Union axe on expansion
Infant son killed to propitiate goddess
Cops in quandary over Gabbar
Kamarpukur recreated at Belur Math
Freeze on bus, minibus permits
Boy death triggers hospital rampage
Robberies rouse parties, police
Varsity land quest
Sun power for rural phone hub
Three killed in road mishap

Calcutta, June 3: 
Wockhardt Hospitals Ltd has put on hold its ambitious multi-crore expansion plans in Calcutta and the rest of Bengal. The reason: The militant trade unionism that has rocked Wockhardt Hospital and Kidney Institute in south Calcutta.

At a time when the “Do it now” government is crying itself hoarse for increased inflow of private capital and has identified health as one of the sectors that needs immediate attention, here’s what Bengal and Calcutta stand to lose because of the week-long agitation by Trinamul-led trade unionism:

Two super-speciality hospitals;

Inflow of capital to the tune of Rs 50 crore;

Jobs for 1,100 professionals.

Bengal’s loss may well be some other states’ gain. “We plan to set up around 10 hospitals all over India,” said Sumedha Sen, general manager of the Institute. “At least two of them would have been in Bengal, one specially for women, the other for some other super-speciality.” Each project would have required an investment of around Rs 25 crore and could have employed about 550 people.

The labour trouble comes at a time when the renal centre on Rashbehari Avenue is on its way to getting the Organ Transplant Licence and draws around 2,500 patients every month, from both Maharashtra and Bangladesh, besides Bengal. The brains behind the target-Wockhardt campaign, comprising south Calcutta Trinamul leaders, had earlier targeted the joint-sector AMRI, at Dhakuria. The agitators outside the Wockhardt centre claim to owe allegiance to Trinamul leaders like MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, councillor Debashis Kumar and ex-councillor Tulsi Mukherjee.

Senior Wockhardt officials in Calcutta say their headquarters in Mumbai “cannot believe” that even the deployment of police immediately after trouble started has failed to bring about any change in the situation. Senior physicians, willing workers and patients are being threatened that they won’t be able to “come out in one piece” if they enter the hospital. Nurses are finding it difficult to attend work and are being forced to enter the Institute in ambulances, in the guise of patients. The garbage is piling up, with the Corporation’s garbage-disposal vans coming to the hospital but not being able to do much else. Sumedha Sen has been staying away from the hospital of which she is the administrative head because she does not want her presence to “aggravate” matters. Despite all this, the centre has continued to conduct operations and admit patients.

Trouble started on May 28 after the authorities, unhappy over “the quality of service”, did not renew the contracts of two contractors managing the hospital’s need for securitymen and general-duty staff. The authorities alleged that the security staff would force patients’ relatives to pay ‘tips’; slow down procedures like transfer of patients from wards to operation theatres; would get drunk in the lobby and “tease” nurses and female attendants...

But the employees’ union, which has plastered the hospital gates with demands for their re-engagement, has alleged that the authorities terminated the services of some hospital staff, transferred a few others and didn’t renew contracts “without giving any reason”.

The management, however, says nothing has been done that goes against either the letter or the spirit of law. “Which contractor we engage is our prerogative and we do not bear the responsibility of personnel engaged by the contractor,” Sen said.

The union, which has targeted patients and hospital staff alike, plans to meet both the chief minister and the mayor. The hospital management has also faxed a message to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and spoken to Subrata Mukherjee, who are both now in Delhi.


Calcutta, June 3: 
A drunken truck-driver, driven to abject poverty after losing his job, has killed his three-and-a-half-year-old son and offered him to goddess Kali to invoke divine blessings that would help him tide over his financial crisis.

The bizarre incident occurred on Sunday night in Ram Chandra Yadav’s second-floor flat of the Calcutta Port Trust quarters. Yadav, 40, slept in one room, while his wife slept in the other room with their three children.

On Saturday, Yadav finished his dinner at 9 pm and retired to his room. At around 10, he called his infant child, who was his favourite, to his room and shut the door. His wife thought the son had gone to sleep with the father.

Half an hour later, there was a loud scream and a desperate cry for help. Yadav’s wife and the other kids banged on the door, but it was bolted from inside and nobody answered. In panic, the family called in neighbours, who broke open the door and found Yadav in a trance.

The boy’s throat had been slit with a kitchen knife and the lifeless body lay in front of the father. Hands soaked in blood, Yadav murmured a mantra, sitting cross-legged and offering his son to the goddess.

Neighbours informed South Port police station immediately and Yadav was arrested. He had been living in the CPT quarters with his family for the past 10 years.

According to his wife and neighbours, Yadav was suffering from acute depression after losing his truck-driver’s job. “He was a heavy drinker and was pulled up several times by his employers for drunken driving,’’ said Hariram, a neighbour.

A jobless Yadav was finding it difficult to make both ends meet and his wife was forced to look for a job as a domestic help. “The family was almost starving,’’ Hariram added.

In sheer desperation, Yadav turned to goddess Kali for blessings to turn things around and save his family. According to relatives, Yadav had been frequenting Kali temples in Kalighat and Dakshineswar of late.

“It is possible that he got in touch with sadhus who convinced him that if he offered his favourite child to the goddess, she would shower him with blessings and fortune would smile on him again,’’ said Madhu Singh, another neighbour.

Deputy commissioner of police, port, Harmanpreet Singh, said Yadav is mentally unsound and needs treatment. “We will forward him to court tomorrow,’’ Singh said. The child’s body was sent for post-mortem and cremated later on Sunday evening.


Calcutta, June 3: 
The Calcutta and West Bengal police are at loggerheads over how to deal with crimelord Rashid Alam, alias Gabbar.

The detective department of city police is working overtime to try and get Gabbar, wanted for the murder of Sanjeev Jhulka, to surrender. This, sources said, would ensure that Gabbar would get off lightly and not disclose the identities of the senior officers in the force he is said to be close to.

The South 24-Parganas police and the CID, however, advocate a hard line. They would rather flush Gabbar out, even if that involves a showdown.

In a late-evening development on Sunday, police sources said two close associates of Gabbar had been arrested.

Gabbar is currently on the run with friends Ranvijay Rathore and Trisha Agarwal. Two of his friends, Sana Ahmed, alias Sanam, and Clive Fernandes Brookes, alias Fatman, are now in Tiljala police custody.

For the past two weeks, officers of Taltala, Tiljala, Park Street and Beniapukur police stations, the detective department, and the CID have been trying in vain to track down Gabbar.

During raids carried out over the past few days, police have seized documents which suggest that Subrata Rozario, a relative of Gabbar, who lives in a one-room apartment in Park Lane, had tried to contact a couple of senior politicians of the ruling coalition to try and work out a “good deal” for the goon.

Records available with Tiljala thana suggest that when Rozario had called one of them, Gabbar and wife Ayesha were with him in an Elliot Lane STD booth.

After Rozario sought, and gained an appointment, he landed up at the influential leader’s office along with Gabbar. They were, allegedly, accompanied with two local leaders of Salt Lake.

Sources told the police that Gabbar was given a patient hearing by the politico, but not promised any help.

Beniapukur police have sent a report to Lalbazar alleging that Gabbar was a prominent member of the victory rally of an influential CPM minister, a couple of days after the elections results were announced.

The police report mentioned that the goon even fired two shots in the air to mark the poll victory.

Gabbar, apparently, called up the minister on May 17 and sought his help to return to his Elliot Lane apartment he had been forced to leave after he crossing paths with friend-turned-foe Sona. A bitter argument between Gabbar and Sona had resulted in a split between the two goons a week before the Assembly elections. As Elliot Lane and Ripon Lane are under Sona’s ‘control’, Gabbar was forced to steer clear of the locality.


Calcutta, June 3: 
The story of how Ramakrishna’s word spread far and wide unfolds in a new museum that opened recently at Belur Math and is already drawing huge crowds. The flowering of this movement, through the Ramakrishna order of monks founded by Swami Vivekananda, is represented through a series of evocative black-and-white photographs of that period, recreations of the surroundings that formed the backdrop to the activities of the master, his consort Sarada Devi, Swamiji, and the first monks to be initiated to this order, and a display of objects used by them. The story culminates in the last section, which depicts how by 1910 the ideals of Ramakrishna were being translated into action.

The low-slung building, which houses the new Ramakrishna Museum, is set amidst a mango grove close to the entrance of Belur Math.

It is in a style reminiscent of the original Ramakrishna Math, but a simplified yet dignified version of it. The facade is painted to recreate stone cladding. A walk around its outer periphery gives visitors an idea of the glory that was India.

To the right of the entrance is a stately home of Calcutta in miniature, complete with original streetlight, water trough for horses and a carriage, all restored to perfection. As one enters, one is suddenly back in late 19th Century as one confronts a huge blow-up of the Beadon Street Star theatre where Ramakrishna witnessed Binodini in Chaitanyadeb’s role. Next to it is a smaller photograph of Rani Rashmoni’s Janbazaar palace. A replica of a palanquin adds to the authenticity.

Then one walks into sylvan surroundings of Kamarpukur where Ramakrishna grew up. Here is the Shiva temple where he first went into a trance while play-acting.

His lifestory is chronicled through alcoves which recreate his groundfloor room in Dakshineswar, Shyampukur Bati and the Cossipore house where he formed the nucleus of the movement by presenting ochre cloth to 12 people.

The various buildings and temples where Sarada Devi conducted puja are painstakingly replicated — at Goalpara, in Bangalore, at the Simhabahini temple and ‘Matrimandir’ in Jairambati and Udbodhan house in Bagbazar.

Contemporary newspaper reports of her travels have been put on display. The highlights of this section are a lifelike cut-out and Sarada Devi photographed in a bullockcart.

The journey, at last, reaches the youthful days of Swamiji at his ancestral home in the Simla neighbourhood. A tanpura and tabla and a pair of dumbbells are evidence of his interest in music and physical culture.

Then, on to Swamiji’s pilgrimage to discover the spirit of India, his encounter with Jamshedji Tata, the Chicago congress of religions, his rousing reception at Victoria House in Madras, his visits to Khetri in Rajasthan and finally Balaram Mandir where Ramakrishna Mission was established in 1897.

Inspired by him, his devotees, both monastic and lay, embark on a mission of disseminating Ramakrishna’s message, and a video presentation gives the visitor an idea of how it has taken root in India and beyond.

Besides the thrill of actually seeing some of Ramakrishna’s earthly possessions, Sarada Devi’s nose ring, the robes and shoes worn by Swamiji, his writing case and the original effects of his disciples, what really captivates viewers is the wealth of photographs. Who had taken these beautiful images? One cannot help wondering at the research that must have gone in to unearth them.


Calcutta, June 3: 
The government has stopped issuing permits to buses and minibuses for plying in and around the city, with effect from June 1, till further notice. The message has been flashed to all the regional transport offices. Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty has convened a meeting of owners and operators of buses and minibuses on June 8 to brief them about the government’s plans to ensure smooth traffic flow. According to transport department officials, the move is part of a government exercise to rearrange traffic movement in the city and enforce traffic rules.

The roads on which bus and minibus routes will be rearranged include C.I.T. Road, Arabinda Sarani, Maniktala Main Road, Ballygunge Circular Road, Rashbehari Avenue, Esplanade East and Strand Road.

“The number of commercial vehicles is increasing rapidly. Consequently, the arteries are getting choked during peak hour. We have started work on rearranging traffic movement and restructuring bus routes. Till then, no new permits will be issued,’’ said Lakshman Bhattacharya, deputy chairman of the state transport department.

Besides, several bus stops, located almost on the crossings of vital roads, will also be shifted. Nearly 4,000 buses and minibuses ply on about 200 routes in and around the city. Applications for 50 more new routes are pending in the transport department.

“A preliminary study has revealed that the number of vehicles plying on the roads is not even. We are trying to balance it,” said a transport department official. “Around 550 buses and minibuses ply through Lenin Sarani, S.N. Banerjee Road and C.R. Avenue. But the capacity of the three thoroughfares is not the same. If some buses are deflected from Lenin Sarani to C.R. Avenue, traffic movement will be much easier,” the official said. This apart, buses will also be diverted from roads that are badly damaged.

The transport department has already stopped registering any new three-wheeler from plying in the city and suburbs.

Supporting the move, president of the Bengal Bus syndicate Ajit Saha said issuing new permits should be restricted. “We want the government to reduce bus routes from the city. We won’t object if action is taken against errant drivers,” Saha said.


Durgapur, June 3: 
Incensed by the death of a child last night due to the alleged negligence of doctors, a mob today stormed Bankura Sammilani Medical College and Hospital, ransacking the emergency and children’s wards and assaulting the staff.

Police had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the 500-strong mob, which smashed telephone sets, chairs, tables, and window panes, tore up office documents and damaged medical equipment.

Health minister Suryakanta Mishra, who is in Bankura on an official visit, has sought a detailed report. The mob also gheraoed the superintendent, Dr Nikhil Sen, for more than three hours.

The trouble was triggered by the death of five-year-old Babu Bhagat last night, who lay unattended in the hospital for several hours. Babu was admitted to the hospital with a swelling in his leg around 1 pm on Saturday.

Police said the boy’s condition began to deteriorate in the evening. The house staff on duty sent the call book to visiting surgeon Biswanath Ghosh. But he did not turn up. The boy died around 11 last night.

Enraged, Babu’s uncle, Sachin Bhagat, a former Congress councillor of Bankura Municipality, gathered his supporters in the morning and went on a rampage in the hospital.

As news spread, local CPM leaders rushed to the spot and tried to pacify the irate mob. But they failed, and the police was informed.

A large police contingent, led by senior officials, rushed to the spot. Officials requested restraint and tried to reason with the youths and asked them to withdraw. But their pleas fell on deaf ears.

Subsequently, the police charged the mob with batons. As lathi-wielding policemen chased the crowd, they ran helter skelter, sparking a near stampede. Several in the mob were injured in the melee. District superintendent of police Basudeb Bag said no arrests were made.

Babu’s sudden death has left his mother, Jayanti, numb with shock. “We repeatedly requested the attending nurses and housestaff with folded hands to arrange for treatment for my son without wasting any time. But all our appeals fell on deaf ears. Nobody heard us out,” she sobbed.

Babu’s uncle Sachin said he has never seen such an inhuman attitude towards a sick child. “I don’t know why the visiting surgeon did not turn up. I would not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. Babu was lying on the bed writhing in pain and the visiting surgeon just ignored the call placed to him,” he added.

Newly-elected Trinamul Congress MLA Kashinath Mishra wondered why the health minister did not visit the hospital and see for himself what had gone wrong with the healthcare system in the state even though he was present in Bankura town.

Mishra, who defeated former health minister Partha De in the just-concluded elections, added: “The present health minister’s indifference to today’s incident has once again proved how cosmetic chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s call for restoring work culture is.”

The hospital superintendent later told reporters that an inquiry has been ordered into the child’s death. “If the doctor is found guilty, he will definitely be punished,” he assured.


Midnapore, June 3: 
The Congress, Trinamul Congress and the SUCI have jointly called a dawn-to-dusk bandh in Contai on Wednesday in protest against the robbery spree in the town.

Two dacoities on Sunday evening took the number of raids in areas under the Contai police station to 13 in the past 15 days.

Superintendent of police (Midnapore) A.K. Maliwal has summoned the officer-in-charge of the Contai police station to his office on Monday and sent additional superintendent of police (Tamluk) to take charge of Contai town.

A worried police administration has despatched a contingent of 200 police personnel along with eight vehicles to Contai to boost policing, including round-the-clock patrolling and combing operations.

In the string of robberies, one person has been killed and a police officer injured so far.

Local MLA and chairman of Contai municipality Sisir Adhikary blamed the sudden spurt in dacoities in the area on police inaction.

The daring raids only strengthen his charge. In a move reminiscent of the stories of famous dacoits roving in medieval Bengal, a gang leader sent a notice a day in advance to the owner of a house, indicating his intention to come calling on Saturday.

On receiving the threat, the landlord contacted the police. Armed police officers were posted in the house from Friday night.

The dacoits kept their word and brazenly raided the guarded house on Saturday night. They shot at a woman in the house and sub-inspector Sk. Sabidullah before escaping with the loot. The injured are recuperating in hospital.

A truck driver was shot dead when robbers struck at the house of a teacher in Dandighi on May 22. A Calcutta-bound tourist bus was also looted that night.

Blast death

A 20-year-old youth was killed when a group of miscreants hurled bombs at him at Jagaddal in North 24-Parganas on Sunday. The youth succumbed to his injuries on the way to hospital. Police suspect rivalry between two gangs led to the incident. No one has been arrested.    

Burdwan, June 3: 
Burdwan University and three schools are set to reclaim land worth Rs 2 crore donated by a zamindar to them, which was sold by the executor of the will to others.

The issue has taken a twist as the will’s executor has died. However, Burdwan University, Bolpur Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Suri Ramakrishna Mission and Bolpur High School have decided to initiate moves to get back the land.

Bolpur landlord Bholanath Ray had donated more than 5611 chhataks of land spread over Burdwan and Bolpur in Birbhum in February 1967. He made Sudhir Chandra Konar, government pleader in the Burdwan court, the executor of his will. Konar, however, sold most of the property to others.

The fact that the land belonged to the university and the schools came to light in March. Burdwan University staff brought it to the notice of registrar Milan Chatterjee, who then told vice-chancellor Amit Mallick.

A probe was ordered and land reforms offices in Burdwan and Bolpur contacted. The original will was retrieved, which stated that Ray had donated the land to the education centres.

The land will be recovered and used for the “development of the university”, Mallick said. He has convened a joint meeting with the three schools on June 22 to discuss moves to reclaim the land.


Khejuri (Midnapore), June 3: 
The state’s first solar-powered telephone exchange has been functioning in Khejuri since May 16.

Made from discarded solar panels, which were used to power village telephones, this system makes a connection from the electricity board redundant.

Khejuri, which as recently in news for political violence, has had to do without phones till the solar-powered project came up.

“The brainchild of two officials, B.N. Gayen and R.P. Guchhait, the success of this project has now opened up immense possibilities before us,” said deputy general manager (Midnapore) Srikanta Pal.

The solar panels had become made redundant once underground cables were introduced in remote villages. “Disposing of them was proving to be difficult,” said Gayen. “It was then that we thought of this project which didn’t need any budgetary allocation.” Guchhait said the new exchange will serve villages within a five-km radius.

Pal said the department can open similar exchanges in areas where the voltage is low or where there are voltage fluctuations. The exchange will initially help the telecom department to serve 184 subscribers. “This capacity can be increased if the situation demands,” Pal added.


Burdwan, June 3: 
Three persons were killed in a mishap on G.T. Road near the Shaktigarh level crossing this evening.

Police said the incident took place when the trio on a motorcycle was trying to overtake a truck. The two-wheeler skidded off the road and the three youths were crushed by the truck. All three died on the spot.

As news of the accident spread, residents put up a road block in protest against rash driving by heavy vehicles. Traffic was thrown out of gear for over an hour from 7.30 pm. The blockade was lifted after senior police officials intervened.


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