Hope for cancer patients in Calcutta team’s drug trials
Nirupam filter for Buddha Cabinet
BJP gesture to Mamata
Pak told to look beyond Kashmir
Husband at home, in sari at work
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, May 28: 
A team of Calcutta-based scientists and a doctor has made advances in making a drug with the potential of revolutionising cancer treatment.

Led by Prof Manju Ray of the department of biochemistry at the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS), Jadavpur, the five-member team has conducted trials on 24 patients suffering from malignancy. Most were in an advanced stage of the disease.

On administering the drug for six to eight weeks, marked improvement was noticed in 16 patients. The main advantage of the drug, the lead ingredient of which is methylglyoxal, is that it acts on cancerous cells without harming healthy cells.

The basic principles of their treatment and their findings were published last month in the Indian Journal of Physics, a respected scientific publication first brought out by C.V. Raman in 1921.

Other than Ray, the paper has been written by Swapna Ghosh of the same department, Prof. Manoj Kar of the department of biophysics, molecular biology and genetics at the University College of Science, Calcutta, Dr Santajit Datta, medical practitioner, and Prof. Subhankar Ray of the department of biochemistry, University College of Science.

Manju Ray has been conducting research for the last 17 years on the use of the drug in combination with ascorbic acid, vitamins and certain other compounds.

The anti-cancer formulation has a tumoricidal effect that inhibits the electron flow of cancerous cells. That is, it smothers the mitochondrial (mitochondria are the source of a cell’s energy) respiration of malignant cells.

“The formulation was given to patients on whom conventional anti-cancer drugs had been withdrawn after they had reached a terminal stage,” Dr Datta said. Of the patients, 11 were in “excellent physical condition”, while five were stable. “Five opted out of the study, while three died during treatment.”

Several signs were noticed in patients who responded well. “They experienced symptomatic relief, their haemoglobin levels rose, they had an appetite and gained weight and had a feeling of general well-being,” the doctor, who carried out the clinical aspects of the study, said.

The patients, both male and female with ages ranging between 32 and 78, were suffering from various forms of malignancy.

All had given informed consent before treatment. The institutional ethical committee of the IACS had approved the protocol of the treatment, while the Drug Controller General of India also had no objections to the study.

The department of science and technology and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research have provided more funds for the study to be carried out at seven other government institutions, Swapna Ghosh said. It will take at least another 18 months before the drug is released in the market.

“A collaboration is being worked out with Dabur to make the drug,” Ghosh said. With the main ingredient being imported, the price will be about Rs 1,000 a month, cheaper than most cancer drugs.


Calcutta, May 28: 
Nirupam Sen, second man in the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee ministry, will act as the funnel through which proposals of all departments will have to pass before they are placed before the Cabinet.

This new system is being put into effect from the new Cabinet’s first meeting scheduled for June 6. The mechanism marks a sharp departure from the previous practice where individual ministers used to prepare their own agenda for Cabinet meetings and submit it to the chief minister for consent. After the chief minister’s approval, the full agenda for a meeting was finalised and each minister placed his or her department’s proposal there.

From now on, Sen, in his capacity as planning and development minister, will be the single-point authority for routing proposals to the Cabinet. When a departmental subject is placed at the meeting, the minister concerned will be given a hearing.

Sen has been asked by Bhattacharjee to finalise by June 4 the subjects to be brought before the Cabinet after consulting the ministers. The new task is confirmation of the clout Sen — already designated No. 2 — will enjoy in the ministry with the blessings of the party, which is increasingly calling the shots in this government, now that it does not have to contend with Jyoti Basu’s overwhelming personality.

Under the new system every single item will have to be run through Sen. He will have to be told if a department wants to create a new post or take up a new project or re-employ anyone. The planning and development minister will submit the papers to the chief minister for consent before finalising the Cabinet agenda.

Finance minister Asim Dasgupta, whose wings have been clipped by taking away the planning and development department from his portfolio, will assist Sen in the exercise.

Sen and Dasgupta will start hearing the ministers from tomorrow. As only five working days are available to complete the exercise, sources said, the duo will hold meetings with four or more ministers at a time.

“Normally, all the departments at a time do not have an agenda for getting approval. Health, land, industry and the urban development department are among the regulars. So, it will not take much time to prepare the agenda paper for three or four departments,’’ officials said.

Earlier, the CPM leadership had instructed its ministers to submit their plans in advance to Sen with the rider that work can start only after his clearance. A senior minister, who is also a state committee member, did not agree that such moves added up to the party holding the reins on ministers.


Calcutta, May 28: 
With Mamata Banerjee keeping her options open on returning to the Central coalition, the BJP high command looks set to placate her by reining in Tapan Sikdar, Union minister and a known critic of the Trinamul Congress chief.

BJP sources said a move is afoot to entrust the soft-spoken minister of state for chemicals, Satyabrata Mukherjee, with more organisational responsibilities.

The sources said Kailashpati Mishra, who is in charge of the BJP’s Bengal affairs, had hinted at a reshuffle in the organisation set-up when he was here yesterday to review the party’s electoral reverses. Mishra met Sikdar and other party functionaries this afternoon before leaving for Delhi.

The subtle shifts within the BJP coincide with Mamata’s announcement that she would meet the Prime Minister in Delhi soon to complain about the rigging in the Assembly polls.

The Congress, Mamata’s partner in Bengal, said in Delhi that it was confident of preserving the alliance. But the Congress Working Committee today hinted at the possibility of joining hands with the Left in national politics — a stand that could strain the party’s ties with Mamata.

Despite the BJP’s reluctance to antagonise Mamata, Sikdar said today he would not bow to any pressure from Delhi.

“I will continue my tirade against Mamata, come what may,” he said, adding that he would raise his voice if attempts were made to reinduct her into the alliance.

Mukherjee, a barrister-turned-MP from Krishnagar, is known for a consensual approach. Mukherjee said from Delhi that he was chosen as consensus candidate to head the party’s Bengal unit when Sikdar stepped down in 1998 to join the Cabinet.

“I did not accept that as I was not then very adept in handling party affairs . But over the years, I have come to know how the organisation functions,” he said, claiming that the party nominees in Nadia, from where he hails, fared better than those in other districts.

A measure of Mukherjee’s growing interest in organisational issues could also be had from the manner in which he attended yesterday’s brain-storming session at Falta even as Sikdar was conspicuous by his absence.

“Joluda (as Mukherjee is called in party circles) is serious about an in-depth probe to find out the reason behind the party’s debacle in the Assembly polls,” said a party member.

The move to rein in Sikdar follows a petition from some state BJP leaders who feel that his statements against Mamata will hurt the chances of her return.

Trinamul leaders reserved comment on the possible change in equations in the BJP.

“We don’t want to comment about other parties’ internal affairs. But Sikdar’s uncalled for criticism of Mamata is being condemned by his own partymen,” said Trinamul general secretary Dinesh Trivedi.


New Delhi, May 28: 
India today made it clear that Kashmir was an “integral part of the country” and ruled out plebiscite to find a solution to the decades-old dispute.

Foreign minister Jaswant Singh also drove home the point that Pervez Musharraf was coming to Delhi on Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s invitation; therefore speculation about his proposed meeting with Hurriyat leaders here was a “non-issue” which would not be entertained.

“We are not in the game of defining the bottomline on any issue. The Prime Minister’s letter has made it clear that discussions will have to be held in the spirit of the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration with the aim of restoring peace and normalising bilateral relations,” Singh said.

The comments were a warning to Pakistan not to hype the Kashmir dispute and give it primacy over other issues as domestic pressure would then force the government to take a rigid stand. Musharraf, he stressed, should indicate the type of long-term relationship his country wanted with India. “We seek reconciliation, friendship and cooperation from Pakistan. This is our long-term policy,” Singh said. “But is Pakistan clear on what kind of a long-term relationship it wants to enter with India?”

At a news conference to clarify why Vajpayee invited the Pakistan chief executive, Singh said: “Our policy towards Pakistan is not absolutist.” The policy, he added, was reviewed from time to time to take into account the changing reality.

Singh refused to agree with Pakistan’s argument that Kashmir was the core issue of dispute which could be solved by a plebiscite. “The Indian Parliament had passed a resolution stating that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was part of India. Our stand on this remains unaltered and there is no scope in either implementing the United Nations resolution or to hold a plebiscite in the state,” he said.

Sources said the remarks were aimed at hardliners, assuring them that the invite did not imply that the nation’s interests were being bartered away.

The minister described as a “non-issue” Musharraf’s proposed meeting with Hurriyat leaders in Delhi. “Musharraf is coming here on the invitation of our Prime Minister. I don’t see how these additionalities are now being included in his visit,” he said.

But the man who had refused to shake hands with his then Pakistani counterpart, Sartaz Aziz, for Islamabad’s “great betrayal” at the height of the Kargil flare-up seemed more introspective today.

“We have to move beyond the confines of history. Unless we address the challenges of tomorrow, we will do great damage to our people,” Singh said, emphasising that the time had come for India and Pakistan to work together to fight the common curse of “poverty”.

Singh said there had been a clear shift in Pakistan’s policy of driving militants into Kashmir as firings across the Line of Control had come down considerably in the past six months.

Asked why Delhi has invited Musharraf though groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba continued to speak of jihad, Singh said: “India is talking to the government of Pakistan....”


Ambikapur (North Chhattisgarh), May 28: 
It was love at first sight. Jaya Verma was giving a patient an injection, when Tanuja Chouhan saw her for the first time. After that, there was no looking back. Love bloomed between the two women, both of them nurses here.

Then they got married.

That was a month back. At a public ceremony at Mahamaya Mandir, the couple took the traditional vows as a priest chanted the mantras. They went seven times round the sacred fire to solemnise their marriage.

Bride Jaya’s father was only too glad his daughter had found the “man” in her life; only, in this case, the “man” was a woman. Over a hundred people came to the reception.

Thirty-two-year-old Tanuja, who works as a nurse at the Sarguja District Hospital, began to wear the pants at home. Jaya (25) accepted her role of wife.

But at work, trouble started. Tanuja found she had to wear saris. So, she wrote to the health department on May 2, demanding she be allowed to wear trousers. The health department shot back a stern reply, seeking clarifications on her behaviour and asking her to behave herself.

This was her second setback. The first was when she went to the court of the upper collector’s office a week after putting sindoor on “wife” Jaya’s forehead, and wanted to legalise her “marriage”.

Marriage registrar Maninder Kaur Dwivedi was polite, but firm. He gave the couple a patient hearing and then said, sorry, these things don’t happen under Indian law.

Says Arvind Singh, the government’s advocate here: “Indian laws have no provision of marriages between the same sexes. One of the main requirements of Hindu marriage is the necessity to procreate, have children. The question of which does not arise here.”

The president of the Bar Council in the district specifies: “The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 will not recognise this as a marriage. This is illegal. However, this is not a crime.”

“What is wrong in loving a woman?” asks Jaya. “I have seen a man kill one of my sisters before my eyes. Did society save my sister then? I don’t believe in men.” One of Jaya’s elder sisters was sexually assaulted and murdered. “My parents have no problem in my marrying Tanuja. Only the men in my area are feeling the pinch,” she says.

Tanuja, too, shares Jaya’s hatred for men. “I hate men. Always have. My father left my mother when I was 15. I have had relationships with women since my school days. I have been ‘boyfriend’ to 108 girls so far. But Jaya was different. I met her on March 19 and married her on April 27.”

She recalls fondly the day she met Jaya who is a nurse at a private doctor’s chamber. She went there on some work. “It was love at first sight and we knew we were made for each other.”

Jaya now refers to Tanuja as “he”. “My parents have accepted him as the man of my life, then why shouldn’t I?” she says.

Jaya’s father, a poor tailor, had become worried when a man turned down a proposal to marry Jaya. So, when Jaya said she would marry Tanuja, he agreed readily. All of them — father, mother, brother, sister — were there for the ceremony in which Jaya’s sister was also married off.

Now, the couple lives quietly on the outskirts of the town. The landlord has no problems with the two women staying together so long as they pay rent.

But Tanuja has a mission: she wants to be a man. She is not content only wearing the pants at home. So, she plans to change her name — to Samir Singh Chouhan. She has filed an affidavit. That’s step A. Step B is more elaborate. She has talked to doctors in Mumbai and Indore. She hopes she can change her sex and be a man. For, Tanuja wants to father children.




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Minimum: 24.5°C (-2)



Relative humidity

Maximum: 98%,
Minimum: 61%


Partly cloudy sky with possibility of light rain accompanied by thunder in some parts in the evening.
Sunrise: 4.55 am
Sunset: 6.13 pm

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