Talent test to dupe drama
8-year-old battles rarest of diseases
Farce furore over Net delay
Sons push landmark store to the brink
Bangla border bleeds in revenge strike
Govt seeks jute violence report
Minister hope for hospital health
Jangipara on bandh alert
Retrenched worker throttles daughter
Crumbling wall crushes 13-year-old

 
 
TALENT TEST TO DUPE DRAMA 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 8: 
What was hyped as a mega mathematics talent hunt descended into a dupe drama on Sunday. From Ballygunge to Lower Circular Road, from Howrah to Salt Lake, 150,000 students and their parents fell prey to a colossal scam.

A lakh and a half students had studied for the past few weeks to earn a “scholarship” that would have taken care of their school fees and more. But they returned home, cheated of the “entrance fees” they had to pay for appearing in the “talent hunt” and also of the midnight oil they burnt.

The promise: The first 100 in the talent hunt — a three-hour 100-mark paper — would get a monthly scholarship till they finished school; Rs 1,000 for students of Classes I to IX, and Rs 800 for students of Classes X to XII, plus free research facilities for those passing out of Class XII this year.

The entry fee: Rs 65 for students of Classes I to IV, and Rs 115 for students of Classes V to XII. The windfall for the organisers, the ‘Institute of Fundamental Mathematics Research’ — well over a crore, considering the number of examinees.

The brilliance of the scam lay in its implementation, say police, who turned up at schools all over the city to pacify guardians and students. The swindlers inserted advertisements in newspapers a few months ago, identifying schools like South Point, La Martiniere for Boys and Bidhannagar Kendriya Vidyalaya as the exam centres. That was their only investment, say the police.

On Sunday, examinees and their guardians first turned up at the gates of the schools mentioned, as well as a few others in Joka and Howrah. Then, their ordeal began.

Those who turned up at South Point saw a notice intimating them of a shift of venue to Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Those who turned up at La Martiniere for Boys and Kendriya Vidyalaya were made to sit down and were given answer-sheets. But the question papers never arrived.

Impromptu demonstrations were held at the schools. Guardians at South Point, La Martiniere and Kendriya Vidyalaya charged the swindlers with “criminal offence.” Angry guardians, many of whom had left home with their children early in the morning, accused the police of being hand-in-glove with the swindlers.

The office of the Institute of Fundamental Mathematics Research, on the ground floor of a double-storeyed building at AE-380, Salt Lake, remained locked throughout the day. The Institute chairman’s mobile and residential phones went unanswered throughout the day.

Police said cases against the institute were registered with Shakespeare Sarani and Bidhannagar North police stations.

A woman, who claimed to have been engaged by the institute to bring question papers to Bidhannagar Kendriya Vidyalaya, was detained by police.

“She told us she didn’t get the papers and, therefore, failed to turn up,” said Prabir Das, officer-in-charge of Bidhannagar North police station.

   

 
 
8-YEAR-OLD BATTLES RAREST OF DISEASES 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 8: 
For the first few days, Yasmin found it difficult to move her tongue. Then, swallowing food became a pain. Within a few weeks, ‘incomplete’ paralysis of her right upper arm followed. Six months later, her left arm, too, was affected.

Not until June 2000 was it detected that eight-year-old Yasmin Mahmood was suffering from “Moya Moya,” one of the rarest diseases in the world. It is caused when the internal “carotid artery,” which supplies blood to the brain, gets blocked for reasons not yet clear to doctors worldwide. “To date, doctors have failed to provide a satisfactory explanation about the reasons behind the blockage,” says paediatrician and senior registrar of AMRI-Apollo Hospitals, Dr Jayati Sengupta, where Yasmin underwent treatment for several weeks.

The artery block causes acute stroke in childhood, followed by paralysis. Then a series of vessels (collaterals) forms in the artery. Bypassing the block, these collaterals help carry blood to the brain, said Dr Sengupta. The patient then shows some sign of improvement, but soon suffers a series of strokes, when other branches of the carotid artery get blocked as well.

Moya Moya, or “smoke-like” in Japanese, got its name when the first-ever photograph of the collaterals appeared like smoke, gushing out of the affected artery.

Yasmin’s parents had no idea what their daughter was suffering from when they admitted her to hospital on June 27, 2000. By then, Yasmin couldn’t speak at all. Two acute strokes and a convulsion had damaged her facial nerves. She was suffering from intermittent fever, and found it impossible to swallow even liquids.

A barrage of tests was conducted but Yasmin’s condition was deteriorating and the doctors were undecided. Dr Sengupta decided to go for a CT scan. The scan showed that the cells on the left side of the patient’s brain were destroyed due to lack of adequate blood supply.

An MRI angiography showed a block in the middle and posterior cerebral region, with the formation of a leash of collaterals. “At last we understood she was one of those rare Moya Moya patients,” Dr Sengupta said.

The next month, medicinal treatment and physiotherapy followed. After some time, Yasmin, could utter a few syllables. Among other medicines, doctors treated her with Aspirin to prevent thrombosis and convulsion.

After a month in hospital, Yasmin returned home. She could now move her hands and swallow food to a certain extent. Soon, she went to school.

Last month, she left for her ancestral home in Birbhum. “She was in terrible shape when we took her to hospital. She is better now,” one of Yasmin’s relatives said. The patient’s condition is monitored regularly by doctors, and she is recovering slowly.

   

 
 
FARCE FURORE OVER NET DELAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 8: 
Results delayed are results denied. That seems to be the slogan of Higher Secondary examinees, protesting the “farce” of posting results on the Internet “after” the marksheets had reached the schools last Thursday.

The Higher Secondary Council had gone to town, announcing the addresses of the websites in the run-up to D-Day. “We all, naturally, thought that we would be getting the results on the Net first thing on Thursday morning. So, many of us either camped at friends’ places where there were computers or crowded cybercafes trying desperately to log in for the results. But no information was available on the Net till 11.30 am. But by then, the schools had already got the marksheets. There was no point in putting the results on the Net at all,” said a student of Rani Birla College.

“The other Boards, like CBSE and ICSE, post the results on the Net sharp at 12 midnight. Even the Madhyamik Board had managed to get the results on the Net the day before the marksheets reached the schools. We had never imagined that the results would actually reach the websites after marksheets reached schools,” a student of St Xavier’s added.

Sudin Chattopadhyay, HS Council president, however, justified the decision to post the results on the Net after the marksheets were distributed. ‘We will not feed the results on the websites before marksheets reach schools as this would be unfair to a large number of students in the rural areas without Internet access,” he said. According to Chattopadhyay, the Council wanted all examinees “from the hills of Darjeeling to the remotest village in Sunderbans” to receive the results at the same time.

“The Internet facility is availed of by a small section of students in Calcutta, who might have expected the results to be on the Net from early morning on Thursday. But what about those students living in far-off places, where they cannot dream of such hi-tech facilities yet? Why should we provide a facility which can only benefit a small number of students?” demanded Chattopadhyay.

“The whole point of commissioning websites to put up results is to enable us to find out how we’ve fared without having to wait for marksheets to reach schools and being caught up in the mad scramble in front of notice boards. The HS Council should either follow the procedure adopted by other Boards or stop this farce from next year,” added an HS passout.

Sources at the Council admitted that a large number of students “in the city and some districts had suffered hours of anxiety” as they waited in vain for the results to flash on their computer screens. “There were reports of some students staging demonstrations in front of the cybercafes, blaming the operators for failing to log in to the websites where the results were supposed to have been posted,” an official said.

Highrise blaze: A fire broke out on the 10th floor of a highrise on N.S.C. Bose Road around 5.37 am on Sunday. Furniture and papers in an office on the floor were gutted. Fire brigade sources said 14 fire engines were sent and the blaze was controlled around noon. No one was injured.

   

 
 
SONS PUSH LANDMARK STORE TO THE BRINK 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, July 8: 
One son wants to sell computers, the other wants to sell hi-fi music systems. And each feels he should be the one to run the city’s oldest Bengali-owned departmental store, Wachel Molla & Sons. Caught between the warring sons of Wachel Molla, who set up a departmental store that occupied two floors and 9,000 sq ft at Dharamtala and became one of Calcutta’s most prestigious shopping landmarks, Wachel Molla & Sons is fast sinking into a financial black hole.

Time was when the likes of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Satyajit Ray and Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Nargis came to 8, Dharamtala Street, when they felt like going shopping. “Netaji made his last purchase here before he fled house arrest in 1941,” declares Shafiul Haque Molla, one of Molla’s sons. Now, a few umbrellas, some hosiery items and a few electronics and electrical goods make up most of what the store has to offer. It still has 5,600 sq ft left — the rest has been given out to banks and other business establishments — but the inside is dark with dues to CESC running into thousands. And the long shelves are as empty as the feeling of emptiness a comparison of the store’s past with its present evokes.

You still get knitting needles priced at Rs 10 and videos worth Rs 4,000, but the gloomy, sepia-tinted interiors foreshadow the battle that the two sons of Wachel Molla are fighting over a losing concern.

The fight has seen battles inside courtrooms and may see some more yet as Shafiul meets his lawyers to chalk out a strategy to become Wachel Molla & Sons Private Limited’s director again. His siblings met on July 3 to remove him from the post and made his elder brother, A.H. Ghaznavi Molla, the new director.

Shafiul says the meeting was illegal. “I, the majority shareholder, was absent,” he explains. Ghaznavi’s sons say their uncle deserved what he got. “He’s responsible for the sorry situation,” add Shariaz, Jabir and Sahir.

No way, says Shafiul. “We are passing through a rough patch because of my brother’s and nephews’ refusal to pay a court-decreed compensation for forming a separate establishment which uses Wachel Molla space.”

They may differ on which of Wachel Molla’s sons should run the show, but they do agree on one thing; The more-than-hundred-year-old store’s glory days are gone.

There was a time when the store led its contemporaries in deciding fashion; it was the first to introduce readymade garments when it moved to its present address from Burrabazar and, before that, Bowbazar.

Now, it is afraid of keeping up with the pretentious electronics shops that surround it in a cacophony of different sound-tracks. “We can’t afford to have the latest with mounting losses,” explains Shafiul. The store which once employed over 350 persons, can barely employ 35 staffers today.

Both factions have grandiose plans of reviving the store’s sagging fortunes. Ghaznavi’s sons want to sell computers and add another storey; Shafiul says he’ll have the best electronics goods once he gets back “his” store. But no one really knows who’ll get to implement the plans. The store, which linked itself inextricably to Calcutta’s shopping heritage, looks destined to suffer some more days away from the sun — and CESC lights — as Wachel Molla’s sons fight to the finish.

   

 
 
BANGLA BORDER BLEEDS IN REVENGE STRIKE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Malda, July 8: 
A stretch along the Indo-Bangladesh border in Malda erupted in violence this morning as a mob rushed to take revenge for the killing of three children on the border.

The minor boys from Ramkeli village had gone with three others to Bhatiabill village in no-man’s land to cut and gather grass when they were hacked to death by Bangladeshis.

In retaliation, an irate mob of nearly 400 people from Ramkeli and adjoining villages rushed to the border and pounced on three Bangladeshis. One of them was lynched while the others managed to flee to the nearby Border Security Force (BSF) camp.

The situation remained tense along the border as people from both sides traded blame for the killings. Senior officials from the BSF and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) are camping in the area.

Malda superintendent of police Debashish Roy, who, too, is camping in the area, said trouble started around seven this morning when the six boys from Ramkeli went to Bhatiabill to gather grass. “Suddenly, over 70 Bangladeshis surrounded the minor boys and pounced on them with sharp shearing weapons. In the melee, they hacked three to death while the others escaped,” said Roy.

As the boys returned to Ramkeli and spread the news, a pall of gloom descended on the village. But soon gloom turned to anger and the villagers, including people from neighbouring villages, marched towards the border. They caught hold of three Bangladeshis — Anisur Rahman, Sultan Hossain and Harun Ali — and dragged them to Ramkeli.

The villagers first targeted Anisur and hacked him to death. The others managed to take shelter in a BSF camp.

The killed boys were identified as Naru Ghosh, Kshitish Ghosh and Sujit Ghosh, all 15. The bodies of Naru and Kshitish were recovered and handed over to their family, but Sujit’s body could not be found. “We have requested the BDR personnel to hand over the missing body without delay,” a senior police officer said.

Still clueless about the motive behind the unprovoked attack, the official said today’s tragedy was perhaps a sequel to an incident in which some Malda villagers infiltrated the border and snatched more than 100 cows from a Bangladeshi village. “This may be the only provocation for the massacre,” he observed.

Residents of Ramkeli and its neighbouring villages held a meeting this evening, calling for peace along the border. Some of them later met BSF personnel and asked them to intensify vigil. “We are victims of regular attacks from Bangladeshi miscreants, who cross over taking advantage of the BSF jawans’ inaction,” alleged an elderly villager.

   

 
 
GOVT SEEKS JUTE VIOLENCE REPORT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Howrah, July 8: 
Alarmed at yesterday’s violence at Howrah Jute Mill, where two senior executives were thrashed by workers, labour minister Mohammed Amin tonight said he will review the situation at a meeting tomorrow.

“The government has taken serious exception to the incident and I have sought a report from the labour commissioner,” he said.

Additional labour commissioner B.K. Saha has also lined up a meeting with the management, the unions and the administration on Tuesday. “Hopefully, we will be able to reopen the mill on the same day,” Saha said.

The mill management had issued a suspension-of-work notice yesterday, after violence broke out over allegedly overworking of a section of the workers.

Reacting to Saha’s statement, mill official D.R. Nagar said: “If the mill reopens by Tuesday, we will be able to pay the dues soon.”

Howrah deputy superintendent of police Humayan Kabir claimed that 12 workers, including the six named in the FIR, were arrested. “We are conducting raids and hope to pick up all those involved,” he said.

Nearly 100 workers staged a demonstration in front of the mill gate this morning, demanding their weekly payment. But police kept them at bay as an uneasy calm prevailed near the mill.

District magistrate Sunil Gupta said he has discussed the issue with representatives of the mill management and two unions. Superintendent of police Somen Mitra was present.

“We tried our best to resolve the issue but could not succeed as differences cropped up over productivity,” said Gupta.

Badal Bose, president of the factory’s Citu-led union that is affiliated to the Bengal Chatkal Majdoor Union, said: “We have learnt a lesson from the Baranagar and the Ganges Jute Mill incidents, involving assault on management staff. So, now we have to shun violence even if the management goes wrong.”

The condition of the two injured executives, general manager M.K. Pandey and personnel officer U. Nagar continues to be critical.

   

 
 
MINISTER HOPE FOR HOSPITAL HEALTH 
 
 
FROM TARAKNATH DEY
 
Serampore, July 8: 
A dearth of doctors and nurses and an acute paucity of essential medicines is squeezing the life out of the century-old Serampore Walsh Hospital.

Hamstrung with only 30 doctors instead of the required 40, the hospital has had to close down the orthopaedic department.

Hospital superintendent Subir Kirtania admitted that he was not in a position to ensure smooth functioning of the sub-divisional hospital due to a persistent shortage of doctors and medicines.

“We are running short of doctors and nurses due to the whimsical transfers by the district’s chief medical officer of health. Our repeated request for adequate supply of essential drugs have fallen on deaf ears,” Kirtania said, alleging government apathy.

Things have come to such a head that additional district magistrate Nurul Absar said the district authorities would petition health minister Suryakanta Misra to pay a visit and throw a much-needed lifeline to the hospital.

The superintendent and the doctors complained that medical officer M.A. Mannan rarely visits the hospital and accused him of imposing sub-standard instruments without consulting the hospital authorities.

Mannan, on his part, said attempts were on to improve the situation in all hospitals in the district.

But doctors and nurses are so fed up with the pathetic situation that they have almost given up hope.

The doctors rattle off a list of woes. The roof of the new building in which ultrasonography machines will be installed is leaking; three of the five diathermy machines are out of order; most of the lights in the operation theatre are not working; the hospital is running short of X-ray plates.

“How can a surgeon conduct an operation under such conditions? Dim light can cause innumerable problems to a doctor,” said one of the senior doctors.

A surgeon said: “Do you know that we recommend patients to buy anaesthetic drugs from outside? So one can imagine what is happening in other rural hospitals.”

A nurse said doctors even have to ask patients to buy catgut — needed for stitching — from outside as the quality of the supplied catgut is poor. A senior surgeon said: “If we use the supplied catgut, it will tear and may prove fatal. Does our health minister know this? He must pay a visit to have a feel of what is happening here.”

Patients complained there is only one operation theatre in a hospital catering to a few thousand people, and that too without air- conditioning. The quality of food is pathetic and they have to buy food as well as medicines from outside.

   

 
 
JANGIPARA ON BANDH ALERT 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Jangipara, July 8: 
The Hooghly administration is bracing for a 12-hour bandh called by the BJP district unit in Furfura tomorrow to protest against alleged “police high-handedness” on Friday.

Police had led a baton charge and burst teargas shells to disperse a 3,000-strong mob that tried to prevent them from rescuing the headmaster of Dakshindihi High School, whom they had gheraoed after a fracas over the distribution of HS examination marksheets.

Sixteen persons, including six policemen, were injured. The school will remain closed till July 12.

The police is worried as Hooghly Trinamul Congress president and Serampore MP Akbar Ali Khondkar has opposed the bandh. Though irked by police failure to arrest the CPM men who killed two Trinamul workers a couple of months ago, he said: “The Jangipara area is already tense and there is no need to call a bandh.”

“We will submit a deputation tomorrow to the district magistrate and the police superintendent to protest against atrocities committed by the Jangipara police station O-C,” he said, adding that they would demand his removal.

   

 
 
RETRENCHED WORKER THROTTLES DAUGHTER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Howrah, July 8: 
Fed up with gut-gnawing poverty, an unemployed man killed his minor daughter and strung up her body on a branch near his house in Bagnan last night.

Informed of the bizarre incident by the neighbours this morning, the police is on the lookout for the absconding Sanyasi Maity.

Officer-in-charge of Bagnan police station Sanat Kumar Bhattacharya said 40-year-old Maity had throttled his five-year-old daughter, Tina, to death at night and then hung her body from the tree.

The police suspect that Maity also had plans to kill his four-year-old son and them commit suicide as two more nooses were found on the branches of the same tree. But his plan possibly went awry as his neighbours got wind of what he was up to.

However, the incident came to light only in the morning when local residents called in the police.

The police said Maity was a retrenched worker of a local factory. After losing his job, he used to work as a hawker in his locality to make both ends meet.

He was reportedly suffering from severe depression as his financial condition steadily deteriorated.

   

 
 
CRUMBLING WALL CRUSHES 13-YEAR-OLD 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Behrampore, July 8: 
Thirteen-year-old Indrashish Mukherjee was killed this afternoon when a portion of a wall of his uncle’s house came crashing down on him at Indraprastha in Behrampore town when he went there to pay a visit.

Police said Indrashish, the only son of a town businessman, was a Class VII student of a privately-run English-medium school. The school will remain closed tomorrow to mourn his death.

Witnesses said the wall collapsed around 3 pm when Indrashish was playing. He suffered serious head injuries and was rushed to the Behrampore Sadar Hospital, where he died.

A pall of gloom descended on Indraprastha when residents learnt of his death.

   
 

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