Students flee campus of strife
Mega makeover for medicare in three years
Teenager mystery death sparks territory tussle
Go global: New mantra for future managers
Treat tumour sans surgery
Taxi union calls for fare hike
Rate-cut diktat on tannery land
Big Brother finds bigger role
Father strangles baby girl
Summons to Dunlop brass

 
 
STUDENTS FLEE CAMPUS OF STRIFE 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
Srirup Ghosh, from a Howrah school, did exceptionally well in HS 2001. It was a dream come true for him when he saw his name on the list of students selected for the chemistry honours course in Jadavpur University. Now, a “thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned” Srirup has decided to join Ashutosh College instead. His parents feel that “going to Jadavpur may ruin his academic future”.

It’s a centre of excellence; it’s also the dream academic destination for many a meritorious student. But for now, Jadavpur University is just a campus engulfed by fee-hike fury. The result: Students who were, till the other day, desperate to bag an under-graduate berth in JU, are now rushing to other universities.

For the last fortnight, academics and admissions have come to a standstill on the Jadavpur campus, with sustained student agitation — involving hungerstrike and noisy demonstration — dominating proceedings. This has forced applicants to look elsewhere.

Worried over the exodus, Jadavpur University teachers on Thursday submitted a memorandum to vice-chancellor Ashok Nath Basu, demanding “immediate steps” to “stop the agitation and prevent meritorious admission-seekers from moving” to other universities.

“It is obvious that students will prefer other institutions over Jadavpur if such a situation prevails. We cannot afford to lose good students in this manner. After all, students are our most valuable assets and it is mainly because of them that the university has won the prestigious UGC awards. The authorities should take immediate steps to resume normal academic activity on campus,” said Tarun Naskar, general secretary of Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association.

But it’s already too late to hold back some students. Take Minu Barik, who passed her HS with distinction from South Point school. She had “always wanted to study history honours in JU” and sure enough, she made it to the list of selected candidates. But — luckily, she now realises — Minu had also applied for the same course at Gokhale Memorial College, affiliated to Calcutta University. “I have made up my mind to join Gokhale. There is no sign of the agitation at JU ending and I cannot risk waiting any longer,” said Minu.

Matters had taken a serious turn on August 16 when, bowing to student pressure, the authorities had decided to suspend admissions to under-graduate science courses. The decision was taken after a series of clashes between two groups of students on the fee-hike issue. Admissions to the Arts stream have also been disrupted.

With a section of students threatening to continue their agitation till the authorities announce a rollback of tuition and other fees, JU registrar Rajat Banerjee is struggling to restore order on campus. “Discussions are on to resolve the students’ demands. Admissions to Arts courses took place on Thursday. We will soon announce the date for re-opening admissions to the science stream,” said Banerjee.

   

 
 
MEGA MAKEOVER FOR MEDICARE IN THREE YEARS 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
The end: To stem the flow of patients travelling south or west or north from the city for “proper treatment”.

The means: A mega plan to overhaul the health set-up within three years to make it “more professional and service-oriented”, by involving “good private practitioners”.

In a bid to balance public interest with private enterprise, the state health department has decided to draw on a Rs 700-crore World Bank loan to set its house — or hospitals— in order.

Health minister Surya Kanta Mishra and principal secretary (health) Asim Barman have already held the first round of discussions. Mishra has told Barman to “prepare a detailed project report on revamping the state healthcare set-ups”. Barman has approached various major hospitals and urged the superintendents to come up with “innovative ideas to serve the people better”.

First on the agenda is the plan to open up polyclinics — involving “reputed” private practitioners — on the premises of the state-run hospitals. This marks a U-turn from the policy of forcing government doctors to shut their doors on private practice. When the government had imposed a ban on private practice by government doctors in the early 1990s, more than 200 doctors had resigned from their posts in medical colleges and government hospitals.

Now, the government health sector’s revamp route has picked a private path. According to the medical makeover plan, the government will shoulder the responsibility of creating infrastructural facilities and providing all necessary medical equipment to run the polyclinics. The charges for various tests and medical examinations will be fixed by the state. The doctors and surgeons manning the polyclinics will draw 50 per cent of the earnings. The state government’s share of the earnings will be pumped back to maintain the set-up, upgrade equipment and improve facilities, besides pay off the loans.

The World Bank had earlier agreed to offer “a soft loan” to the government, “repayable over 35 years”, to boost Bengal’s healthcare facilities involving 15 district hospitals, 33 sub-divisional hospitals, 70 state general hospitals, 252 block-level hospitals, 922 primary health centres; 8,126 sub-centres.

According to sources in the health department, the government may also approach international funding agencies to ensure that the “revamped medical system can match health centres in and around other metros”.

Barman, who met the superintendents of several government hospitals earlier this week, refused to elaborate on the plans. “It is too early to comment on the matter,” he said.

A senior official in the health secretariat, however, said: “It is most unfortunate that while sophisticated equipment worth thousands of crores of rupees is rotting in these hospitals, so many people from the state have to travel hundreds of kilometres for proper treatment. The health system in the city has been reduced to such a pass due to years of neglect and the rise of a section of unscrupulous businessmen minting money at the expense of the people.”

So, the objective of the polyclinics will be two-fold — “make services of specialists’ available at a reasonable cost in government hospitals”; put the brakes on “private clinics exploiting people in distress”.

   

 
 
TEENAGER MYSTERY DEATH SPARKS TERRITORY TUSSLE 
 
 
BY DEBASHIS CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
Rafiul Momin, a Class XI commerce student of National High School, went missing on Monday. The next day, he was found unconscious beside the railway tracks near Bondel Gate, with multiple head injuries and bruises on his body. Admitted to National Medical College and Hospital, he died on Tuesday.

The death of the 17-year-old under mysterious circumstances has left his family and neighbours at Charu Market numb with grief.

The authorities, meanwhile, are bickering over jurisdiction. An officer at Charu Market police station said it was a case for the railway police and hence, they were not investigating it. But railway police said since Rafiul died in a hospital, the onus was on the local police station. Beniapukur police, in whose ambit the hospital falls, said they were looking into the case, but it was not possible for them to say anything now.

Rafiul was the only son of Abdul Momin, a national athlete, who works for the railways. The boy was remembered at a condolence meeting held by teachers and students of his school on Wednesday.

Abdul Momin, recuperating at home following a surgery, said: “On Monday, I sent Rafiul to my office in Sealdah on some work and told him to fetch medicines on his way back. He was supposed to take the 1.55 train back home and attend his coaching class. When he didn’t come back till late in the evening, we were worried and knocked on the doors of relatives and friends, but he was nowhere to be found. We lodged a missing person’s diary with the Charu Market police station.”

Azaz Rasul, a cousin of Rafiul, said: “We searched every hospital and railway station, without making any headway. On Tuesday, we received a phone call around 8.35 am, asking us to come to Bondel Gate, where Rafiul was found lying unconscious. When we reached the spot, he was still breathing. We rushed him to National Medical College and Hospital. The doctors tried their best, to revive him, but all their attempts came to naught.”

   

 
 
GO GLOBAL: NEW MANTRA FOR FUTURE MANAGERS 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
When Nitin Kainal puts himself in the placement market around eight months from now, he will have a gem on his CV his predecessors from the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, did not have. In his second year now, Nitin takes off for Germany to spend a term at WHU, Koblenz.Nitin is part of a fledgling exchange programme with B-schools abroad, started in Joka last year but which has truly taken off this summer.

Going global is clearly the mantra of the moment at IIMC. After a quantum jump in the number of overseas placements with companies like Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Bank, it’s time for the B-School boys and girls to register their presence in universities abroad. The Student Exchange Programme (STEP) at IIMC, started with two outgoing students in 2000, finds 28 budding managers headed off to 11 partner universities in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Australia... The number of incoming students this year is 14, against two last year.

IIMC’s partners in the three-month exchange programme include Curtin Business School, Australia, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, Leipzig Graduate School of Business, Germany, and the Norwegian School of Management. According to B.B. Chakraborty, in charge of STEP at IIMC, the success of the programme is a pointer to the fact that “our talent pool can be compared with the best” in the world. “We are keen to expand the programme not just in numbers but also in quality of partner universities (read: US-based),” he adds.

Efforts are already on to “collaborate” with universities in the US. “We are talking to some of the top 30 B-Schools in the US and are hoping to reach an agreement within a month’s time,” said Nitin, a STEP co-ordinator, too.

“With the number of international offers on campus rising by the year, the exposure provided by STEP is a huge value-addition for us,” adds another student co-ordinator Nirjhar Jain.

Jochen Heemann, a student from WHU-Koblenz, Germany, agrees: “My experience at IIMC has been very fruitful... I came to know a lot about the country and the business patterns followed here. The courses taught here are not only up-to-date, they are also in tune with the needs of the global industry.”

STEP, providing students with a “global perspective”, is a hit in the other IIMs as well.

At IIM Lucknow, the rise in students-on-exchange has been from three in 2000 to 21 this year. At IIM-Ahmedabad, which has 20 partner universities around the world, the number reads 46 this year, up from last year’s 38. From IIM Bangalore, 38 students, as compared to 26 in 2000, are going to 23 foreign universities this year.

“Most management schools all over the world have realised the importance of internationalising their classrooms, material, students, and perspectives to churn out managers who can work in different cultural contexts,” is how Neharika Vohra, in charge of STEP at IIMA, explains the success of the programme.

   

 
 
TREAT TUMOUR SANS SURGERY 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
Get a tumour cured without surgery or chemotherapy, without hospitalisation, and without being drained dry financially. Interventional radiology is now being used extensively in a city hospital to treat liver tumours, uterine fibroids, obstructive jaundice, or even as a pain-reliever in “secondary cancers of the vertebral bodies”.

AMRI Apollo Hospitals in Dhakuria, a joint-sector undertaking with the state government, has started using this line of treatment, “one of the most sought-after specialities in the US now”, as an alternative to surgery to treat a host of conditions.

“For treating liver tumours, for instance, the only solution till now was surgery or chemotherapy. Now, we can apply percutaneous ethanol ablation, a sub-branch of interventional radiology, as an alternative on patients who can’t undergo surgery,” says Dr Aroop J. Kalita, consultant radiologist, anchoring this procedure at AMRI.

Tumours smaller than 4 cm in size and up to a maximum of three in one patient can be treated by this procedure. “Percutaneously, using just a needle and CT (computer tomography) guidance, we kill the tumour by injecting absolute alcohol into it,” Dr Kalita explains. Uterine fibroids or non-malignant tumours in the uterus are also being treated at the hospital by an interventional radiology procedure called uterine artery embolisation. The same procedure can be used to treat patients with post-delivery haemorrhage where, otherwise, surgery was the only alternative.

Also on the cards is percutaneous trans-hepatic bilary drainage with stenting to treat patients with obstructive jaundice. A small needle puncture is made to cannulate the bile ducts and after conducting the drainage procedure, a stent is implanted at the site of obstruction. “The whole idea is to give the patient a better quality of life,” says Dr Kalita.

Percutaneous vertebroplasty, which will also be introduced on a regular basis shortly, can ease the pain in patients with secondary cancers in the vertebral bodies or osteoporosis. “In such cases, patients usually come with excruciating pain and conventional painkillers can’t provide much comfort. We make a small puncture in the skin over the diseased vertebral body and inject a special chemical, which results in drastic pain relief.”

The outlook of interventional radiology is bright, feel most doctors. “We can also do all kinds of diagnostic selective and superselective angiographies, angioplasties, stentings and various kinds of embolisation,” says Dr Sunil Baran Roy, cardiologist with the hospital who has also been actively involved with this interventional radiology procedure.

“We are also planning to introduce chemo-embolisation of hepatic tumours where the chemotherapy drug is injected directly into the artery or its branch supplying the tumours,” adds Dr Kalita.

   

 
 
TAXI UNION CALLS FOR FARE HIKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
Bengal Taxi Association president Kalyan Bhadra has called for a hike in taxi fares. He met transport minister Subhas Chakraborty at Writers’ Buildings on Thursday and demanded that the minimum fare be pegged at Rs 15, against the existing Rs 12.

Another association, the Progressive Taximen’s Union (PTU), has opposed the hike.

Bhadra told the transport minister that taxi operators had not sought a hike when fares were revised for buses and minibuses, in view of the diesel price rise.

“Apart from fuel, the cost of tyres and other spares have shot up. Under the circumstances, if fares are not raised, taxi operators will have to suffer a huge loss,’’ Bhadra said. The minister has assured him he will look into the matter.

PTU president Madan Mitra has called the hike proposal unjustified. “If fares are raised further, people will refuse to travel in taxis,’’ Mitra said.

The transport minister assured Bhadra that a decision would be taken after more talks. “If the cost of fuel and spares has increased, then so will fares,’’ he said.

Asked what steps he had taken to curb refusal by cabbies, Chakraborty said he had not received any complaint against taxi drivers.

   

 
 
RATE-CUT DIKTAT ON TANNERY LAND 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
The West Bengal government has instructed the promoters of the Calcutta Leather Complex to lower the price of the extra land that the relocated tanneries would have to buy. M.L. Dalmiya and Company, which is setting up the 1,100-acre facility at Karaidanga, in the eastern suburbs of Calcutta, had set a price of Rs 1,700 per sq m that the tanneries would have to buy, over and above their allotted plots. The allotted plots were sold at a price of Rs 600 per sq m. The extra land is needed to fulfil building rules being imposed on the tanneries at the complex.

Cottage and small-scale industries minister Bangsagopal Chowdhury said on Thursday that Jagmohan Dalmiya had been told to lower the price being charged by his company for the extra land. In the meantime, disputes between the tanneries, Dalmiya and the state government are being heard by the Supreme Court.

Chowdhury said Dalmiya has been told that he will have to lower the price of the extra land, “whatever the court’s order might be.” “We cannot jeopardise the tannery industry in our state,” the minister asserted.

A global tender for setting of the common effluent treatment plant has been floated. The hi-tech plant will be designed and executed by the Central Leather Research Institute and Unido. Chowdhury said a large chunk of the 580 tanneries located in Topsia, Tangra and Tiljala would move to the complex by next year-end.

The Supreme Court, in an order on August 16, has directed the ministry of environment and forests to release Rs 11 crore for the construction of the effluent treatment plant. It has also asked the ministry to monitor the progress of the plant’s construction.

Chowdhury said the government was keen that the leather complex be constructed as early as possible so that the tanneries who have paid up for their plots can shift. But he had no idea of what would happen to the sites vacated by the tanners. “We will work out something,” he said.

   

 
 
BIG BROTHER FINDS BIGGER ROLE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
Big Brother is no longer content with just watching its ministers.

Today, the CPM-dominated Left Front set in motion interactive meetings — at Alimuddin Street — where ministers will be quizzed by Front leaders on the performance of their departments.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee was the first in line. Panchayat and health minister Suryakanta Mishra will be in next for the grilling session scheduled for September 7.

The move, besides allowing the Front to get a stronger grip over the state government, is aimed at making the smaller Front partners feel more involved and important.

Meetings like these were not held in Jyoti Basu’s time. But from now on, any Front leader can grill any minister during these sessions, and the minister is bound to answer.

“After the session, the ministers will prepare a report on the basis of the discussion and submit it to us,” newly-appointed Front chairman Biman Bose told reporters after today’s meeting.

“We will send copies of the report to each of our partners on the basis of which they will be able to pose further questions to the ministers,” Bose said.

Though the CPM brass realises that the interactive sessions could embarrass the ministers, the party leadership is determined to go ahead with it.

This will be a big boost for the minor Front partners who had earlier accused the CPM of not holding regular meetings and of ignoring them.

The power minister told the Front leaders at the CPM’s Alimuddin Street headquarters that around 2,300 villages will have electricity by next year. Ongoing schemes to supply electricity to another 3,000 villages will be speeded up, the minister promised.

The Front today decided to allow expelled Forward Bloc MP Amar Roy Pradhan to function as an Independent member of the Lok Sabha supported by Front. After Forward Bloc expelled Roy Pradhan early this month, he wrote to the Front chairman expressing his desire to function as a Front MP.

But Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh objected to this and wrote to Bose. Bose today said Roy Pradhan will be treated as an Independent MP supported by the Front.

But Bose was angry with the Forward Bloc state secretary for briefing the press immediately after the Front meeting. “I had gone downstairs to see who was holding the press conference. I suggest that the chairman hold such briefings after a meeting with all the Front partners,” Bose said.

   

 
 
FATHER STRANGLES BABY GIRL 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Midnapore, Aug. 23: 
Suspecting female infanticide, the police today exhumed the body of a one-month-old girl from the cremation ground at Keshabpur in Mahishadal area of Midnapore. The girl had been strangled to death allegedly by her father and other family members.

The trouble started after 20-year-old Rekha Bera gave birth to a female child. Last night her husband, along with her in-laws, snatched her baby away and later she saw them throwing her into a pond, Rekha said. “They prevented me from going to the baby, “ she added.

   

 
 
SUMMONS TO DUNLOP BRASS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 23: 
The state government today summoned Dunlop India Ltd to thrash out the reasons for suspension of work at its Sahagunj factory.

Labour minister Mohammad Amin met Dunlop officials at Writers’ Buildings, three days after the company declared suspension of work.

The state had earlier declared the suspension “illegal” asthe Manu Chhabria-controlled company had failed to inform the government about its decision.

But in a press release yesterday, Dunlop said its decision, though painful, was entirely justified and legal. The company said it was forced to declare suspension of work following “threat to the management staff by a section of the employees”.

Writers’ Buildings sources said these claims and counterclaims over the legality of the work suspension forced the labour minister to call the meeting. The minister had directed the labour secretary to contact the management and sort out the problems at Dunlop. The meeting between four Dunlop officials and the labour minister lasted about an hour at the state secretariat, but its outcome was not officially disclosed.

The Dunlop officials, including senior vice-president Pradip S. Sharma, head of human resource development S.P. Bhaduri, general manager (personnel) A. Dasgupta and head of Sahagunj unit Pradip Mitra, avoided reporters after leaving the minister’s chamber.

Sources, however, said the officials informed the minister that the company was forced to declare suspension of work as it was making losses and there was a long delay in sanctioning the rehabilitation scheme to be submitted to the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction.

A labour department official said “the minister will not meet the press over the Dunlop issue as nothing significant happened during the meeting”.

   
 

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