Cancer spirals, facilities few
Streets awash: Waves of red in blinding rain
Howrah to Bypass, on an aerial ring road
Make way for matchstick Durga
The City Diary
No fans, no walls and no girls, but life was fun
Montessori body seeks recognition
Jailed woman freed after three months
Bust nets 88 for border breach
Heroin haul, swoop on UP group’s links

 
 
CANCER SPIRALS, FACILITIES FEW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
New cancer detection and treatment facilities will soon be created in hospitals at Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal to cope with rising incidence of the disease, the government said on Sunday.

C.R.Maity, director of medical education, said the government had also decided to induct more doctors, staff and machines into the existing centres as part of the planned augmentation.

“Thanks to the awareness campaign that we mounted a few years ago, more people are thronging the hospitals for screening these days. But we do not have treatment facilities to match the demand, either in the public or private sector,” Maity said.

At the annual conference of the Bengal chapter of the Association of Radiation Oncologists of India, Maity said the rise in the detection of cases has, in a way, exposed the deficiencies of the cancer treatment infrastructure and facilities in Calcutta, as well as rural districts. Among the measures being planned is the setting up of three tele-cobalt units at Calcutta, Midnapore and a yet-to-decided location in north Bengal, he said.

Chapter president Prof Prabir Sur pointed out that with awareness levels going up over the past few years, a larger number of people from the city and districts were attending cancer-detection centres and camps. “Early detection of cancer is very important as the chances of cure are higher. This has been realised by a growing number of people, who have been attending detection centres,” Sur said.

According to him, neither the government nor the private sectors in Calcutta or the rest of the state is adequately equipped with proper facilities to provide the right treatment, once a malignancy is detected. “Inadequate and improper treatment after early detection is a crime. No cancer patient should be denied proper treatment because of lack of infrastructure.”

Sur pointed out that about 60 per cent of all cancer patients needed radiotherapy, apart from surgical intervention. “But the facilities for radiation treatment in the state are lacking. For a population of 79 million, at least 79 tele-therapy treatment machines will be required. There are, however, only 11 machines at eight centres in the state.”

The association has been raising the inadequacy issue at various fora. “But a substantial gap still exists between the demand and supply of treatment facilities for cancer patients,” said Subir Ganguly, associate professor in the department of radiotherapy at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. “Long queues can be seen at almost every treatment centre in the city and the state.”

Ganguly said more oncologists and other staff would be appointed to boost the existing facilities. “Each teaching hospital and state district and general hospital will have cancer-detection centres.”

But specialists feel it is high time that Calcutta had a comprehensive cancer centre, on the lines of those in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. “With the increasing number of patients, the city needs an institute where they can get all types of modern treatment,” said consultant oncologist Chanchal Goswami. Even in diagnostics, there is one area (immuno-histo-cytochemistry) where samples still have to be sent to the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai for tests, Goswami added.

   

 
 
STREETS AWASH: WAVES OF RED IN BLINDING RAIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
In blinding October rain, the Left Front’s much-hyped mahamichhil was no washout. As 70,000 cadre carrying red placards, festoons and caps took over the streets of Calcutta, Sunday afternoon traffic crawled to halt. Puja shoppers either scurried for cover or shelved their day-out plans, and the police heaved a sigh of relief at the end of a “peaceful rally”.

As a senior police official, who accompanied the rallyists, put it: “The procession was big, but peaceful. The downpour and the procession did create problems for the public, but no untoward incident was reported.”

The “rally against war” was flagged off by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Jyoti Basu at Deshapriya Park, with the ceremonial gesture of setting white doves free. The chief minister and his predecessor then left the roadshow to Politburo member Biman Bose, who led the rallyists.

The marchers, despite sticking to their pre-ordained route and avoiding Esplanade, as they meandered their way to Deshbandhu Park, managed to throw traffic in central and north Calcutta completely out of gear. Buses, trams and cars in these areas came to a standstill.

Though traffic department officials tried to divert vehicles along roads parallel to those taken by the rallyists, there was hardly any movement on thoroughfares like A.J.C. Bose Road, A.P.C. Roy Road and Maniktala Main Road. It was only after 6 pm — the rally reached Deshbandhu Park at 4.40 pm — that a semblance of sanity was restored to the city streets.

The rain-rally combination hit shop-owners and shoppers the hardest. All along the rally route – from Deshapriya Park to Deshabandhu Park — and a wide radius around it, there was no getting close to the pre-Puja pick-ups.

Though Metro Railway tried its best to give commuters an option by plying trains from 12.30 pm instead of the Sunday-usual of 3 pm, few ventured into the city centre till the rain stopped and the rallyists began to disperse. As a result, even New Market wore a less-chaotic look on the penultimate Sunday afternoon before the Pujas.

In north Calcutta, several shop-keepers complained of not only losing custom, but also having to put with the rallyists’ invasion. Cadre not willing to drench themselves for the cause — and finding the anti-US placards inadequate — were quick to dive under shop-shades or slip into stores.

   

 
 
HOWRAH TO BYPASS, ON AN AERIAL RING ROAD 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
Get off the train at Howrah station and sail through to Salt Lake or VIP Road, leaving the crippling north Calcutta traffic snarls far below.

Concerned over the perennial traffic congestion in north Calcutta, the West Bengal Assembly sub-committee has proposed setting up an elevated ring road connecting Howrah Bridge with the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

Sub-committee chairman Sadhan Pande, also a Trinamul Congress MLA from Burtola, in north Calcutta, said on Sunday that the proposal for a 14-km ring road, at an estimated Rs 300 crore, was lying with chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Pande has roped in three more MLAs, Subrata Basu of Shyampukur, Tarak Banerjee of Cossipore and Paresh Pal of Maniktala, to throw their weight behind the ring-road project. Smarajit Bhattacharya, chairman of Borough-II, has also signed the proposal.

On Saturday, Pande also met Governor Viren J. Shah with the proposal, arguing that city planners and decision-makers needed to be sensitised to the growing needs of north Calcutta, which appears to have lost out to the south in the race for development.

The proposed elevated road will run in a semi-circular path via the Lockgate and Deshbandhu Park, to connect Howrah Bridge with the Bypass near Nicco Park.

“This will connect north and north-east Calcutta with south and east Calcutta, as well as Dum Dum airport, more easily,” Pande said. He said the proposed road would benefit more people than the several flyovers coming up in the city at an estimated cost of Rs 400 crore.

Echoing Pande, MLAs Basu, Banerjee and Pal said: “We want the transport infrastructure committee of the state government to carry out a technical scrutiny of the proposal.” They said that for decades, no major infrastructure development of roads has been taken up by the government.

   

 
 
MAKE WAY FOR MATCHSTICK DURGA 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
A one-armed idol-maker is burning the midnight oil to ‘light up’ a middle-budget north Calcutta baroari puja in a very special way. For Prasanta Sen’s goddess will be made of matchsticks, not clay.

Sen, who has been sculpting idols for the Shib Shankar Mullick Lane Adi Durgotsab Puja Committee for the past 25 years, lost his right hand in a mishap in 1968. But it isn’t as much of a handicap for the idol-maker from Lalbagan, just off Kumartuli, as the rain that just refuses to go away. With a deluge a day, the idol is still far from complete.

“I usually apply the final touches a week before the Pujas,” Sen, with several matchsticks between his teeth, which now doubles as his right arm, manages to say. “This year, more than 60 per cent of the work is yet to be done,” he adds, wondering how he would finish the job by Panchami.

Sen has already used 8,500 boxes of matches, and feels that the completed idol will need at least 20,000. That’s one million matchsticks, he calculates, and says if that doesn’t light up the Shib Shankar Mullick Lane puja, nothing will.

The unique medium for bringing the goddess down to earth, however, has compounded the club’s fire-fighting worries. “We know that match-sticks are highly inflammable and so we are planning several special precautionary measures,” Sukumar Das, a senior member of the club, admits.

For one, the pratima will be sprayed with water every day. High-wattage halogen lamps will be a no-no to cut down on the risk factor. “This year, it will be only low-wattage tubelights inside and near the pandal,” Das adds.

The club’s penchant for novel material has forced their idol-maker to experiment with several media not usually associated with pratimas. In 1975, Sen carried out his first experiment. “I used iron nails that year,” he recounts.

Over the years, he has made idols of empty toothpaste tubes, blades, mosquito-repellent mats and even spring-coils. The club’s popularity has increased and his name has spread. “I have got numerous offers from much bigger-budget pujas. But I have refused,” he says. “I am, after all, a member of the puja committee on Shib Shankar Mullick Lane,” he explained.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

424 Metros from Saptami to Dashami

Metro Railway will run special services from October 23 to 26. Trains can be availed of from 3 pm to 10 pm on Saptami, from 3 pm to 4 am on Ashtami and Nabami, and from 3 pm to 8.30 pm on Dashami. Metro Railway sources said they will run 424 trains from Saptami to Dashami. Normal services will be withdrawn during these days. Special security arrangements have already been taken and passenger assistance booths will be opened at all stations. Additional ticket counters will also be opened at the stations.

Man crushed between buses

Md Arif, 23, died after a private bus on route 241 crushed him under its wheels while overtaking another vehicle, police said. Around 12.30 pm, Arif, who was crossing Garden Reach Road, was trapped between the two vehicles. Local residents took him to hospital, where he was declared “brought dead”. The killer bus was later impounded.

Pickpockets held

The city police busted a gang of pickpockets with the arrest of two persons. Police said Gita De and Md Dastigar would pick the pockets of visitors at Indian Museum. They recently robbed a tourist team of over Rs 35,000. Tourists from Karnataka and Kerala have lodged police complaints in this regard. The couple was picked up from their hideout under the second Hooghly bridge. Their accomplice, Sultana Bibi, is absconding.

Road rage

Sheikh Perera, a middle-aged man, was run over by a private bus on Narkeldanga Main Road on Saturday night. Perera was taken to NRS Hospital, where he was declared dead. Local youth tried to set the bus ablaze. The driver fled.

Scooterist dies

Twenty one-year-old Nurul Huda, a scooterist, was knocked down by a lorry on C.R. Avenue on Saturday night. He died in hospital. The lorry was impounded.

Teachers’ meet

The state conference of All India Teachers and Educational Workers Congress was held at St. Paul’s School on Sunday. Several dignitaries addressed the conference.    

 
 
NO FANS, NO WALLS AND NO GIRLS, BUT LIFE WAS FUN 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
It was a chance, for some, to catch up with classmates after 46 years. It was an opportunity, for others, to flip through pages of the past seated in one of ‘their’ classrooms, surrounded by ‘their’ institute’s present. For all 22 first-batch students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), between 68 and 71 years old, it was a reunion to remember at Kharagpur.

From the evening of October 11 to the morning of October 13, the institute celebrating its golden jubilee played host to its oldest boys, some accompanied by their wives. From the class of 1955, 15 from Calcutta, five from South India, two from Delhi and one from Orissa kept a golden tryst with the campus which had shaped their lives and, in turn, moulded the country’s technological progress. The rest have all scattered – some are no more, others have settled abroad, a few let the head rule the heart and steered clear of the strain.

“I am coming here after 46 years. The feeling can’t be described,” smiled P.S. Endlaw, former chief general manager of the Uttar Pradesh Telecom department, now settled in Delhi. “Initially, we took some time to recognise each other, but the re-introductions over, we seemed to pick up from where we had left off.”

The reunion, which began with a minute’s silence in memory of batchmates and professors, was a quaint mix of nostalgia and carpe diem. For these 36 autumnal hours, Bhimda and Bacchuda, Ostaad and Khuro, Makkel and Bhakti, were all transported back to those “good old days” as they toured departments and hostels, met officials and faculty members, fielded questions from students…

“Life on campus wasn’t easy in those days,” R.C. Mukherjee, who spent his professional life in Rourkela Steel Plant, told the present batch. “Kharagpur was cut off from the world. There weren’t any fans in hostel rooms, cinema halls nearby, and no girls either. So, there was no need for boundary walls,” he chuckled.

The adda went on and on and on. “Remember the hunger-strike we organised in Patel Hall to protest the quality of food… The first Saraswati Puja… The day we all, 200 of us, went on bicycle to the station to bid goodbye to director Gyan (J.C.) Ghosh.”

The meet had a special participant, D.K. Ganguly (“our physics professor”). The 77-year-old, solitary surviving teacher of the first batch, put aside physical affliction to piece together the past. “How could I miss the opportunity of meeting my first batch of students? It was memorable.”

That was a feeling shared by the entire grey-haired brigade on what could well be their last trip to their campus with their classmates.

   

 
 
MONTESSORI BODY SEEKS RECOGNITION 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
Montessorians of Calcutta, the sole nodal agency of Montessori houses in the city, wants recognition from the school education department “to function properly” and bring about “a semblance of order and accountability” in this area of pre-primary education.

The association, which recently carried out an inspection “to remind the Montessori houses of the city of their social responsibilities and to make parents better informed about what to expect of such an institution”, feels it needs more teeth and a stamp of recognition from the administration to really function as a watchdog and curb the menace of mushrooming of “unscientific Montessori houses” in Calcutta.

The assessment was done on a scale of 10 on each of the nine guidelines formulated by the association to try and standardise teaching methods (reported in Metro on April 30, 2001) and has thrown up a few grey areas which need to be addressed immediately.

“But, without any recognition from the government, there’s little we can do in terms of enforcing the guidelines,” says association vice-president Vandana Kanoria.

The association plans to meet state school education department officials soon to seek formal approval.

“Since the department has made it very clear that it doesn’t have the resources to shoulder the financial burden and responsibility of pre-primary education, it can at least allow us to monitor the scenario instead. All we need is a stamp of authority and a free hand to carry out our work more effectively,” Kanoria adds.

The team of senior Montessorians, which carried out the inspection, believes “only 20-25 per cent” of the existing Montessori houses in the city are “genuine” and follow the Montessori philosophy. “In many such institutions, the environment could easily be mistaken for traditional classrooms,” observes Anima Dutta, one of the inspectors.

In many cases, the directresses were found to be untrained and some schools were “shabby, untidy and overcrowded due to attitudes of commercialism”, opines Tapati Gupta, another inspector.

Of course, quite a few houses passed the litmus test and the association plans to take out a ready reckoner with the names and addresses of these houses.

   

 
 
JAILED WOMAN FREED AFTER THREE MONTHS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
Emlin Oreya, 40, who spent three months in a cell for the mentally-challenged at the Presidency jail, was ordered released by the chief metropolitan magistrate of Bankshal Court. Her case, however, is pending. Oreya spent some time with her relatives before heading for home in Ranchi four days ago.

Metro had first reported that Oreya was being detained in a cell for the mentally challenged in Presidency jail, though doctors had declared her “perfectly normal’’. Oreya’s ordeal had begun on July 26, hours after she arrived in the city from Ranchi with her parents for her brother’s treatment at Calcutta Hospital.

Oreya’s brother was diagnosed as suffering from an incurable disease. This shocked her and she set off from the hospital without informing anybody. As she neared Esplanade, she asked a child for directions to Entally, where she has a relative. Oreya claimed she had a blackout and woke up in lock-up. Police said she was charged with attempt to kidnap a child. A voluntary organisation took up her cause and helped set her free.

   

 
 
BUST NETS 88 FOR BORDER BREACH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
One of the biggest rackets in illegal trafficking of Bangladeshi nationals and engaging them as labourers and domestic help in the city has been busted, with the arrest of 88 of them.

The North 24 Parganas police claimed on Sunday the arrests were among the biggest hauls in recent times. “Apart from the Bangladeshi nationals, we have also arrested two Indian agents, who were escorting them in lorries. This is, indeed, a very big catch,” said additional superintendent of police, Rahul Srivastava.

The Indian duo, remanded in police custody for further investigation, admitted to having escorted the Bangladeshis out of their country for better prospects on numerous occasions, for a price ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 900 per person.

The duo said this lot of Bangla nationals was to be employed as workers in brick kilns. Srivastava, refusing to believe their story, said: “They can claim anything, but I will definitely get to the bottom of the tale.”

Based on intelligence reports that Bangla nationals would try to cross the porous Indo-Bangla border in recent times, the police had increased surveillance on all the highways leading to the city.

The 88 Bangla nationals were hidden in a truck, which had left Gaighata en route to Barasat. A highway patrol team stopped the truck and arrested the Bangladeshis and their agents.

During interrogation, the agents revealed that the Gede and Petrapole borders were the favourite haunts of touts of both India and Bangladesh.

In the past few weeks, the police suspect that over 700 Bangladeshis had made abortive attempts to cross over.

“Most of these people are vulnerable and lured by the touts, who promise them a bright future in West Bengal,” said Srivastava. Immediately after the arrests, the state police have increased searches on lorries plying across the border.

Even local trains operating from the border stations, especially Bongaon and Burnpur, are on the surveillance list.

“These gangs have a very good network and seem to be in the business for a long time. We are continuously monitoring the situation and exchanging intelligence with the railway police as well,” a senior officer added.

A few weeks ago, another band of Bangladeshi nationals was picked up from Bongaon. They had plans to infiltrate into the city from Sealdah station.

   

 
 
HEROIN HAUL, SWOOP ON UP GROUP’S LINKS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 14: 
The police cracked down on an Uttar Pradesh-based drug gang and arrested five of their Calcutta contacts on Saturday. A huge consignment of heroin was recovered from eight hideouts.

A senior police officer said UP drug lord Tariq Rehman had arrived in the city with the heroin last week. Investigations revealed that he came with four associates by train. A consignment of heroin was “smartly camouflaged” in boxes and brought to the city from Barabanki, in UP, by his henchmen and stocked at Ghutiarisharif and Garden Reach.

Rehman met his contacts here and discussed avenues to tranship drug consignments to the Northeast and Bangladesh. By the time the police got wind of the trip, Rehman and his henchmen had left the city. Acting on information provided by their sources, the cops raided several places and arrested five people. “We recovered many boxes of heroin, but Rehman and his men had escaped,’’ the officer added.

Speaking to Metro over phone from Lucknow, a senior UP police officer said Rehman had been in jail till March this year. He is one of the biggest suppliers of drugs to eastern India. One of his close associates, Arif, was killed in an encounter in UP early this year.

Police said Arif was Rehman’s man in Calcutta. “Drug dealers here kept in touch with him. We have evidence to suggest that Arif often touched down on the city to maintain links with the underworld here,’’ a police officer said.

Investigations revealed that after Arif’s death, Rehman was finding it difficult to network with Calcutta.

“Afraid of losing a major chunk of business here, Rehman decided to explore the zone personally,’’ said a police officer, who is a part of the probe team.

A senior police official admitted that drug mafia operate from Ghutiarisharif. “We raid the place almost every week. Recently, we arrested one of the major operators,’’ he said.

   
 

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