Tiljala titan held in kidnap case
Fear over Falta, officer critical
Blood screening sets off Hepatitis C scare
Prodigy punished for success
Crockery ban on food vendors
Hospital settlers face eviction
Brothers battle odds to chase IT dream
Subrata follows Left in land offer
Words to wounds
Detonators case

 
 
TILJALA TITAN HELD IN KIDNAP CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Tiljala businessman Md Taslim, alias Chunnu, was arrested on Sunday for “involvement” in the abduction of Parthapratim Roy Burman.

Inspector-general of police (CID) Partha Bhattacharya, while insisting that the Khadim’s vice-chairman was “alive and well”, said: “We have reason to believe that Chunnu was part of the comprehensive plan and conspiracy to abduct Roy Burman on Wednesday.”

Some CID officers hinted that “contact” had been established with the abductors. They said “negotiations” were being held with the abductors, even as arrests, interrogations and raids continued.

Chunnu’s arrest exposed investigators to a barrage of unanswered questions. For the past three days, Chunnu has been part of the midnight raids being carried out by the CID. He led teams of investigators to various hideouts which yielded nothing but some of Chunnu’s rivals.

After returning from one such raid on Saturday morning, Chunnu left the CID headquarters at Bhabani Bhavan and failed to keep his promise of returning in the evening. Seeing their “only source” vanish, a worried CID official contacted a powerful CPM leader. The MLA managed to trace Chunnu in Garia and persuaded him to return to the CID headquarters. Officials say they have enough proof of Chunnu keeping the MLA posted about his whereabouts.

Chunnu accompanied the police on another raid on Saturday night and was not allowed to leave Bhabani Bhavan on Sunday. Several parleys between the CID top brass and director-general of police Dinesh Chandra Vajpai preceded the final decision to “arrest” Chunnu. “We decided to arrest Chunnu only after we were convinced that he was aware of the abduction drama that had unfolded in front of his house,” said the CID chief. No senior official, however, could explain why it took the CID three days of interrogation and raids to be “convinced” about Chunnu’s “involvement” in the abduction.

The arrest, however, failed to bring any glimmer of hope to the Roy Burman household. “Will this man’s arrest help bring back my brother?” asked Siddhartha Roy Burman, the abducted shoe magnate’s brother.

Late on Sunday, the CID launched yet another raid to try and and track down Roy Burman. Teams scoured several areas in South 24-Parganas. “We have stepped up raids after receiving information that the abductors may be trying to sneak out of here and escape into Bihar,” a senior CID official said. It is learnt that sleuths, having interrogated at least 20 people in the past 24 hours, zeroed in on another hideout on the southern fringes of the city. A close vigil, with the aid of special night-vision video cameras, was kept on the spot.

The Hooghly and Burdwan police also carried out nightlong raids in hotels and guest houses following a CID red alert that Roy Burman might be whisked away to Asansol or Durgapur or Dhanbad. Checking of vehicles on G.T. Road, Delhi Road, Durgapur Expressway, Tarakeswar-Baidyabati Road, Ahalyabai Road and Assam Link Road had been intensified, Hooghly superintendent of police N. Ramesh Babu said.

Plastic-manufacturing units at Topsia have decided to down their shutters on Monday to protest Chunnu’s arrest. The police claimed a local doctor, who also runs a plastic unit in the area, was leading the bandh move at Topsia.

   

 
 
FEAR OVER FALTA, OFFICER CRITICAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Subir Dutta, severely beaten up on Friday night at Falta, is battling for life in a city hospital. Forty-eight hours after the assault on the manager of Antarctica Limited, the police are still looking for prime accused Muzaffar Mollah.

Mollah was a carpenter working on a contract at the packaging factory in Falta. His services were terminated a few months ago. According to the police, Mollah and his men held Dutta responsible and attacked the manager on Friday night.

With yet another bloody blot on the industry-labour relations is the state, labour minister Mohammed Amin has decided to meet union leaders on Monday.

Gouranga Dutta Chowdhury, supervisor of the factory, said on Sunday: “The incident has sparked panic in the area.” An officer added: “The police had been informed about the threat to Dutta from Mollah. But they took no preventive measures... If steps are not taken to strengthen the Falta Investigation Centre, such attacks may take place any time, anywhere.”

D.S. Rudra, sub-divisional police officer of Diamond Harbour, admitted to the “weakness” of the Falta Investigation Centre. “I shall request the superintendent of police to deploy additional forces for Falta to ensure that such an incident does not recur.” Deb Kumar Ganguly, SP, said: “We have arrested 16 people in connection with the attack on Dutta. We are conducting raids to track down Mollah and his accomplices.”

   

 
 
BLOOD SCREENING SETS OFF HEPATITIS C SCARE 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
The Hepatitis C virus has been detected in several Calcuttans after compulsory screening was introduced at all blood banks in the country from June 1.

“In 75 per cent cases, the infections are chronic, with patients becoming carriers and developing liver problems, like cirrhosis and cancer, in 10 to 20 years’ time,” said Dilip Todi, consultant gastro-enterologist at West Bank Hospital.

The virus, previously categorised as non-A, non-B type hepatitis till it was isolated by US scientists in 1989, is said to be more virulent than the AIDS-causing HIV. “Though not as dangerously infectious as Hepatitis B, the fact that there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, and that the treatment regime is not well defined or successful, makes the spread of the virus more worrisome,” Todi said.

Speaking on the relatively-new infection at the concluding day of the annual scientific conference of the Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan on Sunday, Todi said the virus is transmitted mainly through blood transfusions, which is why screening at blood banks should be the main thrust in prevention efforts. The virus also spreads through sexual contact, among intravenous drug users who share needles, and among health personnel who suffer needle-stick injuries.

“Over 170 million people worldwide are carriers, with Egypt having the highest rate of infection at 22 per cent of its total population. While 5.1 per cent of Japanese are infected, the virus has spread to 1.8 per cent people in the US. In India, there is no reliable estimate. What is known is that, of the six genotypes, the most common found in this country is type 3,” Todi added.

But tests carried out by private organisations, like Lions Blood Bank, reveal that, on an average, about one per cent of the blood collected at voluntary camps are infected with the virus. A study carried out in eastern India in 1990 showed that up to 11 persons in every 1,000 were carriers of the Hepatitis C virus. “Less than 10 per cent of the infected develop acute hepatitis,” said Todi. Treatment, which is not always fruitful, is very costly. “Some of the patients I am treating are spending Rs 4,000 a week on combination therapy.” The two drugs that are given are Interferon and Ribavarin.

This combination therapy, which has shown the best results so far, has to continue for at least six months for type 3 Hepatitis C, the specialist said. “That, too, the response is about 50 per cent.”

There are no specific symptoms in a chronic infection. Patients complain of fatigue and other signs of jaundice. The detection usually occurs when a liver function test reveals high bilirubin levels. Blood tests and subsequently, a liver biopsy confirms the infection. “In case of an acute attack, patients develop direct symptoms like cirrhosis or liver malignancy, and it is too late to do anything.”

   

 
 
PRODIGY PUNISHED FOR SUCCESS 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
She’s just 13, and she’s already bagged every major yoga medal around the country. But now, petty politics in Calcutta’s yoga circuit has all but benched the prodigy.

Priyanka Chowdhury was crowned champion of champions for four consecutive years (1996-99) at the All Bengal Yoga Championship; the national champion of champions at Ranchi; Miss Yoga Kumari, Miss Yoga Beauty, Miss Yoga Samragyi... Trophies, medals and certificates are crammed into every corner of her small Entally home. For the past few years, the Class IX student of Holy Child Girls’ School has been participating in (and invariably winning) around 25 competitions and shows a year. But in 2000, Priyanka could barely register for five or six. “The organisers suddenly started a new rule: Last year’s champion cannot participate,” complains the slender, soft-spoken girl. “This has upset all my plans... I am not as flexible as I used to be, and I have lost a lot of confidence in myself.”

When Priyanka’s winning streak started in 1997, many associations urged her to sign up. But the girl was happy with “sir” Swapan Laha, and didn’t want to join any institute. She was approached by other organisations to film a tape with her asanas, but refused. All this, according to her parents and coach, sparked off the trouble.

“No one has won so many competitions, so consistently, so Priyanka obviously attracted a lot of attention,” feels Laha. “Most girls and boys and sign up with a yoga federation, which keeps them out of trouble and guarantees them a smooth passage.”

Matters took a nasty turn a year-and-a-half ago, with life-threatening letters and phone calls at night. Then began the tale of being debarred or disqualified from tourneys. Finally, on May 7 this year, Priyanka met Governor Viren J. Shah, told him “everything” and handed over all relevant papers. She is yet to hear from Raj Bhavan.

The “highest title-holder between 1995 and 2000”, Priyanka won the Jugal Srimal Excellence Award of the Nehru Children’s Museum for the last three years.

But in 2000, the authorities just gave her the winning plate, withholding the prize money and trophy. “They don’t have such regulations for other participants. Why do they suddenly invent them when it’s my turn?” asks Priyanka. “I used to be frightened before... now it just hurts.” For she has had similar experiences at numerous tourneys.

Monotosh Roy, head of the department of yoga at the sports council, admits to having heard of the young girl’s “problems”, but blames it on her “lack of sportsman spirit”. “She must not have been deserving. Why else would the judges award another contestant?” asks Roy. He admits, however, that there is a “need to clean up the sport” which has neither recognition nor a controlling body.

Priyanka, meanwhile, is doing her best to “keep in touch” by practising two-hours a day. “I have realised that all I can do is put in my best,” smiles the determined young girl, driven by the hope that the 2001 season “can’t be worse” than last year.

   

 
 
CROCKERY BAN ON FOOD VENDORS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
After the starred hotels, it’s now the turn of the roadside eateries to face the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) hygiene drive.

No roadside eatery can, henceforth, use glass tumblers, stainless steel or melmoware plates, the CMC has ordered. Instead, they will have to use utensils made of materials which can’t be reused; the list of yes-materials include thermocol, earthenware and even plates made of banana and sal leaves. “A food-vendor without a legal running-water source must use plates and bowls made of banana or sal leaves,” said member, mayor-in-council (health), Javed Ahmed Khan.

There are more than 2,000 food vendors in the city, most of them operating in the B.B.D. Bag-Esplanade-Camac Street-Burrabazar central business district. In the numbers game, the street vendor can put to shame his starred counterpart; 50,000 people visit the city’s hotels and restaurants every day, whereas roadside eateries are estimated to attract at least 100,000 customers daily. Khan said the CMC’s task was made even more difficult because the roadside eateries belonged to the unorganised sector.

A recent CMC health department cleanliness drive on eateries revealed that even reputed restaurants were not very particular about hygiene. This forced the civic body to take legal action against some of them, Khan said. An earlier survey conducted by the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health on streetside food vendors revealed that though the quality of food served was satisfactory, they needed proper training in handling food and storing it in a hygienic manner. The water they used to wash dishes and serve customers was found to be highly contaminated.

Disposable utensils would do away with the risk of detergent-poisoning, said CMC’s deputy chief of health R.N. Sanyal. The remnants of detergent, not easily washed away, on utensils and plates could cause diarrhoea.

   

 
 
HOSPITAL SETTLERS FACE EVICTION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Expressing concern over unauthorised constructions in city hospitals, state health minister Surya Kanta Mishra has announced that these structures will be demolished soon. Mishra was inaugurating the cath lab and the cath ward at AMRI-Apollo Hospitals in Dhakuria on Sunday.

The minister said the occupants of these unauthorised constructions were using water and electricity without paying any taxes and creating a nuisance on hospital premises. “We encourage participation of private enterprise in the healthcare sector as supplementaries and not as substitutes. It is quite natural that the services they provide will be costly. But, it should be kept in mind that 70 per cent people are treated at government hospitals,” Mishra said.

Cardiac catheterisation is the insertion and passage of a small catheter into arteries and veins up to the heart to obtain a clear picture of the heart, its chambers and the condition of coronary arteries. The process can be used for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. The hospital has recently procured this advanced cardiac digital imaging system.

Physician M.K. Chhetri said: “Our aim is to build a systemic protocol for evaluating patients with chest pain and treating acute myocardial infarction by intervention cardiologists on call 24 hours a day.”

Film artiste Rupa Ganguly, a special guest on the occasion, expressed dismay over the conditions at government hospitals. She said: “People who can afford it, avoid government hospitals because of the filthy conditions. I think if proper steps are taken, the situation can be improved.”

Miss India Celina Jaitley said: “Three years back, when I had an operation here at AMRI, I was impressed by the services.”

   

 
 
BROTHERS BATTLE ODDS TO CHASE IT DREAM 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Money does make the world go round, realise 19-year-old Arup and Swarup Chattopadhyay of Kanui Banka village.

The twins, students of Bhander Hati B.N. Institution, have got star marks in this year’s higher secondary examination and have also made it to the merit list of the engineering joint entrance examination. However, lack of funds can yet deny them a chance to study computer science.

“We have never seen computers. But we have read that the future of mankind is linked to information technology. That’s why we want to study computer science,” explain the twins, sitting in a tiny hut in their village, 75 km from Calcutta.

The story of the two brothers is one of grit. The twins were orphaned at the age of three and grew up at their maternal uncle’s home in Kanui Banka, a village with a predominantly agrarian population. They did not have text books, their peasant uncles could not afford private tutors, their school had hardly any library or well-equipped practical rooms and, most importantly, there was no one to inspire them.

Despite these odds, Arup and Swarup have scored 77.4 per cent and 76.6 per cent in the higher secondary examination and ranked 7330 and 5124, respectively, in the JEE. “In higher secondary, we did miserably in English. Our total would have been higher had our performance in English been better. But as we started learning English from Class V, our knowledge of the language is very poor,” chorus the Chattopadhyay brothers, bare-bodied with lungis folded up to their knees.

People in Kanui Banka, around 10 km from Belmuri, the nearest railway station, acknowledge the brothers’ struggle and feel proud of their achievement.

The brothers had shown signs of excellence when still very young, according to Dinabandhu Simlai, a teacher of Kanui Banka High School, where the brothers studied till Class X. The twins had come to him after their mother expired.

“They got star marks and topped the Kanui Banka High School in the school finals. We always knew the boys would shine and they have proved us right,” said Simlai. “It’s good that they have made it to the J.E.E. merit list. But if they had got better facilities, their performance would have been far better,” he added.

This view is supported by Biswanath Ghosal, a maternal uncle. “I have tried my best to support their studies up to this level. But now its beyond my means and they can study further only if they get some help,” said Ghosal, a part-time private tutor who has to rely on his two-bigha plot to feed his 9-member family.

Ghosal couldn’t even pay for the JEE forms. “A gentleman in our village paid for their forms and took the responsibility of submitting them,” he recounted.

“Both the boys are very hard-working. Besides studying, they used to help me and my brother in farming,” he adds, pointing to the paddy field behind the house.

The twins, however, hardly complain about the lack of facilities, realising that the real struggle has just begun. With the counselling process for admission to engineering colleges still on, the Chattopadhyay brothers aren’t sure whether they can join their chosen streams in government engineering colleges. “We hope that if we are selected in any of the four government colleges, we can apply for some scholarship,” say Arup and Swarup.

The brothers list football, reading newspapers at the tea stall near the bus stand and watching cricket on television as their hobbies. Both are great fans of Sachin Tendulkar, whom they have seen playing on their neighbour’s “big colour television”.

The boys’ aunt interrupts, asking Swarup to pluck lemons for her two children. As Swarup clambers swiftly up the lemon tree, Arup says: “His chances of getting IT in Siliguri is very high. I may not get it, but both of us want to continue our studies by any means.”

Aware that their great dream may not come true, the brothers have applied for mathematics honours at Sarat Centenary College and have also appeared for the admission test at Belur. “It seems that Belur is also beyond the means of our uncle. If need be, we will study at the local college,” said Arup.

   

 
 
SUBRATA FOLLOWS LEFT IN LAND OFFER 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Taking a cue from the Leftists, Trinamul Congress leader and city mayor Subrata Mukherjee has offered prospective entrepreneurs 200 acres of prime land near Calcutta to set up private medical and engineering colleges, information technology institutes or other specialised educational centres through a joint venture. Mukherjee said the land at Uttarpara close to the Hindustan Motors factory is well connected with the city by road and railway. The land is adjacent to G.T. Road and is located in the municipal area. The Hooghly flows on the other side of the plot.

“It is hardly 10 km from Calcutta and the area has better locational advantage, communication, civic amenities, other infrastructural facilities and scenic beauty than Rajarhat and other places where land is available,” Mukherjee said.

He said prospective entrepreneurs could either take the land from CMC on a long-term lease or they could enter into a joint ventures with the CMC where the value of the land would be treated as CMC’s paid-up contribution. The 200 acres being offered is valued at Rs 200 crore.

In the case of joint ventures, the CMC will keep some seats reserved for students from Calcutta, who will get admission on the basis of recommendation from the mayor’s office without paying capitation fees. “As the land is owned by the people of Calcutta, any project to be undertaken there should benefits Calcuttans,” Mukherjee added. Deputy municipal commissioner (estate) Mohammad Javed Iqbal, said the government of British India had handed over 600 acres of land to justices of peace who handed them over to the Calcutta Corporation more than 150 years ago. Of this, more than 100 acres had been engulfed by the Hooghly and the records of 25 acres could not be traced.

   

 
 
WORDS TO WOUNDS 
 
 
FROM PROBIR PRAMANIK
 
Siliguri, July 29: 
The husband of a Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) legislator and a local BJP leader ended up in hospital when tempers ran out of control after an argument.

Deochandra Karki, the husband of GNLF Kurseong legislator Shanta Chettri had a heated argument in the town last evening with local BJP leader Balaram Chettri, according to Kurseong additional superintendent of police S. Subarna. Chettri allegedly beat up Karki, who was admitted to the Kurseong sub-divisional hospital with serious injuries.

“In retaliation, supporters of the GNLF legislator allegedly went to Balaram’s house and assaulted him. Balaram has been hospitalised at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. We have received complaints from Balaram’s wife and Shanta Chettri. The police has registered the cases, but no one has so far been arrested in this connection,” Subarna added. The two have been at loggerheads since the Assembly polls this year, in which Balaram Chettri lost to Shanta Chettri.

   

 
 
DETONATORS CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 29: 
Asansol police are yet to trace nearly 14,000 detonators — capable of wiping off Burdwan district — stolen from the magazine room of Lower Kenda Colliery under Eastern Coalfields Limited on Wednesday night.

Two guards who had been posted at the magazine room that night have been arrested. This has sparked off strong protests from trade unions, who organised dharnas in front of the Jamuria police station demanding the immediate release of the two guards.

   
 

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