Country road for doctors
Businessman’s wife strangled during dacoity
Smiling monk, grave guru in peace paen
Police escort for mill bidders
The City Diary
No takers for Puja fire tips
Notes and brushstrokes for children
Old boys network NY

 
 
COUNTRY ROAD FOR DOCTORS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
The government is ready to introduce drastic changes in under-graduate medical education, as part of which interns from teaching hospitals in Calcutta will have to undergo mandatory tenures in rural health centres for obtaining their MBBS degrees.

Senior health officials said on Tuesday that this exercise would entail an extra six months of the current one-year internship, for which approval had been sought from the Medical Council of India (MCI). “We have forwarded our proposal to the MCI. It will give us the approval in due course, but we are going to start right away,” said director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s latest initiative, expected to be discussed by various states for replication soon, comes four months after the Assembly elections in which the ruling Left Front had successfully utilised the promise of health-sector reform as a major plank. In the four months since May, health minister Surya Kanta Mishra has unveiled several key measures to improve the quality of healthcare in Calcutta.

Every year, 905 doctors graduate from the seven medical colleges in the state; 605 from the four Calcutta colleges alone.

The new internship rule will take effect shortly. “During the extended internship, prospective doctors will have to compulsorily serve in district and block hospitals, where they will treat rural patients. Future doctors must know the health problems of villagers as well; they must be trained to cater to the needs of society,” Maiti said, adding that the idea might encourage other states to alter medical education.

The syllabus is set to be altered to lay stress on common ailments among the rural population. “For example, the present course has very little on snake-bite treatment. This will be increased,” Maiti added.

The government has also decided to bring in measures to ensure that students and teachers attend classes regularly and without disruption. Chief minister Bhattacharjee has asked health minister Mishra to immediately set in place a system so that classes begin at 7.30 am in all medical colleges.

Health department sources said the chief minister has reacted strongly to reports that students rarely attend classes. He was told how teachers mark absent students present for fear of reprisal.

The health department has been asked to keep a strict watch on the way teachers in government hospitals discharge their duties. It has also been decided not to allow student unions to dictate lecture and laboratory timings.

“These students, after passing their examinations, hardly have enough practical knowledge even to man primary health centres,” an official said. “These doctors develop a tendency of not reporting for work at the health centres.”

There has been a long-standing demand for the medical education system to be restructured.

In fact, Anjan Dutta, president of Cardiological Society of India, has voiced concern over the quality of medical graduates passing out from Calcutta University in recent years. He felt that after the introduction of the medical education service in 1991, all “good” teachers had left the colleges and opted for private practice.

Even though teachers at present get a non-practising allowance, they have their private practice, in blatant violation of the rules. To set things right, it will be made mandatory for teaching doctors to stay clear of private practice, “an existing ban which the government wants to enforce effectively”.

   

 
 
BUSINESSMAN’S WIFE STRANGLED DURING DACOITY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
After making their way into a businessman’s house on a busy stretch of Bangur Avenue on Tuesday afternoon, a gang of burglars killed his 45-year-old wife, ransacked the apartment and escaped with cash and ornaments kept in two cupboards.

In what was clearly a well-planned crime, at around 1.30 on Tuesday afternoon, a group of about four criminals approached businessman Ashwini Dhawan’s second-floor apartment on 136/1, Bangur Avenue, at a time when only his wife, Lovely, was home.

They walked up the stairs. The police said initial investigation shows that the gateman was not at his post at the time of the crime.

Reconstructing the incident, the police said that on reaching the second floor, the gang walked past two other apartments and pressed the doorbell of Dhawan’s house. Lovely opened the door.

The criminals pushed past her and, shutting the door, pinned her to the wall. As Lovely let out a scream, the criminals grabbed her, tied her hands behind her back and plastered tape over her mouth and nose. The police later said that Lovely died of suffocation.

The criminals then took over the apartment. Fanning out into the two bedrooms and the large drawing room, they broke open cupboards, ransacked cabinets and finally escaped with cash and ornaments to the tune of Rs 50 lakh. The operation was over in an hour. Then, they opened the front door, checked for the watchman, and finding the coast clear, left the apartment after closing the door behind them.

Dhawan’s 14-year-old son returned from school at around 3 pm. When he rang the doorbell and found no response, he informed his neighbours, who broke open the door to find a lifeless Lovely on the floor.

The neighbours then called in Dhawan, a rubber goods trader in Burrabazar, as well as the police.

“We are looking into various aspects of the crime,” said superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, Harisena Varma. “Though it seems to be a case of murder for profit, we are also checking whether the gang was after some documents, as the apartment has been ripped apart.” The police are also checking whether the criminals were known to the Dhawans. The watchman has been detained for interrogation.

Some local youth told the police they noticed a group of four persons “moving suspiciously” in the area in the afternoon and that they were, perhaps, the killers. “We are checking on the antecedents of some of the groups that operate in the area,” said R. Ranade, additional superintendent of police, Barrackpore.

   

 
 
SMILING MONK, GRAVE GURU IN PEACE PAEN 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
He sat on the dais, draped in trademark maroon-and-gold robes. He folded his hands, cherubic face breaking into a wide grin, bald pate aglow. His companion in white, a mop of hair and flowing beard hiding his lean face, was still, eyes often closed, rarely displaying emotion.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Buddhist world, met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living movement, on Tuesday afternoon. The smiling monk and the grave guruji presented a picture of striking contrast. But their message was similar: Self-discovery. Their prescribed paths are common: Spiritual awareness.

The “interactive session on human values”, organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was a “reunion” for the Tibetan Nobel Peace Prize- winner and the Indian guru. A previous session at the Bangalore Art of Living ashram had brought the two together in 1995, but this time they had a chance to share their views with foreign diplomats, industrialists, artistes, socialites and devotees at the Taj Bengal meet.

There was to be no talk of religion, no judgments passed. The Dalai Lama and Ravi Shankarji “spoke from the heart”, on how to ease the pain and suffering in the world. The panelists walked on stage with Ravi Shankar in the lead, followed by the Dalai Lama. The two men, the distinctive angavastram around their necks, paused to hold hands for the benefit of lensmen, and took a seat, separated by BCCI president S.B. Ganguly. The only sound heard during the two-minute silence in honour of the victims of the US attacks was the pop of flashbulbs, capturing the image of the Lama, head bowed, hands folded and Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji, arms relaxed, chin up.

S.B. Ganguly, victim of an abduction a couple of years ago, introduced the interactive meet, stressing the importance of promoting values to battle the spread of “kidnappings and killings”.

Beginning his address in Chinese, the 14th Dalai Lama soon switched to English. “You know my English is very poor… I may use the wrong word, so be careful!” he warned. He was “very happy to be here”, with his “special brother” Ravi Shankar.

“Think, think; analyse, analyse,” was the Dalai Lama’s prescribed means to peace and prosperity. “I am half-Marxist, half-Buddhist and no doubt a socialist,” smiled the Buddha of Compassion.

Ravi Shankar zeroed in on his devotees first. “I belong to you all,” he said on taking the stand after the Dalai Lama’s one-hour talk. “We all belong to you,” was the spontaneous response from the well-versed Art of Living practitioners in the audience. “You are our spiritual grandfather,” the founder of the US-based movement said to the Lama.

Finally, the floor was opened for questions. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya took the mike for a long-winded question on combating oppression and deprivation. When the Lama was asked how to “channelise intelligence and emotion”, he paused, flashed his playful grin and beamed: “I don’t know.” Just as he didn’t know how to pronounce Calcutta’s new name. “Kolkot, Kolkot...” He tried a couple of times and gave up.

Earlier in the day, the Lama paid a visit to the Missionaries of Charity. After paying homage to Mother Teresa, he dropped in at Shishu Bhavan, visiting each of the wards, where the kids put up a performance for their ‘special guest’. And later in the day, Ravi Shankar held centrestage at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

   

 
 
POLICE ESCORT FOR MILL BIDDERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
The police on Tuesday said that bidders for Union Jute Mill in Entally will now have to visit the site accompanied by a police escort.

On Monday, a team of prospective buyers from a firm called S.B. Enterprises was assaulted and chased away by employees of the closed mill of the state-run National Jute Manufacturers Corporation (NJMC) .The workers also stuffed some mill products into the car of the prospective buyers and charged the recce team with theft, police said.

Deputy commissioner, headquarters, Banibrata Basu, said it was not safe for bidders to visit the closed mill on their own. “They will be provided with a police escort, as the mood of the workers is extremely volatile,” he added.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Metro Rail mulls hike

in fare The Metro Railway is considering a proposal for a fare hike, official sources said on Tuesday. The passenger services committee is believed to have suggested to Metro Railway to effect a fare hike in view of the increasing operational costs. Metro’s approximate annual earnings stand at Rs 38 crore against an expenditure of nearly Rs 90 crore.

Man shot dead

A 27–year-old man, Krishnendu Sarkar, alias Buro, was shot dead at Bansdroni in the Regent Park area on Monday night. He was taken to Chittaranjan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No one was arrested. Police said Sarkar was wanted in a number of cases including murder, extortion and snatching.

Beaten up

Two employees of a bottling unit of a soft-drink company at Taratala were beaten up by local miscreants on Tuesday morning. Police said Dilip Roy, the unit’s security officer, and another worker were beaten up when they refused to serve soft drinks to the goons. Later, the police picked up Nirmal Panja, the gang leader, and four associates.

Commuter hurt

A 50-year-old man was injured when a private bus knocked him down at the intersection of Ultadanga Main Road and VIP Road on Tuesday morning, police said. The man was admitted to RG Kar Hospital in a critical condition.

Puja bonus

Certain categories of shops will be allowed to remain open till 10 pm till October 25, a state government notification said. To avail of the option, a shopkeeper will have to apply to the chief inspector of shops and establishments with a copy of the labour department’s notification on the matter. The notice should be displayed prominently in the shop during the period. Employees of such shops are to be compensated for the loss of their weekly holidays within four weeks from October 26.

Road mishap

A 45-year-old company executive, Shibnath Dutta, was killed in an accident near Sealdah on Tuesday. Police said Dutta’s two-wheeler was hit by a lorry. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced brought dead. The lorry driver fled with the vehicle.

Pick-pockets held

Seven pick-pockets were arrested from different areas in North 24-Parganas district. Police picked them up from their houses in Barasat, Hridaypur and Khardah. The gang had committed a number of crimes in Sealdah and Rajabazar, police said.

Train services hit

Train services on Eastern Railway’s Howrah-Burdwan chord line were disrupted for over two hours due to obstructions at Burdwan, Gurap and Belmuri stations on Tuesday morning. Commuters squatted on the railway tracks demanding a change in local train timings. Two long-distance trains, New Delhi-Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani Express via Howrah and Coalfield Express, and four local trains were delayed for about 38 minutes.    

 
 
NO TAKERS FOR PUJA FIRE TIPS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
Puja committees have thrown cold water on the fire services department’s enthusiasm to train volunteers in fire-fighting. For the first time, the fire brigade had chalked out a plan to teach para youth, who double up as volunteers during the Pujas, the ABCs of dousing flames. But there seems to be no takers.

The volunteers, who help control pandal-hoppers and ensure a hassle-free view of the Goddess and her entourage, are not aware of even the preliminary steps of dousing a blaze, say fire services department officials.

“Most volunteers have no idea how to use fire-extinguishers, which are just kept as showpieces in the pandals,” fire services minister Pratim Chatterjee told Metro. “We will impart the basic training at a nominal cost.”

Various types of extinguishers are required, depending on the source of the fire, say officials. “Volunteers often sprinkle water near live power lines,” a senior official said.

Around 1,100 community pujas within the city’s periphery have been divided into ‘small’ and ‘big’ groups, sources said. Some 40 have been classified as ‘big’, including Mohammad Ali Park, Bagbazar, Simla Street, College Square, Babubagan, Mudiali, Ekdalia, Santosh Mitra Square and Park Circus.

The fire services department had asked organisers of community pujas to send “at least two or three” volunteers for training. To date, not even the crowd-puller pujas have sent anyone. “We really wanted at least the big puja committees to send their volunteers, as fires in those crowded pandals may spin out of control,” Chatterjee said.

An overwhelming 95 per cent of fires tend to occur in the smaller pujas, as they often escape official censure. Fire-safety measures at the bigger pujas are usually carefully scrutinised, officials said.

Officials have handed out a list of dos and don’ts to the puja organisers:

The pandal should be made of fire-retardant material

Litting an open fire prohibited within 100 yards of the image

Adequate space for movement of cars and fire-engines

Organisers can’t tap electricity

Bucketsful of sand and water must be kept ready

At least a 10-inch gap must be left between the surface of the pandal and high-voltage electrical appliances

   

 
 
NOTES AND BRUSHSTROKES FOR CHILDREN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
Say yes for children’. That will be the message that eminent city painters like Paritosh Sen, Prakash Karmakar and Bijon Chowdhury will put across when they put brush to canvas on Wednesday. They will be participating in a campaign for children’s rights on the same theme.

Nearly 1,000 children of the city will have a field day — full of song and drama, band music and mime acting. Reputed singers of children’s songs, including Alpana Banerjee and Sanat Singha, are likely to participate. Painters Ramananda Bandopadhyay, Rabin Mondal and Anjolie Ela Menon are expected to be present.

The children, aged between six and 12, will be carried to Sahid Minar near Esplanade by various NGOs around 2 pm to participate in the three-hour programme, organised jointly by the Unicef and the government’s District Primary Education Programme. It is part of the United Nation’s global campaign on children’s rights.

The children will carry colourful banners bearing copies of Satyajit Ray’s illustrations for Sukumar Ray’s Khai Khai. Their demands will range from protection from exploitation and war to their rights of education.

“This is a very good programme involving children. Those who have organised the programme have done a very good job. But, I feel it is the children who should draw. They are far more sensitive than us and if we try to draw for them I think we would have to pretend a lot because it is very difficult for us to think as they think,” said painter Ramananda Bandopadhyay.

Painter Bijon Chowdhury also felt more such programmes involving children should be organised. “But, I have not yet thought what kind of drawings I will offer to the children tomorrow,” he said.

“The purpose of tomorrow’s programme is to draw attention to children’s rights and get every person involved and committed to achieve them,” said Rachita Talukdar, Unicef project oficer.

Rajiv Sinha, the DPEP project director, said that between September 19 and September 21, the campaign will be carried out in all districts of Bengal. “The programme is being carried out with the aim to increase awareness on the child’s right to education and health besides his or her general well being,” he added.

   

 
 
OLD BOYS NETWORK NY 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, Sept. 18: 
Concerned over the tragic developments in New York and Washington, ex-students’ associations in Calcutta have tried to contact their alumni, who work in these two cities to find out how they were. A large number of former pupils of La Martiniere, St Xaviers and Presidency College, among others, work and stay in these two cities, which witnessed devastating acts of terrorism last Tuesday. Presidency College itself has about 1,000 ex-students in its New York chapter.

Initially, getting through to these alumni was tough, especially in New York.

“We all saw the destruction on television. For the next three days, we tried to contact our batchmates,” said Rubayat Kadir, who studied at La Martiniere for Boys in 1984.

With the collapse of high-power communication towers on top of the WTC, cellular and other phones stopped working. E-mails were not replied to either.

For the past few years, Kadir and Parikshit Mazumdar, another ex-Martinian, have been organising re-unions in the Big Apple, where around 500 former students live now.“On the fourth day, we got through and learnt of the ordeal that some families had faced and are still going through.”

Suresh Munshani, a former Xaverian, works as a financial consultant, living in an apartment at Battery Park, a stone’s throw from the WTC complex. On the day of the tragedy, his wife had left home to drop their elder daughter to school. He was getting ready for work when he heard the explosions. Within minutes, the police were at his door asking him to leave the premises immediately. All buildings in the vicinity were being evacuated. With his infant son, he was rushed first to a shelter and then to a military camp. He spent the night on Staten Island, without a clue as to where his wife and daughter were. They were re-united two days later.

Professor Monotosh Dasgupta of the chemistry department of Presidency College is the joint secretary of the alumni association. “We held a meeting last Friday to express our solidarity with members of our New York chapter,” he said on Monday.

Kalyan Chowdhury, a member of the St Xavier’s alumni association’s overseas unit, is planning to raise the incident at the association’s AGM on Friday. “We will be holding an interactive session on the tragedy and its aftermath, where prominent people from related fields are expected to participate,” he said.

   
 

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