‘Malaria factory’ at hospital
Mishap rap for cop kiosks at key crossings
Jadavpur staff offer grant from pay for poor students
Cat-and-baton melee on Chowringhee
Mob fury after fatal mishap
Mission medical college sought
Happy log-in at barren port
Strike habit dies hard
Govt shutdown today
CPM sounds attitude alert

Calcutta, July 24: 
The verdict: SSKM Hospital has turned into “a mosquito factory”. In the dock: The superintendent of the hospital, as well as an assistant engineer of the state PWD department, in charge of the hospital’s maintenance.

On Tuesday morning, CMC’s member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Khan, led a team to SSKM Hospital to inspect whether the premises had been rid of the mosquito menace. It wasn’t even a surprise check. The hospital authorities had been informed about the “inspection”. But, no one had even bothered to do a preliminary clean-up of the premises.

The CMC team found that 12 large open spaces on the hospital compound had turned into breeding grounds for mosquito. “If this is the condition of SSKM Hospital, it is pointless for the CMC to attempt a mosquito-clearing drive in the city,” Khan lamented.

The civic body has now decided to file a case in the court of the municipal magistrate against SSKM superintendent Dev Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay and an assistant engineer of the PWD. Under the CMC Act, allowing mosquitoes to breed on the premises is now a punishable offence and can draw a fine. “We had told the conservancy officer of the borough about the inspection in advance,” said R.N. Sanyal, officer on special duty at the CMC. “But nobody took any notice of the matter.”

As part of its anti-malaria drive, the CMC had decided to conduct such inspections at all city hospitals, and on top of the list was SSKM. Other hospitals will come under the scanner in the days ahead. “These hospitals have all become mosquito factories and there is utter lack of concern among the authorities to improve the conditions,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

The inspection over, the CMC workers cleared the clogged drains and emptied the drums where rain water had accumulated. They sprayed larvicide. However, the heaps of garbage could not be removed for want of conservancy labourers.

Hospital superintendent Chattopadhyay was unmoved. “I am short of 250 maintenance staff, which is why it is not possible to to keep the hospital clean,” he said. “Besides, the PWD also has a role to play in the hospital’s maintenance. So, it really does not matter to me if the civic authorities come and inspect the premises. I really couldn’t care less,” he added.

Chattopadhyay did not even meet the civic officials on their tour of the hospital. “I did not have the time. I was too busy doing the hospital rounds,” he said.

“Given this attitude of the hospital authorities, it is unfair to blame the CMC for the spread of malaria in the city,” said Mukherjee. “Sporadic drives like the one we conducted today at the hospital cannot keep malaria in check unless the hospital authorities themselves take the initiative in this matter.”

Khan has suggested that the CMC take on the responsibility of keeping the premises of all city hospitals free of mosquito, provided the PWD department reimburses the costs. “If we are paid for services rendered, we will be happy to take on this additional task,” Khan said.


Calcutta, July 24: 
It’s meant to be the security cage at the crossroads to ensure road safety. But the ill-planned traffic console and kiosk at vital intersections has proved a hindrance, rather than a help, for motorist and pedestrian alike.

Calcutta Police has suddenly woken up to the problem and directed Selvel, the outdoor advertising major, to immediately “redesign” some of the consoles that have encroached on to the pavements, forcing pedestrians to step on to the road.

In a review of the 3,200 road accidents in 2000 and over 1,500 cases till March 2001, the police have put part of the blame on the “consoles blocking the pavements” and “glow signs on kiosks affecting the vision” of motorists.

“Blocked pavements definitely contribute to hit-and-run cases.The consoles at some intersections, for example the one at the crossing of National Library Avenue and Strandel Road, are causing great inconvenience to the people,” said joint commissioner of police (traffic) Anup Chatterjee.

The police study also said that out of 435 road deaths in the city, 145 occurred after 5 pm. “At times, we do receive complaints of motorists affected by the glare of glowsigns on kiosks at busy intersections,” said an officer of the traffic control room in Lalbazar.

Out of 69 consoles in the city, Selvel maintains 37, while companies like Century Plywood, Indo-Burma Petroleum (IBP) and Arena Advertising account for the rest. Although the installation cost of these consoles goes up to Rs 5 lakh per intersection, companies find the one-time investment well worth it.

The gross earning of Selvel, for example, touched Rs 1.5 crore in the previous financial year, according to a spokesperson of the company.

“We are now looking at it as a serious business proposition. Calcutta Police needs 120 more traffic consoles, but we will take up only those which we feel are viable,” a senior marketing executive of Selvel said.

Rates are fixed depending on “the importance of the intersection” and “visibility of the advertisement”. So, a console ad at the crossing of AJC Bose Road and Camac Street fetches Selvel a whopping Rs 1.25 lakh a month, whereas a similar display on Elgin Road rakes in just Rs 30,000 a month.

The most expensive displays — Rs 2 lakh — are reserved for the consoles at Beckbagan and at the Shakespeare Sarani-Jawaharlal Nehru Road crossing.

According to the police, they didn’t have a clue about the console business going the boom way. “We don’t get paid a paisa from the profits these companies make from these console displays,” said Chatterjee. So, the police are planning to ask these ad companies to “share some of the profits for the development of the city”.

Outdoor ad companies, however, rule out the possibility of “sharing profits” with the police. “The installation and maintenance costs for each console are very high. Moreover, we have to change about 100 bulbs every day. There is no way we’ll share profits,” a Selvel spokesperson said.


Calcutta, July 24: 
To sponsor students from poor families, the non-teaching employees and officers of Jadavpur University (JU) have approached the authorities with a proposal for donating a certain percentage of their salaries every month to the university to provide free education to them.

The employees came forward with the proposal in the wake of the university authorities’ decision to provide free education to 20 per cent of the students of various under-graduate and post-graduate courses after the enhanced fees structure is introduced in the ensuing academic session.

The proposal was placed for preliminary discussion by leaders of the CPM-controlled employees’ union at a meeting of the executive council members last week.

Welcoming the employees’ proposal, Rajat Banerjee, JU registrar, said: “We have accepted the offer on principle. But it will be implemented after it is approved at the executive council.” The proposal is likely to be placed at Wednesday’s meeting of the executive council, university sources said.

The university has about 1,500 non-teaching employees, 700 teachers and approximately 50 officers. Along with the employees, some teachers, too, have approached the authorities to make a donation for poor students from their salaries.

According to the proposal, non-teaching employees will offer Rs 25 per month, and those working in the officers’ grade will donate Rs 50 per month. Each of the 700 teachers, too, will offer Rs 50 per month.

Sources said the university will require a huge amount of funds to provide free education to 20 per cent of the students. According to them, a substantial portion of the expenditure is likely to be taken care of by the employees’ proposed donation.

The university decided to offer free education to poor students last week after some students strongly protested the authorities’ decision to “rationalise” the old fees structure and abolish the system of charging low tuition fees in various under-graduate and post-graduate courses of the three faculties — humanities, science and engineering.

After the protest, the university promised the students it would ensure that poor students were not deprived of higher education.


Calcutta, July 24: 
Politics can even bring two cats — of red and saffron hues in this case — closer, at least at the ground level, where all the action lies.

On Tuesday afternoon, a large number of slogan-chanting supporters of the CPM’s student front, SFI, took a leaf out of the BJP protest book to lay siege on the American Center. The points of protest: US President George Bush naming his cat ‘India’, and many more.

Around 500 SFI activists assembled on Jawaharlal Nehru Road around 2.45 pm. They broke through the police cordon and tried to slip a number of cats into the American Center.

The police launched a “counter-attack” with lathicharge and teargas shells. Seventeen people, including five policemen, were injured in the skirmish.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Raj Kanojia, said one of his deputies, Prasanta Banerjee, was “seriously injured” as SFI supporters hurled brickbats. He was admitted to SSKM Hospital with a fracture in his right leg.

“The demonstration started peacefully. But when we stopped them from entering the American Center, the SFI activists turned violent. They were also carrying a number of cats which they tried to slip into the Center. We had no option but to chase them with lathis,” a senior police official said.

Blaming the police for the turn of events, SFI state leader Tarun Banerjee denied carrying cats to the site. He alleged that the police had launched a lathicharge, “without any provocation”, in which 12 demonstrators were injured. Three SFI members have been hospitalised, he said.

After the showdown with the police, a section of the demonstrators squatted on Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Traffic movement on the thoroughfare remained suspended for over half an hour.

The blockade was finally lifted around 4 pm, when senior policemen, including DC (south) Ranjit Pachnanda and joint commissioner of police (organisation) S.N. Sarkar, intervened.


Calcutta, July 24: 
Twenty-five members of five families living at Sarat Kunja, a condominium in Beltala, on Tuesday were forced to remain confined in their apartments under police protection after a car accident killed Puja, 6, who lived in an adjoining slum, on Monday evening.

The killer car belongs to a flat-owner and Puja was the daughter of Anil Das, who does paint jobs.

Soon after the accident, hundreds of slum-dwellers attacked the apartment block and damaged all the cars parked in the courtyard. They dumped garbage in front of the building and barricaded the road. Police deployed the Rapid Action Force to disperse them on Monday night.

Slum dwellers did not allow civic conservancy workers to clear the garbage on Tuesday. Even newspaper hawkers, milkmen, servants and school vans were not allowed entry. A police picket was posted in the complex and armed police have been kept in readiness.

“How long will the police protect these rich people ?” asked Arjun Sinha, an elderly resident of the Beltala slum.

Tension ran high when Puja’s body was brought back after post-mortem under police escort on Tuesday afternoon.

The slum-dwellers alleged that after running over Puja, the driver, instead of taking the child to hospital, drove the car into the complex. The owner of the Maruti van, Soumen Choudhury, denied the charge. He claimed he had taken the injured child to Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan on Monday, and had even spent some time with the bereaved parents.


Calcutta, July 24: 
Health minister Surya Kanta Mishra on Tuesday urged Ramakrishna Mission to open an under-graduate medical college in the city. At the 70th foundation day function of the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan, a 550-bed general hospital run by Mission monks in south Calcutta, the minister promised to extend cooperation to build the college. However, he was not willing to encourage business organisations to participate in the health sector.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) could offer the land required for the purpose on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

The government provides Rs 60 lakh a year to the Mission for running the Seva Pratishthan, Mishra said. He promised to raise the grant to a crore if the Mission set up the medical college.

Mishra suggested the Mission locate a suitable plot in south Calcutta close to the Seva Pratishthan.

Seva Pratishthan secretary Swami Sarvalokananda said the hospital, which was started from a small rented house in south Calcutta, caters to a few lakh people in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state. Swami Tattwabodhanandaji Maharaj, president of Ramakrishna Math, Cossipore, and member of the governing body of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, addressed the function. The annual prize distribution ceremony of the Mission-run Nursing School was also held.


Calcutta, July 24: 
After a barren spell of almost eight years, Diamond Harbour port, in South 24-Parganas, roared back to life again on Monday night with the anchoring of Greek vessel M.V. Nicole from Malaysia. The giant ship, carrying more than 12,500 tonnes of plywood logs, was the first of its size to touch the port after 1993 and on Tuesday, about 100 labourers were busy unloading the logs in 110 barges to carry them to the Calcutta port godowns.

Subrata Hazra, managing director of Sohom Agency, a shipping agent-cum-stevedoring firm, said: “Such a big ship, carrying a log consignment, never touches Calcutta port. They usually go to Vizag and Kandla. This time, we have convinced ship-owners and log importers to bring the ship to Calcutta. We spoke to the chief minister to ensure safe passage for the ship and its navigators and also spoke to the labour minister to make sure that unloading went off peacefully. We started work only after they assured us of safe working conditions. However, as the beam of the vessel is very wide, she cannot be berthed in the Calcutta Dock Complex and the Port Trust authorities have allowed her to download cargo at the Diamond Harbour anchorage,” adds Hazra.

Nur Ahmed, president of Calcutta Port Sramik Janata Panchayat, said: “Ship-owners shun Calcutta port to avoid unnecessary expenditure and labour trouble. At Diamond Harbour, there is no labour trouble and the unloading cost is about 40 per cent less than at Calcutta port.

A. Jaiswal, representing a big timber company, said: “This time, work is going on in a peaceful atmosphere and if this continues, more and more ships will come here in future and more barges and labourers will be employed.”


Calcutta, July 24: 
Labour minister Mohammad Amin today informed the Assembly that 1.84 crore mandays had been lost last year because of lock-outs, closure and strikes. The engineering industry, he said, faced the maximum number of lock-outs with 111 units closed because of strikes. Altogether 26 strikes had been recorded during this period, Amin said while replying to questions from Trinamul Congress MLA Tarak Banerjee.

Replying to another question from Nirmal Ghosh of Trinamul, Amin said 57 large and medium factories were closed since March 1996 and the government was trying to reopen them through negotiations involving owners, trade unions and state representatives.

The revelation is a blow to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s attempts to hardsell the state as an investment destination.

Amin also informed that 18 factories were closed between January and May this year. As a result, about 24,500 workers had become jobless. To a question by Trinamul’s Ashok Deb, who wanted to know how many jute mills were facing closure, Amin said six mills were closed at the moment. They were Gouripur, Kanoria, Sura, Prabartak, New Central and Baranagar jute mills. Altogether 20,100 workers were employed by the six mills. Among them, New Central employs the maximum number of workers — 6,500. The mill is closed since December 29.

Amin said 65,000 workers had became jobless after 17 factories of major industries had closed down, while 7,000 lost their jobs due to the closure of 40 small units.

The minister said the government was scouting for a suitable location in Purulia for a TB hospital exclusively for bidi workers. He said another 50-bed TB hospital for bidi workers was functioning in Dhulian in Murshidabad.

Replying to a question by Abu Ayesh Mondal of the CPM, the labour minister said 6,33,863 bidi workers had been issued identity cards.

Trinamul walkout

Trinamul MLAs walked out during the first half of the session in protest against CPM atrocities on their supporters in Midnapore district. Party MLA Dipak Ghosh told the House during Mention Hour that CPM activists were killing Trinamul supporters in places like Danton, Khejuri and Debra. Many Trinamul activists, who had returned to their villages in these areas following the chief minister’s assurances, were attacked by CPM activists, Ghosh alleged.

Slogan-shouting Trinamul legislators marched to the Well, disrupting proceedings. As Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim remained silent, they walked out for five minutes before returning.


Calcutta, July 24: 
Central and state government offices across Bengal will be crippled tomorrow as employees have called a 24-hour strike to protest against the BJP-led government’s “anti-people policies”.

Citu state secretary Mrinal Das claimed the strike would be spontaneous and no employee was expected to join work. “We are left with no option but to resort to the strike to put pressure on the BJP-led coalition which has surrendered to the imperialist countries,” he said.

Das, however, said transport and other essential services, including hospitals, milk, power and water supply, would not be affected. Post offices are unlikely to function. Colleges will remain open but Calcutta University has postponed examinations scheduled for tomorrow.

Indian Airlines officials said domestic and international flights will be on schedule. Thai Airways will also operate its scheduled flight on the Bangkok- Calcutta sector. Other airlines, including Jet and Sahara, will operate their flights as usual. Airport officials said they would not join the strike.

Police in Writers’ Buildings will wield bunches of keys instead of batons with the caretaker-staff set to participate in the strike.

Chief secretary Manish Gupta has sent a circular stating that all employees “should report for duty.” But, the circular says, those who do not attend would have to apply for leave.

Though Speaker H.A. Halim claimed the House would function normally, officials said no staff would be present for duty.


Calcutta, July 24: 
The CPM lost the support of a section of its “working-class friends” in the Assembly elections because of “local-level immorality, high-handedness and wrong attitude” of some party cadre, state party secretary Anil Biswas said, quoting from a document released today.

Strong resentment against the communists, sparked by various local-level conflicts with the party, drove a sizeable chunk of traditional CPM supporters to the Trinamul Congress.

“Though she (Mamata Banerjee) was defeated in the polls, the size of the crowd at her meetings in south Bengal cannot be ignored,” the document, A Review, said.

“In many places, the meetings started late, but the people, especially the poor, did not appear to be tired of waiting. They are not our class enemies, yet they felt drawn to Trinamul because of our behaviour towards them at the local level,” it said.

While reviewing the party’s performance, the CPM leadership also held responsible a section of its local functionaries, who, it said, had antagonised the working classes. A section of party leaders demonstrated “uncommunist” hankering for tickets, it said.

Biswas said the party would continue its “fight” against faction rivalry. Describing the trend of growing faction feud as “most dangerous”, the state CPM chief hinted that action would be taken against any leader, irrespective of his position in the party.

The CPM concluded it fared poorly in many rural constituencies where it controlled the panchayats. On the contrary, its performance was comparatively better in areas where the panchayats are controlled by Opposition parties.

Minority fundamentalists were active against the CPM during the elections. Still, 27 Left Front candidates from the minority community were elected. These fundamentalists had spread the word that Saifuddin Chowdhury was removed from the CPM because he belonged to the minority community, the document said. But the Bengali-speaking members of the minority community are by and large with the CPM. Refugees living in colonies supported the Left Front.

Forward Bloc MP expelled: The Forward Bloc has expelled its MP from Cooch Behar, Amar Roy Pradhan, for “anti-party activities”, state secretary Ashok Ghosh said today. Ghosh said the state committee had expelled Roy Pradhan because he had campaigned against official party candidates in north Bengal.


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