Restored links ring in death news
‘House of cards’ fears allayed
Mayhem after hospital death
Shah sermon on peace and progress
Indian Airlines reshuffles schedule
Private training centre for nurses at JU
Art from waste adds new dimension to life
RBI move hits border trade
Stage set for five-day literary meet
Nod for tetanus vaccine

 
 
RESTORED LINKS RING IN DEATH NEWS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Monday was a day of mourning for the Gujarati community in Calcutta, with communication lines to Bhuj slowly being restored. Every time the phone rang in the 15,000-plus Gujarati homes in the city, it seemed to bring a message of death that deepened the mood of despair. “For three days after the earthquake, there was practically no news from the worst-hit areas. It’s started trickling in from Monday morning, but the only news we are getting... is tragic,” said Heena Gorsia, honorary secretary of the Bhawanipur Gujarati Education Society.

A pall of gloom descended as word reached the Society about one of its members, an elderly lady with a house in Bhuj. She had left the city last week to vacate and sell the house. It has been reduced to rubble, with the elderly lady and her tenants buried under the debris.

Members of the Society met at 11 am on Monday to take stock of the situation. A core committee was formed to monitor relief operations. In a faxed message to the Society, Governor Viren J. Shah urged members to collect milk, food, medicines and blankets, to be sent to quake victims.

Condolence meetings were held at a number of places throughout the day as members of the community flocked together in their hour of grief. There was a large gathering at the Swaminarayan Temple.

“My aunt was trapped under the rubble after the entire building caved in... She probably died of suffocation,” whispered Dr Bhartendu Madheka, during a silent prayer meeting. “My cousin, who had come to a nearby telephone booth to call us, survived the earthquake.”

A five-member team headed by Dinesh Trivedi, on behalf of the Gujarati Samaj, left for Ahmedabad on Monday to “do what they can” and “bring back some news”. Ravindra Vaghani, president of the Gujarati Relief Society said: “From what we have learnt, residents of just one colony in Bhuj seem to have survived the quake. We sent some volunteers with relief material, which they handed over to the army.”

The Rajiv Gandhi Memorial Society, along with sister concern Esho Academy, held a relief collection rally from Bhowanipore to Gariahat on Monday morning. Organisations like the Ramakrishna Mission, Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Swaminarayan Mandir and the Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team are all rushing relief teams to Gujarat. “Our trucks, carrying blankets, tea, tarpaulin, hessian and clothes, will start from Calcutta on Wednesday,” said Swami Divyamurti Das of Swaminarayan Temple.

Meanwhile, South Eastern Railway has made arrangements, including mobile medical vans, doctors, nurses and ambulances, for quake victims reaching Howrah station early on Tuesday by the 8033 Down Ahmedabad-Howrah Express. According to a spokesperson, about 64 passengers “with serious injuries” are on board.

Indian Airlines and Alliance Air have decided to carry relief material free to Gujarat.

The Indian Medical Association of West Bengal has decided to despatch a team of 200 doctors and paramedics “by this weekend”.

“We have contacted all 145 branches of the IMA in the state and have told them to collect as much funds, medicine as they can,” said Dr Subir Ganguly, president of the West Bengal branch at the end of a special meeting on Monday.

“We are putting together a team of orthopaedists, anaesthetists, surgeons and trauma care specialists trained in casualty management,” Dr Sudipto Roy, president of the IMA’s Calcutta branch, the largest in the country.

   

 
 
‘HOUSE OF CARDS’ FEARS ALLAYED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Not only is Calcutta located in Seismic Zone 4, less prone to earthquakes, its buildings too are better equipped to handle shocks, feel city developers and engineers.

“The last 10 years have seen a marked improvement in the quality of construction in the city, with more stringent norms. Most of the buildings, post-Kundalia, follow the guidelines set by the Indian Standard Code of Practice and a Gujarat-kind of collapse is completely ruled out,” says Asim Das, a senior structural engineer.

Buildings are structured after analysing two aspects — the static load and the dynamic load, which, again, consists of wind and seismic load. According to the IS Code, a building has to be designed, factoring in the static load and either of the two dynamic load factors. Analyses of seismic and wind factors lead to the ‘base shear value’ which must be taken into account.

“In Calcutta, we have noticed that up to 18 metres (or for a six-storeyed building), the wind pressure is more prominent, beyond which the seismic factor comes into play. Since most of the buildings fall within this category, large sections of the city are protected against quakes,” says Das.

But, will the Chatterjee Internationals of the city fall like nine pins in case of a high-intensity quake? “That’s most unlikely, since all tall structures of the city go for deep pile foundation and shear walls, built-in reinforcements to protect against dynamic factors,” says a senior engineer.

Another built-in safety valve here is the soil type, feels Rahul Saraf of The Saraf Group. “We are in the delta region and even for a seven-storeyed building, suitable soil is found only 20 metres beneath the surface. That means deeper foundations and an automatic protection,” he says.

   

 
 
MAYHEM AFTER HOSPITAL DEATH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Barely a week after a group of people ransacked Calcutta Medical Research Institute, another mob went on the rampage at Chittaranjan Seva Sadan, in Bhowanipore, on Monday, to protest the death of a 24-year-old woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy. The mob, along with the dead woman’s relatives, charged the doctors with negligence and ransacked the ground floor of Birla Ward.

As news of the violence spread, doctors and nurses panicked and fled the building. Operations were suspended for few hours and there was no one to attend to patients.

Calcutta Medical Research Institute was the scene of mob violence on January 22, when a group of Trinamul Congress supporters ransacked the property to protest “an assault” on party councillor Rubi Dutta.

Bobita Chakroborty, a resident of Kasba, was admitted to Chittaranjan Seva Sadan with labour pains late on Sunday night. The attending doctors shifted her to the second floor. The hospital staff refused to allow her relatives to go with her.

Tension started simmering when the relatives failed to get any information about their patient’s condition. Subodh Chakroborty, one of them, alleged that the staff on duty behaved badly with them. “Bobita was admitted in a critical condition. After her admission, we repeatedly requested the staff to tell us how she was. But they kept refusing us information, and even told us to vacate the corridor,” he said.

Apurba Som Chowdhury, officer-in-charge of Bhowanipore police station, said the cops were called in after a scuffle broke out among the relatives and the staff.

“We rushed to the spot, brought the situation under control and took the relatives up to the second floor to visit their patient,” Chowdhury added.

The situation spun out of control after the doctors declared Bobita dead. “They only told us that Bobita died of a cardiac failure while in labour. We don’t believe them. The doctors and staff are to blame for her death. At the time of admission, Bobita was screaming with pain, but the doctors did not pay the minimum attention to her,” said Anirban Bhattacharya, another relative.

Soon, bystanders and local residents, drawn by the noise of the altercation, joined the fracas. The mob stormed into the ground-floor corridor, broke glass panes and damaged office furniture.

Treatment and operations at the hospital were suspended till Monday evening.

A number of people had queued up at Birla Ward since Sunday night. “I have been waiting here from Sunday night to know my wife’s condition. But I have not been told a single word about her by the hospital staff in past 16 hours. I don’t even know whether she is alive or not,” said Ratan Jana.

There were several complaints about the set-up from others too. Kanu Dey, of Mahamayatala, said: “I admitted my wife here four years ago on her first pregnancy. The staff were better behaved and the facilities were far superior to any other private nursing home. But this time, my experience has been harrowing. My wife is here again for her second pregnancy. But now, I find there is no one to care for those in labour. Instead, I see the staff on duty slapping the patients and shouting at them to keep silent. Is this any behaviour to expect from hospital staff?” he asked.

   

 
 
SHAH SERMON ON PEACE AND PROGRESS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Governor Viren J. Shah has lauded the role of the Ramakrishna Mission monks in earthquake-ravaged Gujarat. “The Mission’s own building has been demolished and many of their monks have been injured. But that hasn’t stopped them from working day and night to provide food, medicine and blankets to the quake-hit,’’ Shah said, addressing a gathering to mark the 63rd anniversary of Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, at Gol Park, on Monday.

Kapila Vatsayan, president of the India International Centre, delivered the foundation-day oration. Swami Prabhananda, secretary of the Institute, and Justice (retd) A.N. Roy were among those present at the function.

The Governor, who is also president of the Institute, praised the Mission for extending support to “rescue and relief operations during any natural calamity”. He then asked the monks to continue playing a crucial part in nation-building.

Shah also urged the “new generation” to follow the examples of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda and the teachings of Chaitanyadev, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammad. “Their message of peace and progress is eternal. They must inspire the youth... It is unfortunate that all over the world, there is infighting among people. We all have a collective responsibility to take the initiative for maintaining peace and harmony,’’ Shah said.

Vatsayan, in her address, described the rich heritage of Indian art, culture, religion and language. Narrating the philosophy of Indian history, she urged “everyone” to maintain the “Indian heritage of unity and integrity”.

Swami Prabhananda described the various activities of the Institute in the past year, which included hosting seminars, workshops on art and literature, and an orientation course in Sanskrit.

Earlier, Anjana Shah, wife of the Governor, inaugurated an exhibition of paintings on Ma Sarada at the Institute.

   

 
 
INDIAN AIRLINES RESHUFFLES SCHEDULE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Indian Airlines has made the following changes in its schedule, effective from January 30, 2001, in the domestic and international sectors:

The daily Flight IC-771 will leave Calcutta at 7.05 pm and reach Bangalore at 9.30 pm, while IC-772 will arrive in Calcutta at 11.25 am. Flight IC-766 will leave Chennai at 8.30 pm and reach Calcutta at 10.35 pm daily. Flight IC-274 will leave Mumbai at 4 pm and reach Calcutta at 6.25 pm daily.

On Fridays, Flight IC-727 (Calcutta-Yangon-Bangkok-Calcutta) will leave Calcutta at 12.30 pm. The return flight will arrive at 7.30 pm. On Wednesdays, Flight IC-723 (Calcutta-Dhaka-Calcutta) will leave Calcutta at 8 pm. Flight IC-724 will arrive in Calcutta at 10.30 pm. Flight IC-713 to Imphal will leave Calcutta at 10.50 am on Sundays. The return flight will arrive at 1.40 pm.

Flight IC-701 will leave Calcutta at 12.15 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Flight IC-702 will leave Dibrugarh at 2.25 pm and arrive in Calcutta at 3.55 pm.

On Mondays, Flight IC-743 will leave Calcutta at 12.15 am and reach Agartala at 1.05 pm, while Flight IC-744 will leave Agartala at 1.45 pm and arrive at 2.35 pm. The flight will leave Calcutta at 10.45 am on Thursdays.

On Saturdays, Flight IC-721 will leave Calcutta at 12.15 pm and reach Bagdogra at 1.10pm. Flight IC-722 will leave Bagdogra at 1.50 pm and arrive at 2.45 pm.

The schedule for Alliance Air flights CD-7257 and CD-7215 has been changed till February 10 due to runway repairs and non-availability of landing aids at Dimapur airport. Flight CD-7257 will operate on the Calcutta-Jorhat-Calcutta sector without touching Dimapur on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Flight CD-7257 will leave Calcutta at 10.15 am and reach Jorhat at 11.35 am. The return flight will leave Jorhat at 12.05pm and reach at 1.25 pm.

Flight CD-7215 will operate on the Calcutta-Tezpur-Jorhat-Calcutta sector on Thursdays and Sundays. It will leave Calcutta at 9.45 am, to reach Tezpur at 11am, and leave Tezpur at 11.30 am to reach Jorhat at 11.55 am. The return flight will leave Jorhat at 12.25 pm and reach Calcutta at 1.45 pm.

Passengers with bookings for flights from Calcutta to Dimapur or vice versa will have the option of travelling from Calcutta to Jorhat or the way back with the same tickets.

   

 
 
PRIVATE TRAINING CENTRE FOR NURSES AT JU 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Come January 2002, the city will have a private autonomous nursing training institute, launched at the joint initiative of Jadavpur University, Cancer Centre Welfare Home and Research Institute, Thakurpukur, and South Eastern Railway. The institute will also have a girls’ hostel with 20 seats for outstation students.

For admission to the two-and-half-year course at the institute, students will have to sit for an entrance examination conducted by the Adult Continuing Education and Extension Centre of Jadavpur University.

Those passing the written test will be called for an interview. The tuition fees have been pegged at Rs. 30,000, excluding hostel and other charges.

“We will announce the date for the entrance examination as soon as our school building, which is nearing completion, is ready,” said Bappaditya Ray, an institute spokesperson.

The institute has decided to go for a tie-up with SER to provide “multi-disciplinary training” to students. “We will offer a special training to handle cancer patients. Students will receive training in other disciplines at the South Eastern Railway Hospital in Garden Reach,” Ray added.

Even though this course is not recognised by the Indian Nursing Council, the authorities are optimistic that it will generate a lot of interest among the private nursing homes. Dr Saroj Gupta, the director of the Thakurpukur Cancer Research Institute, said: “The demand for trained nurses is very high and already many reputed city nursing homes have expressed willingness to recruit our students.”

The institute had earlier tried to launch a similar course, under the Indian Nursing Council, five years ago. But the course produced a single batch of about 15 students, before being discontinued.

According to Ashok Bhattacharyya, director of Adult Continuing Education and Extension Centre, the course is on par with that offered by the Indian Nursing Council.

“We are still working on the syllabus. But this course will be more career-oriented and more specialised than that offered by the nursing council”, he added.

The Cancer Research Institute, Thakurpukur, already runs a separate nursing course for attending to cancer patients and it has not yet been decided whether that course will be discontinued. “Maybe we will run the two courses simultaneously, as the latter is only an in-house training,” said Dr Satyabrata Chatterjee, the medical administrator of the institute.

“The entrance examination for the first batch of students will be held in June 2001. All girl students, who have passed Plus II in the science stream, with biology as their optional or main subject, are eligible to take the examination. Girl students of West Bengal, who fit the above criteria and are unmarried or widowed, will be allowed to take the examination,” Dr Chatterjee added.

   

 
 
ART FROM WASTE ADDS NEW DIMENSION TO LIFE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Jan. 29: 
Waste not, want not. Driven by that maxim, and striving to “use every resource judiciously” to make “home a little more interesting place to come back to”, the makers of Udayan, The Condoville, had introduced art in architecture through ‘Dimensions’ — a series of sculptures made from waste building materials.

These works of art, punctuating the open green spaces, form one of the most striking aspects of the housing complex so meticulously designed by Balkrishna Doshi of Vastu Shilpa Foundation, Ahmedabad, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

Eight aspiring sculptors from Kala Bhavan, Santiniketan, were thrown a challenge by Bengal Ambuja Housing Development, a joint-sector enterprise between the West Bengal Housing Board and Gujarat Ambuja Cements Limited.

“We told them to restrict their medium to waste building materials found at the site. Not only did the young artists accept our challenge, the medium actually added a whole new dimension to their work. These works of public art create natural meeting points, inspire conversation,” says Harshavardhan Neotia, managing director of Bengal Ambuja Housing Development Ltd.

Under the able guidance of Prof Sushen Ghosh, head of the department of sculpture at Kala Bhavan, these artists strove to create “a neighbourhood in the truest terms” through aesthetically-pleasing images.

Ajit Leuki’s Family of Trees, made of bricks, cement, pigment, stone chips, iron rods and sheets, is inspired by rural Bengal. It’s a portrayal of family life that Udayan promises its residents. Amit Dhara’s Running Schoolgirl, using just concrete, portrays “the spontaneity of a child running to school. “It’s about speed, movement, energy —- the many eccentricities of a child,” says the sculptor.

“The transposition of these works of art in the context of The Condoville makes for interesting breaks in geometry. Unexpected nooks and corners help create a sense of release,” explains Doshi, the architect.

Another striking creation is The Royal Ride by Indra, inspired by the famous Tagore song Aamra Sabai Raja... Built with concrete and multi-coloured tiles, it’s about a family which “lives gracefully, despite ups and downs... like kings”.

Rajesh Bhattacharya’s Chali Niyam Mene doesn’t have a front or a back, a beginning or an end. He prefers to swim against the tide, both in life and work. For non-conformist Rajesh, it’s a “lone voice standing up against the conciliatory masses”.

While there are other pieces like Salil Sahani’s The Great Throne and Borhan Hanshda’s Existence Suspended,/i> the most visible sculpture is Shyama Pada Kesh’s Mother and Child.

Made from concrete and iron rods, Kesh’s work attempts to “encapsulate the beauty of this relationship... the love, the inter-dependence” and has almost become the signature tune of the complex.

   

 
 
RBI MOVE HITS BORDER TRADE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Jan. 29: 
Border trade between Tripura and Bangladesh has been affected by the recent shifting of the foreign exchange centres from State Bank of India branches at Agartala and Dharmanagar in the state to Shillong in Meghalaya.

These were the only two foreign exchange centres for passport-holding tourists as well as businessmen. According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI) norms, bank branches categorised as “grade A” with annual transaction of Rs 20 crore can operate as foreign exchange centres for deposit or withdrawal.

The permission to the SBI’s Agartala and Dharmanagar branches for foreign transaction was withdrawn in November last year after the two branches failed to achieve the stipulated volume of business.

However, following protests from the government as well as the Tripura Chamber of Commerce (TCC), RBI authorities allowed the Tripura branches to handle foreign exchange for tourists only. The transaction centres for business purposes were shifted to the Meghalaya capital.

Commerce chamber secretary Makhan Lal Debnath said the closing down of the centres has come as a big blow to the thriving border trade.

Businessmen now need to travel all the way to Shillong, he said. The link through the Assam-Agartala national highway was vulnerable to militant attacks, he added, saying these have proved to be the stumbling blocks, he said.

Debnath said it was imperative to restore the foreign exchange status to the two branches since bus service from Agartala and Dhaka would begin soon.

Debnath recently led a business delegation to Dhaka and held discussions with chairperson of the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation Mohammed Ajmol Chowdhury.

He said the Bangladeshi authorities were speeding up measures to start the bus service. He also said repairing and extension work on the road connecting a checkpost in Agartala and Akhaura rail station near Bangladesh were going full steam. All encroachers have been removed from near the road. Besides, ongoing construction of a major bridge across Meghna river was expected to be completed in a year.

The Bangladesh government has already finalised the timings of the bus service. Only formal declaration was needed to begin the service, he said.

Debnath said the external affairs ministry had taken up with the Bangladesh government the issue of multiple entry and exit visa for the people of Tripura. The Bangladesh government was considering the proposal sympathetically, he added.

   

 
 
STAGE SET FOR FIVE-DAY LITERARY MEET 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jorhat, Jan. 29: 
With barely a week to go, hectic preparations are on to celebrate the 66th annual session of the Asam Sahitya Sabha at Sahityarathi Kshetra in the Upper Assam tea town of Dibrugarh. Organisers are leaving no stone unturned for the mega five-day literary event scheduled to be held from February 7 to 11 on 450 bighas of land.

Journalist and litterateur Homen Borgohain will preside over the session, the theme for which will be “Unity in diversity. Preparations are almost complete... only the finishing touches are being given,” general secretary of the Asam Sahitya Sabha Basanta Kumar Goswami told The Telegraph at the sabha headquarters here.

Three stages will be set up along with the main pandal, measuring 80 feet by 60 feet. The pandal has been constructed at a cost of Rs 18 lakh and has a seating capacity of 15,000.

The construction work for the book fair, exhibition and commercial complex have also picked up over the past few days.

The government departments have also geared up for the smooth conduct of the event. Two 250 kva transformers and 150 electricity posts have been installed by the ASEB for lighting up the Sahityarathi Kshetra.

The uniqueness of this year’s session will be a “Sanghati Sanmilan” (integration meet) in which noted intellectuals from the northeastern region will participate, Goswami said. “Problems of different tribal groups will be discussed at the Sanghati Sanmilan,” Goswami said.

A seminar along with some other programmes will be held on the day, featuring the culmination of diverse ethnic cultures of the northeastern region. The presidents and general secretaries of various tribal sahitya sabhas will participate in the meet.

Goswami said the Saharia charitable trust had donated a bhavan and land worth Rs 2 crore at Sivasagar. The bhavan twill be permanently named Sanghati Bhavan, he added.

Among other features of the millennium’s first session will be seating arrangements for dignitaries on the dais.

“Arrangements are being made so that nearly 200 dignitaries can sit together on the dais,” Goswami said.

This year’s session will also give special importance to the tea tribe. “A book written by writers of tea garden community will be released during the session. It will have details on the tea community,” Goswami said. The sabha will have three sessions.

The first open session will be inaugurated by noted litterateur of Arunachal Pradesh Lummer Dai. William L. Smith, professor of oriental studies at the University of Oslo, will be the chief guest. The conference will be presided over by Jugendranath Phukhan.

   

 
 
NOD FOR TETANUS VACCINE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, Jan. 29: 
The Pasteur Institute, which has been manufacturing anti-rabies vaccines for the past 84 years, has now decided to diversify and go for commercial production of tetanus vaccines.

The heritage research institute was set up in the memory of King Edward VII. People of erstwhile Eastern Bengal and Assam had donated for setting up the centre and the foundation stone was laid on November 4, 1915, by Sir Archdale Earle, then chief commissioner of Assam.

Director of health services (research) B. Garod, who is in charge of the oldest institute of its kind in the Northeast, said commercial production of the “absorbed type” of tetanus vaccines to meet the requirement of the eight states of the region, would soon commence.

The institute was granted permission for commercial production by the Central Drug Laboratory of the Central Research Institute, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, in September last year.

“Once we get to know the exact demand of our new product, we will start production,” Garod said. The institute had the infrastructure to produce 60,000 doses of the vaccine in one batch, she added. She said the price of the tetanus vaccine had not been finalised yet.

The decision to produce tetanus vaccines was taken following the high demand. “At present, the vaccine is being procured from the Central Research Institute,” she said.

The vaccine is one of the most commonly used ones, whether in cases of cuts, wounds, or dog bites. Doctors also prescribed tetanus vaccines to expecting women, she added. Garod said she was optimistic that the new product would also be a successful venture like the anti-rabies vaccine.

She said the institute catered to demands from far-flung areas including New Delhi. The anti-rabies vaccine was also cheap at Rs 155 for 30 ml vial of the preventive medicine, she added.

   
 

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