Smoke signal for heartbreak
Buddha boost for trams, on Hiroshima lines
Cops storm hideout to rescue teenager
Airport alert over security sieve
The City Diary
Gunshots mark daylight dacoity
Shah hails legal alternative
Six arrested in satta racket bust
Australian bid to rebuild trade bridges
Alarm over Alzheimer’s

Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
Smoking is the curse of Calcuttans. By the end of the decade, when the Indian sub-continent is expected to be in the throes of a heart disease epidemic, the reason why most people from this city will fall victim is their propensity to puff.

So said heart specialists from various hospitals, who had gathered on Monday to begin different activity in observation of World Heart Day on September 30. Of all the Indian cities, Calcutta not only has the maximum number of people smoking but also smokers, who inhale more than a pack a day. And this habit is common in the districts of Bengal as well.

“For a large number, smoking is a way of life that begins in their school days when they are just 15 or so,” said B.P. Pandey, consultant interventional cardiologist with Peerless Hospital. “Whenever a patient I examine says he is a smoker, I don’t have to look much further in most cases for the reason for his heart condition.” In north India, eating habits are expected to be the cause.

Ironically, Bengal is among the five states that had urged the Centre for a comprehensive, countrywide anti-smoking legislation. Pending that, then health minister Partha De had framed the state’s own set of rules, which were shelved once the anti-smoking Bill was passed in Parliament last year.

By 2010, heart disease will take on the form of an epidemic in India, predicts the WHO and the World Heart Federation, when as much as 60 per cent of the world’s cardiac patients will be in India. At Monday’s interaction, organised by Goodwill Mission, doctors in Calcutta agreed.

“As it is, Indians are genetically three times more vulnerable to heart disease than Westerners,” said Ashis Dutta Chowdhury, chairman of Goodwill Mission, an organisation that has helped those with heart problems for the last 20 years. “In addition is the advent over the last decade of harmful lifestyles like stress, sedentary work and relaxation and the consumption of junk food.”

Most people in the West, realising the dangers, have changed their lifestyles, taking up health food, including exercise in their daily routine and giving up smoking. Stress is, perhaps, the only factor they have yet to come to terms with.

“The only way to prevent the forecast from coming true here is to build awareness and attitudes that will change our lifestyles. Children must be told to cut down on their consumption of goodies and junk food, exercise regularly and made aware of the dangers of smoking right from now,” pointed out Dr Alok Roy, vice-chairman, R.N. Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences.

Another area that needs urgent and sustained attention is encouraging women to come forward with their complaints. “Even women members from the most educated and well-off families suppress or neglect symptoms of chest pain,” said consultant cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar, who at present carries out about 60 heart bypass surgeries a month at the R.N. Tagore Institute.

Sarkar was at the session after completing surgery on a 42-year-old constable from north Bengal. “This constable came all the way to Calcutta because he is the sole bread-earner of a family of six. Socio-economic compulsions are forcing patients to go for treatment, no matter what the degree of inconvenience is. So, to avoid more younger people falling prey to such diseases, preventive measures are essential.”

He said Chennai and Delhi were conducting more bypass surgeries than Calcutta because people here were more predisposed to treatment from “superstars” (big-name doctors) than to treatment from super institutions.

The epidemic is more likely to occur among urban populations. In 1970, a study by the Indian Council of Medical Research showed that, overall, coronary artery disease was occurring in 20 of every 1,000 Indians.Though such an elaborate study has not been repeated, a survey five years ago in Rohtak showed 65 of every 1,000 persons had the disease. But the incidence in Haryana villages had remained at 23 per 1,000. “Heart disease will, beyond doubt, afflict city and town dwellers more than rural populations, where people eat better and exercise more,” pointed out Dr Pandey.


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
The tussle over tramcars took a decisive turn on Monday with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee making his intentions clear. The Japan-returned chief minister’s verdict: Let’s reinvent, rather than route out trams.

Fresh from a first-hand look at the “high-speed, new-look trams” in Hiroshima, Bhattacharjee clarified that the government had “no plans” to scrap the eco-friendly streetcars.

Last week, finance minister Asim Dasgupta had caused a stir by indicating at a seminar on public transport services that the government was ready to discontinue tram services in the city.

“I know what Asim said at the seminar. But I, as chief minister, inform you that no such decision has been taken,” Bhattacharjee clarified at a media briefing on Monday. “What Asim meant was that tram services should be withdrawn from a few busy, narrow streets to facilitate faster flow of traffic. I personally share Asim’s view. I feel his statement has been misinterpreted,” Bhattacharjee added.

Expressing “amazement” over the tramways in Hiroshima, Bhattacharjee said: “I had no idea that trams could run so fast. We are still sticking to the system introduced by the British 100 years ago. If we want our tramways to be an efficient system of transport, we will have to review the system and realign tram tracks all over the city. You cannot run fast trams in the middle of busy streets.”

The chief minister, who observed how the public transport system in Japan always ran “dot on time”, added that he had met the management of the Hiroshima company which has introduced modern tram services in four European cities.

“I have invited the company to help improve our tramways. I am carrying all necessary papers and graphics on the matter, which will now be followed up by chief secretary Manish Gupta,” the chief minister said.

On Monday afternoon, several hundred tram employees demonstrated near Chowringhee’s four-point crossing to protest the government’s reported attempt to withdraw tram services. Rajdeo Goala, president, Tram Workers and Employees Union, alleged that “some bureaucrats and politicians with vested interests” were conspiring to derail trams.


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
A Class XII student of a school on Park Street was kidnapped on Monday afternoon. By evening, the police stormed a Ripon Street apartment and managed to rescue the teenager. Two of the kidnappers were arrested.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldeep Singh, said the boy had come out of the school premises on Park Street around noon when three men, “in their early-30s”, accosted him. Witnesses said the men forced the boy to accompany them to a waiting car and whisked him away.

The kidnappers took the teenager to an apartment in St Joseph’s Mansion, near Ripon Street. There, they ordered the boy to call up his parents from a cellular phone. When the boy refused to comply, he was “beaten up badly” by his abductors.

Later, realising that they would not be able to force the boy to ring up his parents, one of the goons, called Raymond, went to a local phone booth, at 27, Elliot Road, and rang up the boy’s house on Harish Mukherjee Road. Raymond informed the parents about the abduction and demanded a ransom. The police refused to divulge the ransom amount demanded by the kidnappers for “sake of investigation”.

The boy’s parents first rang up the school authorities and informed them about the telephone call they had received. The authorities lodged a complaint with the police.

A team from Park Street police station, led by officer-in-charge Prabir Das, rushed to the boy’s house and made arrangements to trace the kidnappers’ call.

When it was clear that the Elliot Road STD booth had been used, the police swung into action. “We detained Alam, who operates the booth. From him, we came to know that Raymond had made a few phone calls from there. We were also informed by our sources that Raymond had been spotted going in and coming out of an apartment in St Joseph’s Mansion, in Nawab Sirajul Islam Lane, not far from the booth,’’ Das said.

A police team surrounded the building while another stormed the room where the student was confined. “The boy, in school uniform, was rescued and Raymond and Pakhiya were arrested,’’ Das confirmed.

Later in the evening, Kuldeep Singh said the police were not treating this as an isolated incident. “We have decided to step up security in front of several south Calcutta schools from Tuesday. Plainclothesmen will patrol the areas around schools when they give over,’’ Singh added.

According to Park Street police, both Raymond and Pakhiya had been arrested earlier on charges of dacoity and were out on bail. “They are notorious in the Ripon Street area. We are trying to track down one of their associates called Jamil,’’ an officer added.


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
Not satisfied with a string of security measures taken after the terrorist strikes in the US, a high-powered team drawn from the police, intelligence and civil aviation departments on Monday took stock of the situation and found that there were glaring loopholes, which needed to be plugged immediately.

The review meeting was attended by Shyamal Dutta, additional director (intelligence branch), Anup Chatterjee, DIG (security), Ashok Abrol, IG (intelligence branch), Roshan Lal, director, Airports Authority of India (AAI), O.P. Gupta, SP (Airport), R.C Tayal, additional commissioner, bureau of civil aviation in Delhi, as well as some other officials.

With reports of a couple of people breaching airport security and scaling the boundary wall, it was decided that the “red alert” at the airport would continue “indefinitely till the situation improved”. Airport officials were grilled on these lapses.

Issues like inadequate manpower and outdated X-ray machines in the security area were discussed, a senior official said. “Security arrangements were reviewed and various measures adopted to further strengthen security at the airport,” said one of the senior officials, present at Monday’s meeting.

The team that met on Monday has found loopholes in the airport’s security, which need to be addressed urgently.

Some of them are:

Despite a BCA directive to “frisk all persons” entering the airport terminal, female staff at the airport are spared. The authorities say shortage of lady constables in the security force has put them in this hapless situation, which they feel, can prove to be dangerous.

The AAI in Calcutta has three X-ray machines; two black-and-white and one colour. Officials say these machines break down frequently, causing severe problems during security checks.

Additional security personnel are required. Officials say at least 300 additional personnel are urgently needed to bolster security at the airport. Due to this shortage, some vital installations do not get the necessary attention. Said Roshan Lal: “We have been assured that this would be provided to us,” he said. “This is absolutely essential.”

The low boundary wall along the runway has been a major concern for the authorities. The fact that a man sneaked into the airport recently bears testimony to this.

“But all these loopholes will be plugged shortly and hopefully we will have the security beefed up,” an official said.



Metro timings for Pujas

At least 15 lakh revellers are expected to avail of Metro services during the Pujas. The trains will ply at 10-minute intervals, from 3 pm every day, a Metro Railway spokesperson said. On Saptami, trains will ply every 10 minutes till 10 pm. On Ashtami and Nabami, Metro will operate from 3 pm to 4 am at eight and 10-minute intervals, respectively. On Dashami, Metro services will be available between 3 pm and 8 pm, at 15-minute intervals.

Exam special

For the convenience of candidates, who will appear in an examination in Chennai on September 30, South Eastern Railway has decided to run a pair of superfast trains between Howrah and Egmore. The train will leave Howrah at 3.10 pm on September 28 and reach Chennai at 8.30 pm the next day. On the return journey on October 1, the train will leave Chennai at 10 am and will reach Howrah at 4.25 pm the next day.

Hurt in fire

Three people received burn injuries at their Kailash Bose Street residence in north Calcutta on Sunday, when a mosquito net caught fire. One of them was smoking a cigarette. All three were admitted to NRS Medical College and Hospital, where their condition is stated to be critical.

Novelist dies

Novelist Shyamal Gangopadhyay died at a city nursing home on Monday morning. He was 68 and was suffering from cancer. He is survived by his wife and two daughters. Kuberer Bishay Ashay, Hawa Gari, Iswaritolar Rupkatha were his popular novels. He had served at Anandabazar Patrika, Amrita and Aajkaal.

Vaccine drive

About 300 doctors administered Hepatitis-B vaccines to 80,000 adults and children in a drive conducted by NGOs and the private sector over the weekend. The dates for the next two doses are November 4 and March 17. thumbs up to chowringhee kindergarten & High School for holding an awareness camp on cardio-vascular diseases and conducting free blood sugar tests    

Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
In a daylight attack on Monday, miscreants went on a shooting spree on CIT Road, in Phoolbagan, and snatched Rs 2.8 lakh from the employee of a local petrol pump. Three people, including two employees, received bullet injuries and were rushed to NRS Medical College and Hospital. The operation took five minutes, after which the gang sped away towards Kankurgachhi in a taxi.

The incident occurred around 10.30 am when Ram Singhania Shukla, staff of Devi Commercial petrol pump, along with his colleague, S. Nandan, was going to Oriental Bank of Commerce, Phoolbagan branch.

Shukla, who was walking towards the bank, did not notice the taxi (WB-04 R4996) which was parked nearby, or the three youths who were waiting beside it.

“As Shukla came closer to the taxi, the youths accosted him. Two of them whipped out revolvers and ordered Shukla to hand over the black leather bag,” said Somen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department.

However, Shukla, 60, hung on to the bag and started running. The miscreants then fired at both Nandan and Shukla. “When Shukla fell down, the gangsters picked up the bag, boarded the taxi and tried to flee,” said Mitra.

Meanwhile, on hearing the gunshots, local residents and shop-owners came out and blocked the road. Sensing trouble, the miscreants again fired at random.

According to Mitra, the crowd dispersed when Debraj Shau, 18, fell on the road. A bullet grazed his right leg. The gangsters, then turned and fled towards Kankurgachhi. This time, none of those present attempted to chase them.

The injured was taken to hospital. Later, Mahendra Singh, owner of the petrol pump, lodged a complaint with Phoolbagan police station. “No one has so far been arrested,” said Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner, headquarters.

Mitra said the miscreants had specific information about the money. “Though Shukla and Nandan could not identify the criminals, we are sure the goons knew when the money would be deposited. It is possible that a petrol pump employee had tipped them of. We are verifying the case.”

The detective chief added: “Apparently, the miscreants fired four rounds. The number of the taxi was also incorrect, since it was traced to another taxi bearing the same numberplate at Ultadanga. After questioning him, we released the driver.”


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
Governor Viren J. Shah has hailed the alternative disputes resolution (ADR) as an excellent tool in delivering justice.

Inaugurating a five-day workshop on ADR at the American Center on Monday, the Governor said: “Alternative delivery will lead to decentralisation in the delivery of justice, which is good. The system should be popularised to sensitise the common man.”

US legal expert Charles Wiggins said: “The ADR will help solve pending cases as it is time-efficient and people-friendly.” The US government has given the ADR a grant of $ 20,000.

Calcutta High Court Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and NUJS vice-chancellor N.R. Madhava Menon were among those present at the inauguration.


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
Satta made its reappearance in the city after almost a decade.

A police team specialising in anti-satta operations raided a Collin Lane apartment in the Park Street area on Saturday and arrested six people, who were running a statewide racket. “It is a new form of satta, known as Bombay Khol. It is far more sophisticated than the traditional Bhutnath satta, popular in the Burrabazar areas in the past,’’ said a police officer, who was present at the raid.

“In this form of satta, the Mumbai satta leader passes on a few double-digit numbers some time late in the evening. By this time, the bets are placed on the phone by the players from the city and other areas and scribbled by pencillers on a single long sheet of paper. The numbers, which match those passed on by the Mumbai don, win the game. The payment is made in hundi,’’ said officer-in-charge of Park Street police station, PK Das, who led the investigating team.

Detectives recovered cellular phones, writing pads and cash to the tune of lakhs from the apartment, a police officer said.

Investigations revealed that the six accused — Mohammed Naseem (40), Abdul Majid (46), Waris Ali (46), Khurshid Ali (40), and Sajid Rahim (24), were operating from the dingy apartment at 13B Collin Lane for the past few months. A source had tipped off the Park Street police officers about the ongoing operation. Detectives surrounded the building and swooped on the apartment.

“But we missed the kingpin, Sheikh Afzal,’’ Das said. He got wind of the police action minutes before the round up and escaped by scaling down the drainpipe. “There were more than thousand names with corresponding numbers on that paper. The names were all coded and it is difficult to decipher unless the operators or the pencillers co-operate with the investigators,’’ Das added.

According to investigators, the six accused are from neighbouring Karaya and Tiljala areas.

Detectives said Naseem, Majid and Waris collected the money from hundi operators. They also make payments, sleuths added. Police said Rahim is a penciller. He jumped from the verandah in a bid to escape injuring his leg in the process, investigators said. Police said they had sounded an alert in the neighbouring police stations for Afzal. “Once we get Afzal then we will get to know the Mumbai networking,’’ Das said.

Roadblock after mishap: Traffic was disrupted at the intersection of Brabourne Road and Canning Street after residents of the area put up a road blockade on Monday. They squatted on the street to protest against an accident in which a speeding private bus knocked down two persons. Both the injured were rushed to Medical College and Hospital. Police later arrested the driver of the bus and impounded the vehicle. The blockade was lifted after senior police officials intervened.


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
The Australian government’s international trade and investment agency, Austrade, reaffirmed its effort to boost trade in eastern India on Monday. The trade office has relaunched its Calcutta chapter, with “stronger infrastructure”, to explore growth of ties in the region.

“Foreign investors often look only at Delhi and Mumbai. We want to ensure they look at the possibilities in Calcutta as well,” said Richard Kovac, Austrade’s senior trade commissioner, in Calcutta on Monday.

The agency has identified four major areas of interest in the region: IT, food processing, healthcare and mining and energy. One eastern region major to display interest in setting up an Australian concern is Tata Steel. “But we’ll have to wait for the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Australia in October to see what comes of that and other deals,” added Kovac.

Indian companies, which have approached Austrade for investment in Australia, include ITC Infotech and Tega India Ltd. S.P. Jaiswal Properties, owners of Hotel Hindustan International, have shown interest in an “up-scale restaurant” Down Under.

Also, after success in the Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad film industries, Calcutta’s filmmakers are next in line to be wooed. “Mithun Chakraborty Productions has already indicated interest in Australian locales and post-production facilities,” said Calcutta trade representative Partha Sen.


Calcutta, Sept. 24: 
With the average life span now 65 years, a growing number of elderly persons in the country have become prone to Alzheimer’s disease than in previous years. Calcutta is no exception. In the two years that the city chapter of the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) was formed, it has registered 170 patients.

The actual figure would be three times this, experts said at a discussion on the progressive dementia organised by the society on World Alzheimer’s Day on Friday. “The public should know more about the disease and its symptoms, so that diagnosis and treatment can start early,” said consultant neurologist Shyamal Sen, president of the society’s city chapter.

The onset of the disease usually occurs after 60. Of the estimated 3.2 million people with senile dementia in India, up to 70 per cent is due to Alzheimer’s. The incidence of the disease increases with age. For example, five per cent of those between 60 and 65 would be affected, as would be 20 per cent of those who have reached 80, while over 50 per cent of those who are 90 would be sufferers.

The main initial symptom is the loss of short-term or recent memory. “Patients will forget what they had for breakfast while remembering what happened 10 years ago,” explained neurologist Sitangsu Nandi.

“This will be followed by confusion and disorientation. If a person whose family doesn’t know he has the disease goes for a walk, there is a strong probability that he will get lost and not return home. Then, as more cells in the brain get affected in the third stage, the patient is unable to recognise his near relatives and forgets how to carry out basic day-to-day activity, like eating or going to the toilet.”

Accompanied with this would be personality changes and behaviour abnormalities. Complete degeneration takes eight to 10 years. “The causes and cures of some senile dementia we know, which have to be eliminated through various tests like MRI scans.” A psychiatrist or neurologist then carries out a “minimental scale examination,” a 30-point gauge based on a series of question.

“This year’s Alzheimer’s Day theme is early diagnosis,” pointed out Nilanjana Maulik, ARDSI joint secretary.

Though there is no cure, early diagnosis enables commencement of treatment, appropriate care and counselling so that the quality of life improves. There is some medication that stalls the progression of the disease. “We are trying to raise resources for a training centre for care-givers, which is essential for the patients.”

Shefali Chaudhuri founded the Calcutta chapter after her daughter was affected when she was just 51. An executive in a leading company, her daughter would drive herself to her doctor in the early stages. Today, she is bedridden. “I have learnt a lot from my experience and want to help others,” says Chaudhuri.


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