Govt signals healthcare rate hike
Buddha, Mamata star on Parkomat guest list
Guiding light for ICSE
Collision on highway leaves 7 dead
Suffer no more the sound of silence
The City Diary
Special jetty solution to immersion jam
Dust wrap taken off bus stop plan
Wall caves in on hawkers
Bailiff assault sparks appeal for cop cover

Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
Pay more for better services. That is the line the government has adopted to improve public medical facilities.

Three years after the last upward revision in rates, charges for certain facilities in all state run-hospitals in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal are set to increase from mid-November, the government announced on Tuesday.

“We will make a final announcement as soon as we have drawn up the new rates,” health minister Surya Kanta Mishra said at the inauguration of a rehabilitation centre for the treatment of paralytic and disabled patients (Picture on Page 19).

Confirming the hike, health secretary Asim Barman said the final rate card could be expected next week.

“Fees at government hospitals will increase from the second week of November. However, only the charges of paying beds, cabins and other facilities, like X-ray and ECG, scans and pathological tests, will go up,” said Barman. Recipients of free and subsidised healthcare will, thus, remain unaffected.

Sources in the health department said the new rates would not be more than one-third the charges of private hospitals, nursing homes and pathological centres. The present Re-1 rate for outdoor tickets will probably rise to Rs 2. At present, an X-ray costs Rs 30, an ECG Rs 30 and a bed Rs 15. Scans are charged around Rs 800.

On the banning of special duty attendants (SDAs) from government hospitals from November 1, Mishra said that from Thursday, patients will be given a card in state hospitals, authorising one member of the family to stay with the sick person for 24 hours.

The patients’ families can still engage a private nurse or SDA to stand in for them if they wish to.

The government took this decision on complaints of thriving rackets involving special duty attendants, or ayahs, in state hospitals. “Unions force patients to engage SDAs, whether they are required or not,” sources said. The SDAs also allegedly sell expensive drugs to medicine shops, instead of giving them to the patients.

There are over 10,000 SDAs in government hospitals all over the state. They are not official staff but have been available at wards for hire by patients’ relatives since the late 60s.

A number of surgeons in government hospitals welcomed the decision on banning SDAs, saying they would “extend full cooperation to hospitals to improve service and rid the system of inefficiencies”.

Mishra also said that there is no need to panic about the spread of anthrax in Bengal. “Last year and the year before, more cattle died of anthrax than this year. People from the animal resources department are touring the rural areas to vaccinate cattle as a precautionary measure,” he added.

According to Mishra, the Bengal government has received a circular from the Centre warning against a list of over 40 possible bacterial, fungal and chemical infections and contamination.

The health minister, however stated that excessive concern is unnecessary, and that it was “impossible” to guard against such an extensive list of possible diseases.


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
The occasion: Inauguration of India’s first computerised, multi-tiered carpark on Rawdon Street.

The guest-list: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee…

The host: Subrata Mukherjee.

The mayor is in overdrive mode to make the inauguration of Parkomat, scheduled for next week, an occasion to remember. To make sure his guest list is not reduced to a wish list, Mukherjee is desperately clearing the decks for arch rivals Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee to share the dais.

Buoyed by his new-found status in the party following the Tolly’s Nullah fiasco for Mamata, Mukherjee, say Corporation sources, is “aiming for the impossible”, and might well pull it off.

“After the Tolly’s Nullah episode, Mamata is conscious about projecting a pro-development image and so, she should make it a point to be present at the inauguration of Parkomat. The mayor has been in constant touch with the chief minister’s office, which should confirm his availability in a day or two,” a senior civic official said on Tuesday.

The Rawdon Street parking bay, set up at an estimated cost of Rs 8.5 crore, will accommodate 219 cars. Of the total project cost, Simplex has coughed up Rs 2.25 crore, CMC has put in a soft loan of Rs 3 crore (which Simplex will have to repay in five years), while the remaining Rs 3.2 crore has come as a loan from Bank of Baroda.

At Parkomat, a motorist will leave his car on an elevator which takes the vehicle to the parking floor where space has been allotted for the vehicle. A mechanical carrier will then pick up the vehicle and put it in a particular slot. The parking charges will be Rs 10 for an hour; Rs 50 for 8 hours at a stretch; Rs 30 for all-night parking and Rs 1,500 as monthly booking for a day-time slot.

The Corporation is planning to follow up the grand Rawdon Street parking plaza by flagging off the second high-tech parking bay in the city, along the stretch between New Market and Globe cinema on Lindsay Street.

“If everything goes according to plan, Lindsay Street will be turned into a pedestrian plaza with a much bigger Parkomat than the Rawdon Street one, solving the parking problems of shoppers. This will be will be my Puja gift to Calcuttans next year,” said Mukherjee.

The Rs 12-crore automatic parking plaza on Lindsay Street will accommodate 300 cars. G. Dasgupta, senior executive of Simplex Projects, said: “We will take care of the beautification of the Lindsay Street-New Market-Globe cinema belt and turn it into a tree-lined pedestrian plaza.”


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
The regional office of the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, set up in the city last November, will finally start functioning. The Council has found an appropriate and willing person to run the branch.

After years of shuttling between Calcutta and New Delhi to resolve academic and administrative tangles, over 250 schools in the city and suburbs had heaved a sigh of relief when the Capital-based Council announced the setting-up of the regional office here. But that was almost a year ago.

Now, with the appointment of Gerry Arathoon, long-time educationist, the principals and staff of the city-based schools have heaved a second sigh of relief. As word got around, those connected with the development expressed satisfaction over the choice.

Arathoon has already submitted his resignation as principal of St Thomas’ School, Howrah, where he served as teacher for several years. He will take up his new office from January.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations, one of the oldest school boards in the country, has institutions all over India, as well as the Gulf, affiliated to it. But the second-highest concentration is in Calcutta and West Bengal, after Uttar Pradesh.

The Council agreed to set up a regional office and even appoint a full-time official to ensure smooth functioning. Former La Martiniere for Boys principal D.N. Alney was selected and a makeshift office opened on the premises of Bhawanipur Education Society, on Elgin Road, last year. But Alney changed his mind and decided to step down. This left the new office and its functioning in the lurch.

But now, things are looking up again. Welcoming Arathoon’s appointment, Gillian D’Costa Hart, principal of Welland Gouldsmith School and MLA representing the Anglo-Indian community, said: “We are happy that schools here will at last be able to avail the benefits of a local unit. It is extremely important for the Council’s city branch to function properly, as more and more ICSE schools are coming up in Calcutta and in the districts every year.” Ismail Nehal, president, Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools in Calcutta, echoed the sentiments.


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
Seven people, including an eight-year-old child, were killed on Tuesday afternoon when a Tata Sumo headed for Calcutta collided with a truck on National Highway 34 near Mayapur More.

Four others were admitted to Krishnagar Shaktinagar Hospital, where their condition was stated to be critical. Police are yet to confirm how many of the Sumo passengers, coming from Deoghar, in Bihar, are residents of Calcutta.

The accident occurred around 2.45 pm, during a downpour. As the vehicle approached the intersection of the road leading to the Mayapur Iskcon temple and NH 34, it ran into the truck that was headed for Guwahati.

“The driver of the Sumo possibly failed to notice the truck coming from the opposite direction because of poor visibility caused by incessant rain,” said Ramphal Power, superintendent of police, Nadia district. The Sumo was smashed, while the truck rolled into a roadside ditch after the collision.

Residents of the area rushed to the spot and started rescue operations. It took them a while to pull out the passengers from the mangled Sumo. Passing vehicles were flagged down and used to rush the injured to the nearest hospital.

The truck driver and his helper managed to jump out before their vehicle overturned and fled before a crowd gathered at the accident site.

Staff bus overturns: A bus carrying employees of Haldia Petrochemicals overturned at Naskarhat, near Kasba, on Tuesday, injuring 10 staff members. The bus fell into a ditch and overturned.


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
It costs quite a packet. But, in the end, it’s got to be worth it, for who would not want to gain or regain their sense of hearing.

For those who have “severe to profound hearing impairment” owing to a nerve disorder, either from birth or acquired later, a procedure developed in the world, about five years ago, will be available for the first time in Calcutta. At a cost of Rs 5.5 and Rs 8 lakh, depending on the quality of equipment used.

Called the “nucleus cochlear implant”, the procedure involves implanting of a technologically-advanced medical device that enables “severely deaf adults and children” to respond to speech and sounds. The system consists of an internal device that is surgically implanted in the cochlea, or inner ear, and a speech processor. Over 32,000 people have benefited from the implant the world over, 14,000 among them being children.

The otolaryngology (ENT) department of Peerless Hospital & B.K. Roy Research Centre will start the implants from the second week of November after a specialists’ team returns from training in Australia. “This will be the first time in eastern India that the implant facility will be available. So far, such centres exist only in Mumbai and Delhi,” said the hospital’s assistant medical superintendent Sudipto Mitra. “The operation, which takes about three hours under general anaesthesia, requires special equipment for microscopic surgery.”

Six patients have already been screened for the operation. “It is a good, though expensive, technique. The procedure benefits those unable to augment their hearing with the use of conventional aids,” said A.K. Sinha, assistant director at the National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped in Bonhooghly. “Attention will have to be paid to the rehabilitation of patients who have undergone the procedure, especially those who were born deaf.” Rehabilitation involves listening, understanding and then pronouncing words.

ENT surgeon Dulal Basu and audiologist Sugata Bhattacharjee have been sent by the hospital to Melbourne to undergo training at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. Prof Brian Pyman, associate professor at the hospital, is expected to be in Calcutta to help conduct the procedure on the first patients. The Royal Victoria Hospital, which co-ordinates the certification of centres around the world which offer cochlear implant facilities, has studied the infrastructure at Peerless Hospital and found it fit for conducting the procedure, Mitra added.

Belle Vue Nursing Home plans to introduce cochlear implants soon, making it the second centre in Calcutta to offer the procedure.



Abduction bid foiled, woman arrested

A scene from Basona Brikshamuley at Academy of Fine Arts, directed by Chandan Sen. The play is an adaptation of Eugene O’Neil’s Desire under the Elms. Picture by Aranya Sen Anju Seikh, a resident of Garia, was arrested at Dum Dum Cantonment station, on the Sealdah-Bongaon section, on charges of abducting a teenaged girl from Bijpur in Hasnabad, North 24-Parganas. Commuters helped the RPF nab the woman. According to the police, the girl, Jolly, had a quarrel with her parents and left home. On the way, she met Anju who promised her a job. At Dum Dum station, the woman tried to sell off the girl to an aged man. When Jolly began to shout, passengers rescued her. Anju was arrested soon after.

Four jailed for fraud

Mousumi Basu and three of her associates, arrested earlier on charges of fraudulent activities, were sent to jail by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate of Alipore on Tuesday. Mousumi had opened an office at Royd Street and appointed three persons to raise funds from the market on promises that the subscribers would be given soft loans for different purposes. These agents collected Rs 32 lakh from the market. When their applications for loans were turned down, the subscribers lodged complaints with different police stations, on the basis of which the four were arrested.

Road accidents

Two persons, including a 12-year-old boy, were injured in separate accidents in the city on Tuesday. Police said a car knocked down a boy on College Street. He was taken to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. The driver of the vehicle escaped. In another incident at the crossing of Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Mayo Road, a taxi hit a 46-year-old man. He was taken to SSKM Hospital, where his condition was stated to be critical.

Protest rally

The Viswa Hindu Parishad and the state unit of the Bajrang Dal staged a demonstration near the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission, demanding “immediate action against the offenders who were torturing Hindus in Pakistan”. According to the police, at least a thousand supporters of both parties assembled near the Park Circus Maidan to participate in a rally near the deputy high commission’s office on Congress Exhibition Road. The police prevented the agitators from reaching the office. The protesters claimed that the minorities were being “tortured” in Bangladesh after the new government has come to power.

Train extended

South Eastern Railway has extended the Howrah-Bokaro Shatabdi Express upto Ranchi. Since computerised reservation on this train has already been carried out till November 5, the train will continue to run as per the existing timings between Howrah and Gomoh. During this period, the train will reach Ranchi at 1.30 pm. It will leave Ranchi around 2 pm and reach Bokaro City at 4.30 pm. After November 6, the train will leave Howrah at 6.05 am and reach Ranchi at 1.10 pm.

Uproar over suicide

There was trouble in Dakshindari, in Lake Town, on Tuesday after the body of a 19-year-old housewife, Anita Singh, was brought back home after a post-mortem. Singh had hanged herself on Monday. Agitated neighbours claimed that the woman was tortured by her in-laws.    

Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation has decided to construct two jetties at Bajekadamtala Ghat and Cossipore Ghat, specially for immersion purposes.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said that similar jetties existed on the banks of the river Yamuna in Delhi where immersion took place after the pujas.

“We have also decided to construct two such jetties for immersion purposes. The necessary permission has been obtained from the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) for the purpose,” he added.

Mukherjee said the jetties would be constructed before Durga Puja next year. “We will be able to use the jetties on an experiment basis from the next year,” the mayor informed.

An official of the CMC said that the cost for construction of the jetties has been estimated at Rs 5 crore. The CPT will also provide technical assistance to the CMC in constructing the jetties, he added.

According to CMC sources, a special team will be formed for the purpose. “We don’t have any expertise in carrying out jobs like construction of jetties. Naturally, we have to take extra care in implementing the scheme. If necessary, we will take technical assistance from the CPT,” the official informed.

It is learnt that the CMC had earlier planned to float global tenders for the purpose. But the CMC engineers and officials of the CPT convinced the mayor that they would be able to construct the jetties on their own and no global tender would be required for the purpose.

The special jetties will be constructed far from the bank and images will be transported to the jetties using trolleys. The idols will be immersed from the jetties.

Using ordinary jetties for immersion creates problems for both the police and the river traffic officials. The jetties have to be closed down on the immersion days.

Movement of vessels on the Hooghly also suffers after immersion as the relics like the wooden frameworks behind the images gather near the jetties.

Construction of the special jetties will also help the police and the administration avoid accidents during immersion.

Many people receive injuries during immersion as they carry the images into the river manually. Many fall in the river and drown in the process. Such problems can easily be avoided once the special jetties are constructed, CMC sources said.


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
Finally, there’s some good news for Calcuttans. The state government will soon embark on an ambitious project to construct separate bus stops for each route near major intersections of the city.

Alarmed at the growing rate of road deaths in the city, the state government is keen to “go ahead” with the proposal, initiated by the police in 1990.

The proposal, kept under wraps by the government for several years, primarily due to the controversy surrounding hawker eviction and their rehabilitation, is all set to be revived.

Speaking to Metro on Monday, state transport minister Subhas Chakrabarty said: “The government is actively considering construction of earmarked bus stops to bring down the rate of road accidents. The city needs more bus stops and their construction is of utmost importance to road safety.” The minister added: “I am sure these stops will help the police manage traffic better. We have made some progress on this front, but the initiative must come from the people first. It’s the commuters, who have developed the habit of standing away from existing bus stops, who must rectify their attitude and avoid clogging traffic flow.”

The police, in its earlier proposal, had suggested that in order to decrease congestion at major intersections and avoid accidents, at least three permanent bus stops should be constructed at every major intersection, each stop earmarked for a particular route.

Each bus would then have to halt at the prescribed stop, instead of the existing practice of pulling up in the middle of the road.

“This metropolis is perhaps the only A-I city which does not have separate bus stops. If we had separate bus stops, drivers would know where to pick up passengers and not indulge in rash driving the way they do now,” said a senior police official.

Major intersections, like Rajabazar, Moulali, Gariahat, Shyambazar, Esplanade and Kidderpore, featured prominently in the list of permanent bus stops.

Speaking on the issue, joint commissioner of police (traffic) Sandhi Mukherjee said: “Proper bus stops are the minimum facility that should be made available to the people. The construction of a bus stop is imperative, in co-operation with all those concerned with vehicular traffic, including bus-owners and drivers.”

The decision to revive the project was taken by the government after taking into consideration the growing number of pedestrian deaths, caused by rash driving at major intersections.

In the first week of November, the state government will undertake a series of “traffic awareness campaigns” with the city police to explain to transport operators the need to “practise road safety” and “understand traffic regulations”, the transport minister said.

“We will sit with drivers, conductors and bus-owners to work out something worthwhile in the direction of permanent bus stops,” Chakrabarty added.

The police, who have been clamouring for more bus stops for over a decade now, should finally have their way after the November meeting with the minister, at which the issue will be discussed.

Welcoming the move, president of the Bengal Bus Syndicate Ajit Saha said: “Permanent and earmarked bus stops considerably reduce accident rates. Once we have properly-assigned bus stops, commuters will stop rushing towards buses, bringing down the number of fatal cases,” added Saha.


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
Ten persons were injured when a portion of the boundary wall of Howrah General Hospital caved in on a dozen hawkers on Tuesday morning during Mangla haat, a weekly assembly of more than 20,000 hawkers near Howrah Maidan.

Howrah superintendent of police, C.V. Muralidhar said the wall had developed cracks earlier and collapsed at 9.15 am, peak time for buying and selling at the haat.

A team from Shibpur police station rushed to the spot and prevented a stampede. Witnesses said the area was teeming with buyers and hawkers.

A dozen hawkers had set up stalls near the wall. “They had no time to react and were trapped under the concrete,” said Sadhan Das, a witness said.

Residents of the area helped the police remove the debris and take the injured to Howrah general hospital. Doctors there said four of the injured were discharged after first-aid.


Calcutta, Oct. 30: 
The office of the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court expressed concern over the security of bailiffs, who are often manhandled by parties when they go to serve court notices.

Chief Justice A. K. Mathur, before leaving for his vacation, asked his office to communicate with state home secretary Sourin Ray in this regard and asked him to direct the police to provide the bailiffs with enough security, whenever required.

Ray said: “Recently, a bailiff of the high court was assaulted by Trinamul Congress supporters at Baruipur, in South 24-Parganas, when he went to serve notice to local MLA Arup Bhadra. The bailiff has filed a petition, seeking the court’s intervention in the matter.”

In his writ petition, the bailiff said: “Sujan Chakraborty, the CPM candidate who lost the elections against Arup Bhadra by a margin of only five votes, had filed an election petition before Calcutta High Court, challenging the elections of Trinamul Congress and demanded recounting of postal ballots.”

The petition added: “As the respondent, Arup Bhadra, declined to accept notice, the petitioner, an employee of the court, was assigned by the judge to serve the copy of the case to the Baruipur MLA.”

The petitioner alleged that he was severely beaten by some people when he went to the area. “A force from Baruipur police station later rescued me,” he told the court.

A similar incident was recently reported in Alipore court when a bailiff was sent to serve notice to a party in Behala on a land case. The respondents of the case allegedly beat him up with lathis and threatened that he would be killed if he ever came again.

According to high court officials, beating or threatening the court bailiffs had become a regular feature and complaints from different district courts were pouring in on a regular basis.

Market gutted: A municipal market, spread over 6000 sq ft, at Birati, in the northern fringes of the city, was gutted on Monday morning. The fire broke out early on Monday. Fire brigade personnel said that 15 fire-tenders were pressed into service a little after 1.55 am. After two-and-a-half-hours of battle, the flames were doused, officials said.

Goods worth thousands of rupees were destroyed in the fire. The shops included bookstalls, grocery shops and garment centres. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.


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