to know about the activities of this gang after a middle-aged man, who identified himself as Kapil Mondal when he joined the service of Pawan Kejriwal, of Raja Santosh Roy Road, as a domestic help, decamped with gold ornaments and cash worth Rs 50 lakh on November 11.

Detectives found that Mondal was one of his several pseudonyms, by which he used to introduce himself while seeking jobs in rich households. Records revealed that he was wanted on theft charges in central and south Calcutta, and that he was actually Ram Prasad Gupta of Bihar. A search in his native village proved futile, but detectives found some vital leads in a diary and a few other documents in his house.

A special police team went on gathering information and raided several places in Delhi and Bihar and in Mandirbazar, in South 24-Parganas. But Ramprasad Gupta was nowhere to be found, although some of his associates fell into the police net.

Then the detectives decided to set a trap for him. Gupta was to call up one of his henchmen on Monday morning. But, by then, the police had already picked up the man. Detectives used him as a decoy and when Gupta telephoned him, the man set up a meeting in Esplanade on Monday evening. Gupta was caught unawares when he arrived for the meeting. Policemen surrounded him and took him in custody.

The man broke down during interrogation and gave out details about the rest of the gang. Detectives seized several lakhs of rupees from an accomplice, Arjun Patel, and some gold ornaments were found in the hideout of another gang member, Ashok Verma.


Guwahati, Jan. 2: 
The Bodo Liberation Tigers have “warned” Bhutan of more attacks on its people if the kingdom did not initiate steps to drive out the Ulfa and the NDFB militants from its soil “within a month”.

Official sources in Thimpu quoted a Bhutanese immigration official Sonam Dorji — who was allegedly abducted by the BLT from Assam on December 20 and released three days later — as the basis of the “threat” issued by the pro-talk Bodo outfit.

Dorji was allegedly abducted along with his official driver Tandin Dorji when they were returning from Phuntsholing in a new Toyota Hilux. The vehicle was set ablaze by the militants.

Sources said before Dorji was released, he was asked by the militant “leader” to convey to the Bhutan government that the Bhutanese nationals were being targeted for the specific purpose of warning the kingdom not to give shelter to the Ulfa and NDFB rebels. The militant leader apparently told the Bhutanese official that if the royal government did not initiate steps to evict the Ulfa and the NDFB militants from its soil within a month, more such attacks would follow.

Though the royal Bhutan embassy in Delhi admitted that it was aware of the threat, it refused to comment on the counter- measures Thimpu was contemplating. “The government is keeping tabs on the situation. That is all I can say now,’’ Thinley Penzor, councillor at the embassy, said this evening. The Bhutan government has repeatedly denied Assam government’s claims that the banned National Democratic Front of Boroland was involved in the series of violent incidents on December 20-21, which killed 14 people and injured nearly 20. Three Bhutanese vehicles were also set ablaze by the rebels.

However, the BLT categorically stated it had nothing to do with the attacks and instead saw a conspiracy hatched jointly by the Bhutan government and the NDFB to gain “unknown diplomatic mileage” out of the incidents. Additional director-general of police (operations) G.M. Srivastava also reiterated NDFB’s hand in the attacks. “There is no basis in the Bhutan government’s claims as the BLT is honouring its ceasefire agreement with the state. On the other hand, Bhutan is under tremendous pressure from the is obvious that Bhutan is blaming the BLT to appease the NDFB,’’ he added. Only a few days ago, Bhutan home secretary Dasho Pema Wangchuk expressed the kingdom’s “unwillingness” to launch military operations against the Ulfa and the NDFB rebels, fearing “serious retaliation against the Bhutanese people by the militants and their supporters”.

Wangchuk had told, The Telegraph in an exclusive interview that “the Ulfa and Bodo militants are Assamese people. Using military force against them will entail attacking and killing Assamese nationals which would create deep resentment among the people of the state towards the people of Bhutan. “If the BLT can carry out unprovoked attacks on Bhutanese nationals, using military force against the militants would certainly bring even more serious retaliation by militants and their supporters,” he had said.


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