Cry for people’s war on malaria
Sleuths hit cell trail dead end
Computers in classes fail to click
Taxi runs over cop, traffic stalled
Cola giants add funds fizz to development drive
Policemen injured in shoot-out
Woman run over at Kalighat
Bodo rebels blow up convoy, 10 killed
Rape-accused former Assam minister held
Arunachal assures OIL of security

Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
Malaria will continue to be the scourge of Calcutta in the years to come. Citing findings of surveys and case studies, and judging from present trends of co-related factors, a team of experts has said till a vaccine is developed, all sections of society will have to “join hands” to combat the disease.

“It is clear that eradication of malaria is not possible in the near future... All our resources will have to be deployed to control the disease and, since everybody is vulnerable, its control should also be everybody’s concern,” said R.D. Dubey, secretary of the Indian Medical Association’s (IMA), Calcutta branch.

Last year, 55 men, women and children died of malignant malaria in the city, while there were 27 other suspected deaths caused by the disease. In 1999, 63 persons died, while the suspected deaths numbered another 23. “Malaria also occurred in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai in these years, but there were no deaths,” observed Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s chief health officer Sujit Ghosh.

Enumerating the reasons for the spurt in the disease in the city, Ghosh said the “lack of uniformity in treatment” in the city had contributed to the complications and even death of malaria victims.“Unless there is cooperation from all quarters, controlling mosquitoes, and therefore malaria, will be difficult,” added Ghosh.

One of the reasons why the IMA had organised Sunday’s meeting was to “sharpen the skills of physicians treating malaria patients.” Many problems have been noticed due to lack of uniformity in the treatment schedule. Drug (chloroquine) resistance was another vital factor, the association said. “The National Anti-Malaria Programme has provided a drug regimen for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria, which is being circulated to doctors in the city. This schedule is not new, but several doctors are following their own regimen, resulting in drug resistance,” Ghosh said.

Prof. Amitava Nandy of the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine stressed that during diagnosis of blood slides, “everyone should know” that samples can be collected any time, even if the patient is running a temperature. If the first test is negative, microscopy should be repeated for three consecutive days, provided the fever returns. All blood reports must indicate not only the species of the parasite but also the stage of its life cycle.

Not all malaria cases had the classical symptoms of shivering, high temperature with headache and nausea. “Both benign and malignant varieties have different kinds of clinical presentations,” explained the experts. “But whenever there is fever, a presumptive dosage of chloroquine is recommended, which can be continued or curtailed, depending on the blood report,” said Ghosh.

There is also a tendency among doctors to advise hospitalisation for patients as soon as falciparum is detected. “But this is not necessary, unless there are complications or if it is apparent that the drug of choice is not working,” said Prof. Apurba Mukherjee, head of the department of medicine, R.G. Kar Hospital.

The CMC’s advisory committee on malaria has recently launched a drive to rid hospital premises of malaria. In a recent raid at SSKM Hospital the civic authorities had detected a large amount of larvae in the hospital’s water bodies. A case was initiated against the PWD’s assistant engineer and the surgeon superintendent. But after the engineer furnished a letter seeking pardon, the CMC has decided not to initiate further action. A clean-up campaign is on at SSKM.


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
Cops on the “cellphone trail” of Parthapratim Roy Burman’s abductors have drawn a blank. It has now been established that the abductors had been keeping in touch with family members of the Khadim’s vice-chairman over their cellphones — all fitted with “international roaming pre-paid cards from foreign countries” — to foil any attempt to trace the calls and track their movement in or around Calcutta.

According to information available with the crime branch of Mumbai Police and the CID, the gang was using pre-paid SIM cards from Dubai, Dhaka and London. Sources said the kidnappers were aware that the police would not be able to trace the incoming calls as the numbers would not flash on the caller-line identification (CLI) machines installed in either the local cellphones or the landlines in Calcutta.

Telecom department officials confirmed that calls from international roaming SIM cards of foreign countries were made from Calcutta and the suburbs to some cellphones here and to the Roy Burman residence. They informed the police that “calls made from SIM cards of foreign countries cannot be traced as there is no international agreement between India and the rest of the world”. According to R.K. Mishra, a senior officer of Calcutta Telephones, CLI facilities on international roaming cellular cards are available “only if there is an agreement between the countries involved”.

VSNL authorities have also told the sleuths that they can do little to “trace the numbers”. As a VSNL official put it: “The city is divided into several cellular zones. When a call is made from a cellphone, it is recorded in a master computer. But in this case, calls will be recorded without the numbers.’’

Officers of the Mumbai crime branch and the CID said the kidnappers were using four foreign SIM cards. “We have informed Calcutta Police that Roy Burman’s kidnappers were using two SIM cards from Dubai and one each from Dhaka and London to interact with the victim’s family and among themselves,’’ a crime branch officer of Mumbai Police said over telephone on Sunday. Investigations also revealed that the kidnappers had accomplices in Hyderabad, Lucknow and Patna to whom frequent calls were being made.

VSNL sources said “around 120 calls” were made from the two Dubai SIM cards. Each call would have cost the kidnappers around Rs 80 per minute. Attempts are on to ascertain the number of calls made from the Dhaka and London SIM cards.

“The entire operation was carried out with the help of these cellphones. Just keeping in touch with their associates and the Roy Burman family over the eight days must have cost the abductors around Rs 1 lakh,” a CID officer said.


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
The computers have reached the classrooms. The students have paid the extra fees to start learning the software that has been loaded. But there is no sign yet of the first click. The government’s grand computer-literacy project to have several schools in the city logged on this summer has clearly got off to a false start.

The plan involved introduction of computer classes in government-aided schools from Class VII, computers as an additional subject in Classes IX and X, and a component subject at the Higher Secondary level. Initially, 100 schools were selected for computer classes to begin by July 1. Everything else is in order now — with students having paid up a monthly charge of Rs 50 — but the government’s failure to “work out the procedural formalities” has stalled the entire process.

“The work of installing the machines and loading them with the necessary software has been completed in all the schools. But classes are yet to begin as the issue of instructors has not been finalised,” said Asish Dutta, head of the strategic business unit at Webel Technologies Ltd (WTL), a subsidiary of Webel.

Software training major NIIT, which implemented similar programmes “independently” in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, was roped in to provide 200 technical trainers in these schools. Kaushik Mukherjee of NIIT said: “We can’t start the process of selection of trainers as the agreement between WTL and the government is yet to be formalised. Once that is done, we will start the process of selecting two instructors, with at least a B.Sc degree, for each school.” Mukherjee, however, added that from the date of signing the agreement “which will formalise and finalise” NIIT’s role in the project, the process of selection and training will take “another month to complete”.

With no sign of the project being pushed through at the government level and thousands of students having signed up for computer science as an elective subject in Class IX and a component subject in Class XI, the school authorities find themselves in a fix. Some are ready to ask their students to opt for “some other subject”.

D.P. Chakraborty, principal, Hare School, said: “Since the computer centre with 10 computers is ready, students are regularly asking us about the date of commencement of their classes. I have contacted the department of school education several times, but they are just giving us verbal assurance that classes will start soon.”

But the department of school education refused to take the blame. Nikhilesh Das, secretary of the school education department, said: “We had not set any deadline to start classes by July 2001. Government projects follow certain rules and regulations which are being worked out at the moment. The required notices have been issued and we expect classes to start by the first week of September.”

The government, meanwhile, has announced plans “to broaden the scope of the programme to 200 more schools”, with the help of IT majors Wipro and IBM.


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
Rajesh Kumar Tewari, 29, a traffic sergeant of Calcutta Police, was run over by a taxi after it hit his scooter on Bidhan Sarani in north Calcutta on Sunday afternoon. Tewari was pronounced dead when he was taken to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

The accident occurred around 2 pm when Tewari was returning home on his scooter after work. He lived at Dakshindari in Lake Town. Eyewitnesses said the killer taxi came from the opposite direction and hit Tewari’s scooter which skidded off the tram track and overturned. Tewari fell off the scooter and began to bleed profusely after hitting the road.

Local people rushed to the spot and took him to hospital where he succumbed to his injures. However, the taxi driver fled with his vehicle and remained untraced till late on Sunday night.

After the accident, traffic came to a halt for over an hour in the area. Though it was Sunday, a large number of people gathered at the accident site and police had a tough time controlling the unruly crowd.

Asoke Banerjee, additional office-in-charge of Burtolla police station, said police could control the situation quickly because it was Sunday, when the volume of traffic was not that much. Tewari was on the morning shift at the wireless branch at Lalbazar. Duty over, he was returning home. When Tewari reached Khudiram Bose Central College on Bidhan Sarani, his scooter was hit by the killer taxi, said Banerjee.

Rajesh joined the wireless branch of Calcutta Police in 1996 and since then he has worked at Lalbazar.


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
Perennial foes Coke and Pepsi are working hand-in-hand for once. The cola giants have decided to get involved in public service projects in the city taken up by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has welcomed offers from Coca Cola and Pepsi to run the CMC’s proposed 20-bed malaria hospital in Kalighat and spruce up the civic body’s canteen.

Following the go-ahead from the mayor on Saturday, member, mayor-in-council (health) Javed Ahmed Khan discussed the issue with Devesh Shankar, business manager of Coca-Cola India, and Susen Kumar Das, manager, fountain service.

Pepsico has already expressed its willingness to be associated with development projects of the CMC. In exchange, the company wants permission to set up fountain kiosks inside the Corporation premises.

Coke, too, has accepted the offer to revamp the CMC canteen and is said to be considering the proposal for the malaria hospital also. Both the soft drink majors have offered a royalty of Re 1 to the Corporation for every glass of soft drink sold.

Around 52,000 people visit the S.N. Banerjee Road headquarters of the civic body every day, and even if 20 per cent have a glass of soft drink while inside the premises, it means the Corporation earns more than Rs 10,000 daily. Assuming that it is open for around 300 days a year, it can earn up to Rs 30 lakh annually.

“If they involve themselves in our schemes, it will be possible for the CMC to offer treatment for malaria at an affordable price,” said Khan. He said Pepsi and Coke would not invest in setting up the hospital, but will share the burden of running expenses, which should come to about Rs 30 lakh a year.

CMC has decided to set up a 20-bed dedicated malaria hospital in the city, the first of its kind in the country, which will be operational in April 2002. “Thousands of people have died of malaria in Calcutta during the Left Front rule over the past 20 years and the city needs a specialised hospital to treat malaria,” the mayor said, adding that the CMC would take the help of NGOs in running the hospital.

The idea of a dedicated malaria hospital had come from the regional epidemiologist of the ministry of health, Sultanate of Oman, Dr Kamalesh Sarkar, who is in charge of the malaria-eradication programme in that country. It will have indoor, outdoor and clinical facilities with air-conditioned cabins for well-off patients.

According to Khan, the hospital will act as the hub of the CMC’s 50 malaria-control clinics in different parts of the city. It will be the referral centre for these clinics. All these clinics will be linked with the hospital by telephones to feed micro-level malarial data which will be stored in a computer. Hospitals, nursing homes and pathological clinics will be requested to supply regular information on malaria cases treated or tested everyday..


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
Two policemen were injured in a clash with criminals at Bishnupur, near Joka, early on Sunday. The injured cops were taken to a local hospital. Bombs and some weapons were recovered from the site.

Trouble started after a police team, led by Pratik Dutta, officer-in-charge of Bishnupur police station, reached Chakrajumolla to arrest Pankaj and Tarun, two local goons. Gang members of Pankaj and Tarun hurled bombs and opened fire on them. The police fired 10 rounds in retaliation when a sub-inspector collapsed with bullet injuries in his leg.

Seven persons were rounded up in this connection. One of them, Prafulla Baidya alias Ghute, is a local committee member of the CPM, police said. Local Trinamul Congress MLA, Dilip Mondal, said: “These criminals have been extorting money from realtors and traders for a long time. It has become impossible for people to start a construction without paying them first. Some of these goons are patronised by the CPM.”

Denying the allegation, Kashinath Adak, former CPM MLA from Bishnupur, said: “It is true that some goons have become active in this area, but our party has no connection with them.”


Calcutta, Aug. 5: 
Traffic in south Calcutta was disrupted on Sunday morning after a 50-year-old woman was knocked down by a private bus on S.P. Mukherjee Road. The unidentified woman was taken to SSKM Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The driver fled leaving the vehicle, which was later impounded.

The accident occurred around 9.15 am when the bus, heading towards Rashbehari, ran over the woman. “People use this stretch to reach the Kali temple and, so, it is prone to mishaps. Despite requests, the local police never post personnel here. The situation deteriorates on festival days,” a local resident said.


Guwahati, Aug. 5: 
The National Democratic Front of Boroland today exploded an improvised explosive device killing eight CRPF personnel and two civilians near Bijni in Bongaigaon district.

A CRPF convoy of the first battalion was on its way to Bijni from Amguri when the powerful devise went off at 12:15 pm at a place between Amguri and Borobazar, about 35 km off Bijni, inspector-general of police B.P. Rao said.

This is the second major strike in a week by the underground outfit fighting for a “sovereign Bodoland”.

On July 31, the NDFB had killed six Bhutanese nationals by blasting a mini-truck in Kokrajhar district. Eight Bhutanese were also injured in the attack.

Sources said today’s attack could be in retaliation to the gunning down of three NDFB rebels in two separate incidents yesterday in Nalbari and Kokrajhar districts.

Two of them were killed at village Swargapuri under Tamulpur police station in Nalabri district.

Two rifles of AK series were recovered from the possession of the slain militants.

The other NDFB rebel was killed at Jharbari village under Gossaigaon police station of Kokrajhar district.

The first of the two trucks (number ASG 1383) of the convoy took the full impact of the blast and was completely damaged.

All the eight CRPF men, along with the civilian driver and the handyman, were killed on the spot.

Two other CRPF men were seriously injured. The following truck, however, escaped the explosion.

According to preliminary investigation, the devise was exploded with the help of a 200-metre flexible wire. A six-volt battery was also recovered from near the blast site.

The deceased were identified as inspector M.C. Sharma, havildar D.N. Sonowak, constables Kailash Yadav, Sunit Kumar, Bhagwan Singh, Ramji Mishra, Dharam Pal, Jagadish Sharma, driver Lal Mian and handyman Rahim Ali.

The injured — Rajendra Prasad Singh and Mani Ram —have been shifted to the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital.

Senior police officials have rushed to the spot and launched combing operations.

The attack on Bhutanese nationals on July 31 is being perceived as the NDFB’s way of sounding a warning to the Bhutan government.

Bhutan has asked both the Ulfa and the NDFB to leave that country by December. Though the Ulfa has agreed to shift four of its nine camps by December, the NDFB has not yet given any commitment.

A red alert has been sounded throughout the state as 12 underground outfits, including the NDFB, have called for a boycott of Independence Day.

Security forces apprehend more violence in the run-up to the August 15 celebrations.


Gossaigaon and Guwahati, Aug. 5: 
Police today arrested former minister Rajendra Mushahary on charges of raping teenager Monila Brahma in a hotel at Warisa on the Assam-West Bengal border last year.

Kokrajhar superintendent of police Anil Phukan said Mushahary was arrested in the Assam capital after the Gauhati High Court quashed his ad interim bail. The AGP leader will be produced in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Kokrajhar, tomorrow.

Phukan’s Guwahati counterpart Paresh Chandra Neog said a police team led by the circle inspector of Gossaigaon, Sarat Bora, zeroed in on a house in the Lachit Nagar locality of the capital city and arrested Mushahary. The police team immediately took the former minister to Gossaigaon, he said.

Paltan Bazar police assisted Bora and his colleagues in the operation, Phukan said.

According to the FIR filed by Monila at the Gossaigaon police station on September 4 last year, she was taken to a hotel at Warisa and raped twice by Mushahary — first on February 27 and again in March. She gave birth to a son, named Pabitra, in October.

Pressure mounted on Kokrajhar police to arrest Mushahary after a DNA test conducted at the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics confirmed the veracity of Monila’s claim that the AGP leader was the biological father of her infant son.

Based on the findings of the DNA test, first reported by The Telegraph, the police pleaded with the court to quash Mushahary’s ad interim bail.

DNA profiling of blood samples collected from Mushahary, Monila and Pabitra was carried out under the supervision of G.V.Rao, chief scientist at the Hyderabad laboratory.

Reacting to the All-Bodo Women’s Welfare Federation (ABWWF)’s demand that Monila be paid Rs 5 lakh as compensation, Mushahary yesterday hinted that he was willing to go in for an out-of-court settlement with the teenager, provided the rape case against him was withdrawn.

Asked if he was hinting at a possible alliance with his alleged rape victim, Mushahary said, “I will not say yes or no now. The case against me at the Gossaigaon police station should first be withdrawn.”

Mushahary, a widower, said he was eligible to marry anyone he wanted. “Even if one goes by the ABWWF constitution, I can marry if I wish to do so,” he said.

The women’s organisation is, however, against the idea of Monila marrying her alleged rapist. “In that case, both Monila and her son will be in peril,” said its secretary Kananbala Basumatary.

Though Mushahary hinted that he was willing to strike a deal with Monila, he rejected the demand for payment of compensation.

“Who is this ABWWF? First they demand my arrest. Then they demand money. The latest is that they are trying to force the girl into my Gossaigaon residence. On one hand, these women accuse me of raping the girl; on the other, they demand money. Simply put, they are trying to politicise the issue,” he said.


Guwahati, Aug. 5: 
The Arunachal Pradesh government today assured Oil India Limited (OIL) of adequate security for its employees and urged it to resume operations at Khumsai in Changlang district.

Chief minister Mukut Mithi told OIL chairman-cum-managing director B.B. Sharma in Itanagar that his government would take all possible steps to ensure that militants of the NSCN(Isak-Muivah) do not disrupt drilling operations.

The NSCN(I-M) recently slapped a Rs 60-lakh extortion notice on OIL, prompting the public sector unit to suspend operations at Khumsai on July 31, a day before the deadline set by the Naga militant outfit expired. OIL also evacuated its 130 employees from the area.

Chief secretary Lalit Sharma told The Telegraph over the phone that additional security forces had been deployed at Khumsai.

“There is no cause for concern. The Central Industrial Security Force is there to deal with the NSCN(I-M),” he said.


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