Rifle blazes after lift letdown
Minister to claim dues from Delhi
Disprin pullout for Plus entry
Battlelines drawn on tracks of discord
1813 secure first class
Across the country on two wheels and a leg
Mayor axed from hawker task force
Breathe easy with chest clinics
Kidnap-hunt panthers return minus prey
Schools on threat alert

Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
It was 9.45 pm on Wednesday when Amarendranath Ghatak, 63, returned to the Dover Lane Central government housing complex. He was allegedly drunk. Finding the lift ‘out of order’, he hauled up Naresh Raut, 50, who was in the ‘guard room’. “Start the lift and take me to my flat at once,” thundered Ghatak. When Raut refused, the retired income-tax officer promised to make him “pay for this”.

Ghatak took the stairs to his ninth-floor flat and then came back to the ground-floor ‘guard room’ — armed with a .22 Winchester rifle. He shot Raut just above the stomach, bolted the room from outside, walked out of the complex, hailed a taxi and disappeared. Till late on Thursday, there was no sign of Ghatak, while Raut was battling for life at Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratishthan.

According to doctors, the bullet is inside Raut’s body. “His condition is critical… Doctors will operate on him later at night,” hospital sources said on Thursday evening.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda, said Ghatak’s wife, Poly, who is also with the income-tax department, has been detained for interrogation. “The .22 Winchester with which he shot the liftman has been recovered from Ghatak’s sister’s residence on Southern Avenue. It does appear that after the incident, Ghatak had come to his sister’s flat and left behind the rifle,” police said.

The gunshot sent shockwaves through the south Calcutta locality, close to Gariahat police station. The Dover Lane Central government housing complex, with around 450 flats, is a landmark of sorts — one of the oldest and largest multi-storeyed complexes in south Calcutta. It is occupied by staff members of the income-tax, Central excise and Customs departments, who have been living here for decades.

Ghatak has been living in the E1 Block of the complex for the past 20-odd years. His son is in Delhi, his daughter studies in Bangalore. According to Apurba Banerjee, secretary of the residents’ association in the complex, Ghatak was always a “troublemaker... He seldom socialised in the complex. He would often return home drunk, with a bunch of people. Recently, he assaulted a durwan of the building, who later confirmed that Ghatak was drunk,’’ Banerjee said.

“Raut, who hails from Bihar, has been working in the complex for the past 28 years. He is in charge of the lift’s maintenance... The fact that he was shot by one of our neighbours has come as such a shock,” Banerjee added.

According to witnesses, “the lift developed a snag in the afternoon, which was repaired by evening. But the problem cropped up again around 9 pm,’’ they said. “When Ghatak ordered Raut to start the lift ‘at once’, the liftman, who had been watching TV, said he was not feeling too well and would look into the problem later. This enraged Ghatak,” they added. Three of Raut’s colleagues heard the gunshot and rushed to his rescue. “We saw Ghatak leaving the complex… Our main concern then was to save Raut’s life,’’ one of them recounted.


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
Delhi owes Calcutta money for “several urban development projects”. So, municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya is off to the Capital on a claim-the-dues mission. “The Union urban development ministry owes us Rs 30 crore in arrears for the Megacity project. I will meet urban development minister Jagmohan on September 3 and ask him to release the funds,” Bhattacharya said on Thursday.

According to Bhattacharya, the Centre is “committed” to pay the Left Front government Rs 50 crore every year for the Megacity project. “But we have received only Rs 20 crore so far,” he alleged. “The Centre also owes the municipal affairs department Rs 9.5 crore under the provisions of the 10th Finance Commission.” Besides claiming the dues, Bhattacharya will urge Jagmohan to share the cost of the Salt Lake bypass connecting Sector V with VIP Road.

“We have spent around Rs 20 crore for the 3.4-km stretch and we want the Centre to share half the cost,” the minister said.

Bhattacharya termed the bypass “vital to the city’s development”, as it will cut travel time between “the airport and the state’s software hub”, besides easing traffic pressure on VIP Road and the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.”

Bhattacharya is also expected to raise the issue of imposing a “service charge” on buildings in the city owned by the Centre. “The 11th Finance Commission has recommended that service charge be imposed instead of a tax. So, I am going to urge Jagmohan to take all legal steps necessary to implement the provision,” he said.

At present, none of the properties in Calcutta owned by Central ministries and agencies pays civic tax. When the state government had earlier demanded that these buildings be taxed, the Centre had “rejected the proposal outright”, claimed Bhattacharya.

Also on the minister’s Delhi agenda are meetings with Union minister of state for environment T.R. Balu to demand that Rabindra Sarobar and Subhas Sarobar be included in the National Lake Conservation Project.


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
Disprin, a medication that had become a household name, has been withdrawn. Stocks at chemists’ shops are dwindling, and smaller outlets have run out of the over-the-counter drug, raising concern among its many users.

The tablet’s manufacturer, Reckitt Benckiser (formerly Reckitt Colman), has decided to withdraw the product and introduce Disprin Plus, which has paracetamol as the painkiller ingredient in place of acetylsalicylic acid, or age-old aspirin.

The company’s move, industry circles say, is a fall-out of the Centre’s price control order that sharply brought down the cost of aspirin powder, the main component of Disprin. Had the company continued to produce the tablet, its price would have fallen further. The tablets were available at Rs 2.75 for a strip of 10.

“One of the main reasons for the drug’s popularity was its price,” pointed out Prof B.K. Gupta, president of the Indian Pharmaceutical Association’s Bengal branch. “Besides, the tablets had calcium carbonate and citric acid, which helped them to dissolve and act faster. This effervescence was also a cause for its popularity.”

The notification, issued by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority some months ago, was prompted after aspirin was placed in the life-saving drug category because of its anti-coagulatory benefits. Most Disprin users took the medication not because of its painkilling attributes but because of aspirin’s capacity as a “blood thinner,” thus helping in preventing clots.

“Everyone above the age of 35-40 should have a low dose of aspirin to prevent heart attacks, strokes and thrombosis,” pointed out cardio-vascular surgeon Bhabatosh Biswas. “Persons with acidity or ulcer problems, however, should not have aspirin, as the drug aggravates such conditions.”

Aspirin in doses of between 75 and 150 mg a day is taken by nearly all those above 35 in north India, said Prof Gupta. “This is mainly to decrease the chances of cardiac arrests, strokes in the brain and thrombosis in the veins. Aspirin helps in blood platelate aggregation.”

In a bid to retain the advantage the Disprin brand name has, Reckitt Benckiser has retained the name in its new product, which is already available in Calcutta’s drug stores. But the price has been increased to Re 1 per tablet. Dispirin Plus now falls in the paracetamol group of analgesics.

“We, however, have a pure aspirin preparation called Colsprin for low disaster management,” said the company’s regional sales manager J.N. Bhowmik. “This formulation is prescribed at 100 mg a day as an anti-coagulant.”

He admitted that this role was better played by Disprin. “Though it was stronger, doctors used to prescribe half a tablet a day as an anti-clotting agent.”

Disprin users, however, need not fear, say doctors. There are equally good aspirin formulations, like Ecosprin or Loprin, which can do the job, they say. Companies like Unisearch, the makers of Loprin, are now selling the tablet at 28 paise each, following the price control order. Earlier, the price of a tablet was 90 paise.


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
Run trams only if you can repair the roads. That’s the message from the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to the state transport department.

“I have told transport minister Subhas Chakraborty that I will not repair an inch of road on which there are tramlines,” mayor Subrata Mukherjee said on Thursday. “It is extremely difficult and expensive to repair roads with tramlines… Let the Calcutta Tramways Company (CTC) take the responsibility. Why should we repair roads damaged by them?’’ demanded Mukherjee.

CTC chairman and managing director Sudhir Dey refused to cow down. “It is the duty of the Corporation to repair and maintain city roads. Do bus or taxi operators repair roads they run their vehicles on?’’ he countered. “The CTC, a fully-subsidised company incurring huge losses, is in no position to spend a single paisa on road repairs.”

The trouble over tramlines — “covering about 68 km, but ferrying only two per cent of Calcutta’s commuters” — has been brewing for some time now, with battlelines drawn between transport experts and environmentalists, the civic body and the transport department.

“I had submitted a proposal to the transport minister to withdraw trams from B.B. Ganguly Street, Bidhan Sarani, Rabindra Sarani and Mahatma Gandhi Road and shift them to the city’s outskirts, for which the Corporation would extend all help to the government,’’ Mukherjee said.

Chakraborty, meanwhile, has abandoned his ‘remove tramlines for speedy traffic’ track and taken the ‘environment-friendly’ line. “The government has decided to shell out a subsidy of Rs 8 crore a year as trams are pollution-free,” said the transport minister, who has put his weight behind the Calcutta-Melbourne tram yatra. “We are considering a proposal from an Australian company for overhead trams, without disturbing surface transport. For the moment, there is no question of tramlines being dismantled.”


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
The results of this year’s BA, B.Sc and B.Com Part II (honours) examinations of Calcutta University were published on Thursday.

Nearly 30,000 examinees took the tests, held in June this year. The success rate in the arts stream is 85.43 per cent, in B.Sc it is 84 per cent and in B.Com, 70.18 per cent.

Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations, Calcutta University, said results of the B.A, B.Sc and B.Com Part II (honours) under the old regulations were also declared on Thursday.

Marksheets of the students were distributed to the authorities of the respective colleges in the city and in its adjoining districts on Thursday afternoon.

The colleges have been asked to put up the results “latest by Friday morning”, university officials said.

According to the controller of examinations, 1,813 examinees of the three streams under the new regulations have obtained first-class marks.


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
When Debashis Shaw was struck by polio and paralysed waist downwards, he was 18 months old. Later, medical reports declared him “65 per cent disabled”.

Today, he is 45 and drags his shrivelled right leg with his right hand as he shuffles forward. He finds it difficult to stand upright for a minute, but that hasn’t stopped Debashis from driving cars, motorcycles and even heavy-duty trucks. In April this year, he drove a Hero Honda from his AD-Block residence in Salt Lake to Kanyakumari — a distance of 6,000 km.

On August 15, Debashis set off on a 2,600-km drive in a Maruti-800 from Patna. He reached Bangalore five days later. Next, he plans to tour the world on a bicycle “to encourage handicapped persons” across the country. “As I grew up, my parents consulted doctors who put my right leg in a cage of sorts and fitted it to my waist. It made me feel even more handicapped. Whenever I got the chance, I would slip off the cage and limp around,” he recounts.

Debashis completed courses in computer operation, refrigeration and air-conditioning, but his passion was driving. His father was a motor-parts dealer. “So, by the time I was 14, I knew the mechanism of an Ambassador, a Fiat, a Dodge and a Willy’s left-hand-drive jeep.”

Debashis learnt cycling at the age of eight. “I learnt how to balance myself on a cycle by holding on to a wall with my left hand and grabbing the handle with my right. When I was in Class VII-VIII of Frank Anthony School, I would cycle to school from my south Calcutta residence near Menoka cinema… Later, I even cycled to Ghatshila and Ranchi.”

His disability proved a stumbling block when he applied for a learner’s licence from the Public Vehicles Department in 1976. “They refused to give me the licence, though I had driven our car there. They asked me to get a fitness certificate from a government hospital. I managed to convince the doctors about my driving skills and got the licence,” smiles Debashis.

There was no looking back. Debashis bought a taxi and drove it for a year. Then, he went into car-rentals. In 1988, he bought a truck which he sold off earlier this year. “Now, I plan to tour the world on a bicycle and spread the message that self-determination can overcome every handicap,” he concludes.


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
For once, the hawkers of Calcutta seem to have scored over the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). The mayor has been dropped from a 13-member national-level task force formed last week. Instead, Hawker Sangram Committee leader Shaktiman Ghosh will represent the city at the September 10 meeting of the committee at Nirman Bhavan, in New Delhi.

The task force has been constituted by the ministry of urban development and poverty alleviation as a prelude to include the hawker issue in the 10th Plan, which will help generate self-employment opportunities. The aim is to look at issues relating to street vendors and suggest guidelines to the state governments and urban local bodies accordingly.

The panel, to be chaired by Union minister of state for urban development Bandaru Dattatreya, includes the mayors of Delhi and Bangalore, commissioners of Hyderabad and Nagpur municipal corporations and hawkers’ representatives from Mumbai.

Union minister for urban development and poverty alleviation Jagmohan will preside over the first meeting slated for September 10.

Concerned at the growing number of public complaints over encroachment of pavements, mayor Subrata Mukherjee said hawkers could not be allowed on the city’s thoroughfares under any circumstances. “The CMC is a statutory body, responsible for safeguarding the citizens’ interests. It is answerable to them for any dereliction of duty,” he added. “If the hawkers think they will be able to return to the pavements, then they are living in a make-believe world.”

The CMC will construct markets for hawkers if the Centre provides funds and plots, the mayor said. “We are dependent on the government for undertaking a hawker eviction drive, as the CMC does not have its own police force,” he added.


Calcutta, Aug. 30: 
Growing pollution on the streets of Calcutta has resulted in a drastic rise of chest-related ailments like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, rhinitis and other respiratory distress syndromes.

Now, there’s something on the anvil to make Calcuttans suffering from such chest-related and respiratory disorders breathe a little more easy.

Encouraged by the response to its smoking-cessation aid Zyban, launched two months back, Glaxo India Limited has plans to help set up speciality chest clinics in Calcutta to address all thoracic disorders except lung cancer.

“We are working on the concept of integrated chest clinics in collaboration with chest specialists in the city who have the basic brick-and-mortar infrastructure. We will provide all the expertise and knowledge required in terms of doctor education, patient education, medical and motivation aids and interactive facility. These clinics will offer comprehensive chestcare under one roof and we will translate the best practices from all over the world,” says Kal Sundaram, director, pharmaceuticals, Glaxo India Limited.

The pharmaceutical major is in the process of identifying areas and specialists to set up these speciality clinics on a turnkey basis. “Glaxo will also help with the architecture or interior decor if required, besides flying in overseas experts to speak on latest treatment trends,” adds Sundaram.

“A venture like this would be wonderful news for my patients and countless others suffering from COPD, asthma, tuberculosis or bronchogenic carcinoma. We can obviously provide better treatment and increased comfort to the suffering if we can replicate the best practices from the developed countries and have access to the latest resources and knowledge-base,” said Dr Parthasarathi Bhattacharyya, pulmonary medicine expert.

Glaxo has opened an all-India toll-free helpline (9622005555) for counselling smokers trying to quit. More than 350 people registered at a smoking cessation camp held in the city last week and 54 have started treatment.

“We have already logged sales in excess of Rs 1.5 crore, and at least Rs 10-15 lakh from Calcutta alone, which is quite encouraging,” according to Sundaram.

Special packages are on offer for corporates wanting to go in for group cessation therapy. Apart from a special pack at a special price, corporates get a complimentary presentation, expert advice, psychiatric help, regular follow-up treatment, etc.

A website, zybanindia.com, has also been set up, offering information, education and counselling. A data bank of 50-odd chest specialists based in Calcutta, with all relevant details, has been uploaded on the website. A few psychiatrists have also been named.

“We have trained these doctors on psychological counselling, family support, etc., which are vital in cessation therapy,” explains Sundaram.


Siliguri, Aug. 30: 
Officers of the special investigating team (SIT) set up to trace kidnapped businessman Mukesh Agarwal have returned empty-handed from Kishanganj, in bordering eastern Bihar.

The SIT has so far failed to trace either Agarwal — owner of an amusement centre on Sevoke Road on Siliguri’s outskirts — or his captors though it says the Langotia Baba gang based in Golapbag in Bihar had masterminded the abduction.

Having specific information that there could be a possible trade-off between the kidnappers and the victim’s family, the SIT launched Operation Panther-II to nab the abductors when the “switch” would be made.

A senior official connected with the operation told The Telegraph that the SIT had specific information that Agarwal’s relatives had left for Kishanganj with the reported ransom of Rs 50 lakh and that the transaction was to have taken place last night.

“It appears that the victim’s family has been negotiating on their own with the abductors and had reportedly agreed to pay a ransom of Rs 50 lakh. Accordingly, we rushed a team which lay in wait for the transaction to take place somewhere in Kishanganj. But it seems that the abductors developed cold feet at the last moment. Though the ransom is believed to have been paid, the transaction did not take place as scheduled,” the official said.

He added that a dozen SIT officials are keeping constant vigil for the abductors in Purnea, Kishanganj and Araria districts of eastern Bihar.

“We did not want to run any risk of jeopardising the victim’s safety. We raided a couple of suspected hideouts of the kidnap mafia in and around Kishanganj and Purnea but got nothing. Our aim now is the safe recovery of Agarwal. Only then can we move against the kidnappers, all guns blazing,” the official said.

The SIT, headed by the Siliguri superintendent of railway police Ajoy Kumar, has identified at least two east Bihar-based kidnap gangs that were actively involved in Agarwal’s kidnap last Friday. While one gang is believed to have executed the abduction, the other had drawn up the plan.

“The SIT has identified at least two trans-border kidnap gangs which operate from eastern Bihar. We are checking the credentials of the gang headed by Langotia Baba. This godman-gangster regularly visits Siliguri and is reported to be involved with land-sharks,” he said.


Asansol, Aug. 30: 
Parents pressed the panic button after it was rumoured that some school children had been kidnapped from this industrial town on Wednesday.

Police have dismissed the rumours as false, but school authorities are not taking chances.

In a knee-jerk reaction, they have started issuing identity cards to the guardians or their representatives who take the children home from school.

Yesterday, guardians rushed to the Assembly of God Church school here when even two hours after classes got over at 1.30 pm, the children did not return. The authorities had not allowed students to leave after rumours of abductions reached them.

The guardians said they had heard about a phone call to the school threatening to kidnap four students if the authorities failed to pay up some money. “I rushed to the school to see why my daughter had not returned home. When I reached the school, I found many of the guardians gathered in front of the school gate. The gatekeeper was allowing the children out only after their parents came,” said Debabrata Sinha, the father of a Class VI student.

Anu Sharma, who works in a bank, rushed to the school in panic after hearing the rumours. “My friends called me at office to inform about the incident. I rushed to the school immediately,” she said. The school authorities, however, denied that they had received any threat call, but said they were not willing to take chances after hearing the rumours.

The principal of St. Vincent School, Stephen Mathews, however, told the police yesterday that a few junior school boys had complained that an unknown person came to the school and was trying to force a boy of Class II to go with him. He allegedly told the school guard that he was his father.

“We are also receiving crank calls in school. We are very worried and have informed the police,” Mathews said.


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