Reform rider lets in attendants
Student refused bail for hostel Žunnatural deathŪ
Nandita charts Mrinal Sen comeback
Daylight raid on mobile phone outlet
The City Diary
Specialists advise diet watch to ease diabetes
Jailed for petty theft, behind bars for 30 years
Hope for heritage house
Pasolini retro highlight of city film festival
Bleak Diwali for big-bang makers

 
 
REFORM RIDER LETS IN ATTENDANTS 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
It was touted as the first step in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjeeís medicare revamp plan. The target: Special duty attendants (SDAs), who exercised an iron grip on hospital affairs and were seen as the root cause of indiscipline on the campus.

But it took just 96 hours for the government ban on SDAs to be whittled down to an .entry with patient permission. clause.

The government on Monday softened its stand on getting rid of SDAs from state-run hospitals by allowing patients to hire them in case relatives were unable to attend to them.

In the wake of this development, the agitating SDAs have withdrawn their protests that had threatened to disrupt hospital activity. The protest movement had threatened to take a political colour, with Mamata Banerjee deciding to throw her weight behind the SDAs. She had over the weekend urged her supporters to stand by the .wronged. staff, without disrupting hospital functioning.

To compound matters for the CPM, some of its allies in the Left Front had also expressed displeasure over the .abrupt and arbitrary. ban on SDAs. Health minister Surya Kanta Mishra denied that the government had backtracked on the issue. .We only wanted to prevent their unauthorised entry into hospital wards,. he said.

Mishra also said the ruling of the state administrative tribunal, where the SDA case was being heard, had gone in favour of the government.

Echoing the stand, Left Front chairman Biman Bose said: This should not be interpreted as a setback to the governmentís plans. If anything, this shows we have put the SDAs in their place..

The directorate of medical education has urged the hospital authorities to allow patients to engage SDAs in case they cannot bring in relatives to look after them during their hospital stay.

Superintendent of SSKM Hospital Deb Dwaipayan Chatterjee admitted that he was allowing patients to engage SDAs.

We are giving patients permission in the form of green cards, on which they will have to specify the names and addresses of either their relatives intending to look after them in hospital or those of the SDAs or any other persons they want to engage,. he asserted.

The hospital superintendent, however, made it clear that SDAs would not be allowed to work unless their names were specifically mentioned in the patients. green cards. The card must also carry the patientís signature.

SDAs at the SSKM, R.G. Kar and Nilratan Sirkar Hospitals have heaved a sigh of relief following the shift in the state governmentís stand.

Sources said the government was also under pressure from a number of major Left Front partners, like the RSP and Forward Bloc, to modify its earlier decision to ban SDAs to restore discipline and improve hospital services.

However, state RSP leaders, in particular, described the move as .inhuman. and reminded the government of the decision taken by late party leader and health minister Nani Bhattacharya, to absorb at least 15 per cent of the SDAs as regular hospital employees.

Biman Bose, however, claimed that the entire exercise was undertaken in keeping with the Frontís election pledge to tone up health administration.

We discussed at length all the salient points in the Left Front manifesto when we prepared it jointly,. he said, but declined to comment on the RSPís demand.

Bose wondered how health ministers of successive Left Front governments could allow unauthorised occupation of hospital premises for the past two decades.

Sources said the state governmentís initial move to do away with the services of SDAs at government hospitals was not practicable as most of the patients. relatives could not be expected to perform the kind of work being done by them.

The only change, which has come into effect, is that the patient, instead of the ward master, will have the final say in the matter of engaging the SDA.

   

 
 
STUDENT REFUSED BAIL FOR HOSTEL ňUNNATURAL DEATHÕ 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta . Nov. 5: 
Amit Bala, a fourth-year student of RG Kar Medical College arrested in connection with the .unnatural death. of classmate Soumitra Biswas, was refused bail by a vacation bench of Calcutta High Court on Monday. Soumitra was found hanging from the hook of the ceiling fan in his hostel room on August 25.

On Monday, Amitís counsel, Sekhar Basu, pleaded before a division bench, comprising Justice N.A. Chowdhury and Justice S K Mukherjee, that his client, now under judicial custody, was not connected.with the death of Soumitra. .

Soumitra committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his hostel room,. argued Basu. .The act was prompted by a feeling of guilt that Soumitra was suffering after having masterminded the move to blackmail one of his classmates with a scandalous, superimposed picture of her. When Soumitra realised that he would soon be exposed, he killed himself,. added Basu.

S.Nís. Alquadri, government counsel, countered: .This argument is not acceptable, as the postmortem report suggests that Soumitra had been murdered and his body hung in the hostel room. The police have enough evidence to show that Soumitra was brutally tortured and killed by Amit and his associates..

Soumitraís death had, initially, been put down as a case of Ďsuicide., but a complaint lodged by Soumitraís mother, Sabita Devi, days after the incident, changed the course of investigation and put the police on Amitís track.

Sabita Devi, a resident of Nonachandanpukur, in Barrackpore, had lodged a complaint with Chitpur police station, stating that on August 24, Soumitra was at home when he was called out by one of his classmates. Soumitra left the house and never returned. Sabita Devi later found out that it was Amit who had called her son up that day. It was then that the police picked up Amitís trail. He was arrested seven days after Soumitraís death.

Preliminary police investigation revealed that Amit had been blackmailing a girl in their class with her face superimposed on the photograph of a nude model.

According to the police, Soumitra found out how Amit was harassing the girl and voiced his protest. .This incident probably led to the murder of Soumitra by Amit and his associates,. a sleuth said. Ďsoumitra was, probably, called to some place by Amit on August 24, tortured and then strangled to death. His body was later hung in the hostel room...We are on the lookout for some associates of Amitís, who are not medical students..

The incident, which has now snowballed into a major controversy, has created more than a little flutter on campus.With a story of sleaze and murder unfolding, medical students in the city are watching every twist and turn that the case takes.

On Monday,when the case was being heard by the division bench, the courtroom was packed with medical students latching on to every word. .It seems so unreal that this involves people we.ve known for years,. said one.

   

 
 
NANDITA CHARTS MRINAL SEN COMEBACK 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
From Dimple Kapadia to Nandita Das. From Antareen to Swadesh.

Mrinal Sen, the grand old man of Bengali cinema, is ready to take up position behind the camera once again, after a gap of almost nine years. Swadesh takes off next month, with dusky Nandita in the pivotal role, backed by two relatively new heroes. The outdoor shooting for Swadesh is slated for late December. Indoor shooting begins on Floor Number 3 of Technicians. Studio from January 13, 2002, confirm sources in the film directorate.

Sen, however, is tight-lipped about what could well be his swansong.While confirming that he is about to embark on Swadesh, Sen said he would not disclose any other information on his next film. .You see, authors and painters don.t generally disclose information about their creation.Yes, I am making the film and that is all I can tell you at the moment,. Sen said on Monday. He added that even though most of the chosen cast is relatively new, .you will recognise them when you see them..

One of the male protagonists is Saswata, actor Subhendu Chatterjeeís son. The fatherís debut screen appearance, incidentally,was also in Senís Akash Kusum. Later, Subhendu also played a major part in the directorís Calcutta 71. .

I am very glad that Mrinalda has at last decided to make a new film.Whenever we met, I would request him to return behind the camera. Itís also a very good break for my son Saswata,. Subhendu Chatterjee said.

The other male lead is Kaushik,son of theatre personality late Shyamal Sen.At present,both Saswata and Kaushik are busy acting in tele-serials.Both have acted in a few films.Kaushik began on stage and has his own threatre group,Swapnasandhani. .

Mrinalda is very fond of Baban (as Kaushik is better known) and comes to see each and every play Swapnasandhani stages. Mrinalda rings up Baban frequently and speaks to him at length,. said actress Chitra Sen, Kaushikís mother.

Filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta welcomed the news of Senís .comeback.: .He (Sen) is perhaps the seniormost filmmaker in the country. It is quite a courageous step at this stage of his life and he reminds me of Akira Kurosawa and Luis Bunuel,who made films when they were well into their 80s. I just hope he has not lost his fire..

   

 
 
DAYLIGHT RAID ON MOBILE PHONE OUTLET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
Armed robbers barged into a mobile phone outlet in Phoolbagan and fled with cash and valuables worth over a lakh of rupees.

The gang of four arrived at the the outlet around 2.20 pm and demanded the cash and valuables.

Witnesses said two of the group, brandishing daggers and revolvers, rushed into the shop, while two others stood guard. .The gang completed the operation within minutes,. said a Phoolbagan police station official.

The men forced the employees to tell them the location of the cash box and emptied Rs 80,000 into a bag. They snatched a gold chain and a few watches from the employees. Before leaving, they picked up six mobile phones from the display panel.

Witnesses told police the robbers hopped into a taxi (WBT8091), waiting a few metres away, and escaped.

All traffic police personnel at major intersections in the city and its fringes were alerted immediately, but the taxi remained untraced.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Anthrax scare at two post offices

Anthrax fear gripped Bowbazar post office on Monday morning after the staff noticed a powdery substance inside a big envelope. Police said the envelope,which had come from Malaysia,was meant for a film restoration firm on Ganesh Chandra Avenue.Around 8.45 am, the police were informed and the post office was evacuated.A police team rushed to the site and took the envelope for examination. In a similar incident, employees of the Howrah General Post Office sought police help after they found white powder inside a few envelopes. The envelopes were all sent for chemical tests.

Skeleton found in factory shed

A womanís skeleton was recovered from an abandoned factory shed by residents of Dasnagar, in Howrah. Police said the woman was probably attacked and left to die inside the factory. .A lump of flesh, around the neck, suggests that the murder took place recently,. police said.A group of masons had come from Murshidabad and stayed at the factory shed for a few weeks. Police said one of them had married a woman in Howrah and moved with her into the shed. .They had frequent quarrels.We are trying to get to the bottom of the case,. an official said. The skeleton was taken for a forensic test.

Raj Bhavan exchange

A telephone exchange with optical-fibre cable connection will be inaugurated at Raj Bhavan on Tuesday. The exchange will cater to the Govornorís secretariat and other government offices on the premises. Another such exchange was installed at Writers. Buildings about four months ago.

Order challenged .

Commandant-general (homeguard) Manas Chakraborty on Monday filed an appeal before Calcutta High Court, challenging the order of the state administrative tribunal upholding the appointment of Dinesh Vajpai to the post of director-general of police. The division bench of Ashok Ganguly and Asim Banerjee admitted the petition and directed the petitioner to serve notices upon the respondents.

Dacoits held

Three dacoits were arrested in Ashoknagar area, on the northern fringes of the city. Police said three men were lurking in a residential area when a police team spotted them.Two revolvers, three bullets and a chopper were recovered from them.

Petition against Bose

Saugata Roy, Trinamul MLA, filed a contempt petition against Left Front chairman Biman Bose, alleging that Bose had maligned the city high court during a television interview on October 11. According to the petition, Bose had stated that a number of development projects have been stalled in the state due to .needless intervention by the court.. Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee asked Roy to file a fresh petition, as he had not duly affirmed the said petition.

Paswan in town

Union minister of state for coal and mines and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan arrived in the city on Monday night. He will address a conference of party workers at Mahajati Sadan on Tuesday. He is also likely to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Book release

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will release a book on terrorism by DIG (modernisation) of state police, Ranjit Pachnanda, on Tuesday. Entitled Terrorism and Response to Terrorist Threat , the book offers an insight into how the police combat terrorism.    

 
 
SPECIALISTS ADVISE DIET WATCH TO EASE DIABETES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5 : 
Specialists on Sunday told their doctor colleagues to impose restrictions on their children so that they do not become diabetic at an early age. .

The incidence of diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) is increasing rapidly in the country, and we will soon have a catastrophe on our hands if no preventive measures are taken from now,. they said.

Speaking at an open forum at the end of a three-day national conference on clinical medicine in Calcutta, specialists said that in addition to advising the patients to regulate their childrenís eating habits, they themselves must start the practice at their homes. .

All children above 10 must have a proper diet and develop a habit for exercise from today if we have to tackle the colossal task of reducing the burden of diabetes in India,. said B.K. Sahay, former head of the department of medicine, Osmania Medical College.

The country now has 33 million people with diabetes mellitus, the majority of whom has type II or non-insulin dependent diabetes. This is up from 20 million in 1995, and if no major steps are taken, will be a huge 55 million by 2025. Of the 33 million, 14.7 million are in urban areas. .A disturbing trend is that a growing number of people below 35 are being diagnosed with sugar and hyper-tension..

This combination of ailments is dangerous. .It can lead to severe heart, brain, kidney, limb and eye problems, resulting in expensive treatments like pacemakers, dialysis and intensive coronary care,. said S.K. Mukherjee, former head of the department of medicine, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

The eating pattern of children must be watched. They must not get into a habit of too much sweets or junk food or even rice, which are all items leading to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.We recently examined a child, who weighed 40 kg,when he was only eight years old. This is dangerous,. he said.

On the better side of the onslaught from the twin threats is the scope for prevention and control, specialists pointed out.

Even a diabetic can consume anything, provided he controls his calorie intake and burns (through exercise) the calories that he consumes..

Bodyweight and pressure (for those above 40) must be checked regularly. Low fat diet, with a lot of fruits, exercise and yoga can help achieve control over the bodyís metabolism.

The conference, organised by the Bengal chapter of the Indian Academy of Clinical Medicine, took up several important aspects that encouraged the participants, who included a group of post-graduate students, to lay more stress on physical examinations and clinical knowledge. Diagnostic tools, no matter how modern they were, should always be regarded as a supplement to clinical knowledge. .

The interactions and case presentations during the meet helped the participating doctors rely more on their clinical knowledge rather than on test results,. said organising secretary Madhuchanda Kar.

Various complex situations arising out of diseases like cerebral malaria, tuberculosis, HIV infections, gout and diabetes were .discussed. .Processes by which the patient could be analysed with the bare minimum of tests were taken up,. said the academyís allIndia president, Prof.M.M.Singh, head of the department of medicine,S.N. Medical College,Agra.

One such was the developing of guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of strokes,which are to be adopted by nearly 1,000 members of the academy.

   

 
 
JAILED FOR PETTY THEFT, BEHIND BARS FOR 30 YEARS 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
Amarendra Nath Biswas, who turned 60 this month, does not know how long he will have to languish in his dingy cell in Dum Dum Central Jail. Lodged in jail since September 1978, on charges of petty theft, Biswas has already spent 23 long years . the best part of his youth . behind bars. Worse is the case of Abdul Mutalaf, who has been rotting in jail for over 30 years. Mutalaf was only 35 when he was imprisoned but there is no chance yet for his early release. Now at 65, Mutalaf is desperate to return home and die peacefully.

They are not the only ones. Altogether 41 such prisoners, most of whom are mentally challenged, have been languishing in the jail for several years, in violation of a Supreme Court order.

In a recent judgment, the apex court directed all state governments to send the mentally-ill undertrials to healthcare homes for their upkeep and well-being.

The sorry state of affairs in the jail came to light only last month when a city-based NGO (non-government organisation), Sevak, undertook a plan to identify and rehabilitate the mentally-ill undertrials, lodged in various prisons across the city and elsewhere in the districts. .

Ours is a project called Operation Oais, assigned to us by the National Human Rights Commission to carry out a survey on the status of mentally-ill undertrials in different jails and their rehabilitation,. said Sevak co-ordinator Prativa Sengupta.

Sengupta said on Monday that the NGO had already expedited the release of Asit Baran Dutta last month, after he had spent nearly 34 years in the jail for a petty crime. .

Asit may have had to languish in jail for another 30 years, had we not spotted him and taken up the matter with the court,. Sengupta observed.

A detailed report on the appalling condition of the jail inmates had been submitted to inspector-general of prisons Anil Kumar, she said.

Kumar, when contacted, was quick to admit that the undertrials were being kept in the Dum Dum jail, violating the apex courtís order.

I am worried about the fate of these 41 prisoners. In fact, we are currently working out a strategy on how to shift them to a mental home for their proper treatment and upkeep,.Kumar said.

Praising Sevakís role, he said the condition of the prisoners has improved a lot due to constant supervision of the NGO.

We feel that those considered fit should not be confined in jail. We shall approach the respective courts for their release,. Kumar added.

Jail superintendent Manoj Chowdhury admitted that a highpower committee had been instituted some time ago to expedite the shifting of the mentallychallenged inmates to a home, in response to the Supreme Courtís directive.

We, too, feel that these people have been rotting inside the jail for years and should be shifted to the mental home at the earliest,. he observed.

Jail sources, however, blamed the prison directorate for lack of supervision on the prisoners. .Had the jail authorities taken up the matter with the respective courts earlier, all these 41 prisoners would not have stagnated for such a prolonged period,. said an official, preferring anonymity.

   

 
 
HOPE FOR HERITAGE HOUSE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutt, Nov 5: 
Restoration of the Metropolitan Building will resume soon, said civic authorities and the local office of the LIC on Monday. .

Now that the major obstacles have largely been removed, we hope to resume work again next month,. said chief municipal architect and town planner Saroj Mohan Ghosh.

Work has been dragging on for the heritage building project since the past three years. The Rs 3crore restoration programme will include strengthening of the building structure and restoring the old beauty.

The faÁade of the building will be restored by following the sample, created last year on the gatepanel on S.N. Banerjee Road, at a cost of Rs 12 lakh by Dulal Mukherjee & Associates.

LIC has appointed Dulal Mukherjee & Associates as chief consultant for the restoration project. A spokesman in the LIC deputy chief engineerís office, Calcutta, said: .We have received administrative approval of the restoration scheme from our Mumbai head office just before the Pujas.The matter is lying with the tender committee for finalising the work order..

Chief project co-ordinator of the associates, Hirak Roy, said the tender for the work was floated early this year and four of the six participants short-listed had quoted their rates for the work. .All the four are Calcutta-based,. he added.

According to Roy, the restoration will take time as the main object of the conservation is to bring back the old glory of the structure.

The small sample work done on the gate-panel took almost a year to complete. .

Before undertaking the restoration, we had to take photographs, get the mortar analysed in a laboratory and procure similar raw materials. Naturally, all this takes time,. Roy pointed out.

   

 
 
PASOLINI RETRO HIGHLIGHT OF CITY FILM FESTIVAL 
 
 
BY ANIL GROVER
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
Somebody mixed up the reels at he press conference at Nandan or the 7th Kolkata Film Festival. When asked about arsenic deaths n the city, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he would answer that if there was a press conference about it later. He also assured everyone that .nobody will die of arsenic poisoning f they drink the water at any of he 12 theatres..

Just one of the over 100 films in he Cinema International section will be from the US, Steven Spielbergís AI: Artificial Intelligence. Union information and broadcastng minister Sushma Swaraj will naugurate the festival, with the .thaali girl. being Rupa Ganguly. The inaugural film will be ItalyFranceís The Sonís Room, directed by Nanni Moretti.

A highlight will be the entire body of 13 feature and nine documentary films of Pier Paolo Pasolini in the Retrospective section. Mira Nairís eight films will also eature in this section, including her latest, Monsoon Wedding, and her two documentaries, Indian Cabaret and The Laughing Club. The focus this year will be on Brazilian films. Among the foreign delegates the most visible facion will be the Italians. A centenary tribute will be paid to Italyís Vittorio de Sica and Indiaís V. Shantaram.

Kolkata Chalachitra Utsav will be held from November 10 to 17 with 20 countries participating. The over 100 films will be screened at 12 showhouses, including Nandan and Sisir Mancha.

The commercial screening will be at Rabindra Sadan, Girish Mancha, Ahindra Mancha, Madhusudan Mancha, Lighthouse, New Empire and Chaplin. All the halls will sell tickets priced at Rs 20 and Rs 30, with New Empire also offering Rs 10 for balcony seats. The governmentís budget is Rs 80 lakh for the festival and the sponsorship is larger than previous years.

   

 
 
BLEAK DIWALI FOR BIG-BANG MAKERS 
 
 
BY PAYEL MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Nov. 5: 
They sweat it out in the shadows to make Diwali bright. Their efforts end up in smoke during the course of a few hours. But for these villagers of Chingdipota, Balarampur, Nandanrampur and Putkhali, in South 24-Parganas, itís a question of survival.

Once a flourishing business, the fireworks industry has been badly hit by the governmentís decision to implement a decibel ban on crackers.And this time, the cops. decision to impose a cracker curfew, from 6 pm to 10 pm, on Kali Puja, threatens to take the fizz out of fireworks even further.This is in response to a Supreme Court order and covers all kinds of fireworks, including phuljhuri and tubri.

There was a huge market for crackers due to its low price and affordability. The profit margin,which earlier used to be almost 30 per cent, has now slumped to around 15 per cent,. laments Deendayal, a licensed manufacturer of sparklers in Putkhali. .Earlier, the work used to start from January, but now, it has all dried up. This year could be our worst ever..

With the ban on crackers, the manufacturers have been forced to concentrate more on sparklers,which require double the investment. The dual burden of rising costs and dipping sales have forced several small-scale manufacturers out of the race.

The government policy has ruined us. It has taken away our work.Now,we have to lead a hand-to-mouth existence,. says Abbas, a resident of Chingdipota,who has set up a small, unlicensed stall, hoping to sell crackers he has bought from mahajans. The manufacture of fireworks provided alternative employment for several landless labourers like Abbas during the non-farming season. Now, they don.t know what to turn to.

Ten-year-old Bikram sits in one of the tiny makeshift stalls, selling fireworks.He discreetly nods to a customer who inquires about chocolate bombs. .Ekshota bomb panchash taka. bhalo maal hobe (100 bombs for Rs 50, they are of good quality),. he assures.

Crackers are still manufactured by these poor villagers, for itís one way of making a few quick bucks during the Diwali week. .Things will really be tough this time. The police have announced that fireworks will only be sold from the Maidan mela and anyone found selling the stuff elsewhere will be penalised,. says Bikram.

According to some of the manufacturers here, the Central government should step in and impose taxes on their products. .That will prevent police raids,which hit our sales as customers do not want to be on the wrong side of the law. It will also give us a legal standing and make our position less precarious,. says Amar Gayen, another fireworks manufacturer of Chingdipota. .The government should also sponsor fireworks manufacture, like in Sivakasi.We have to pay huge interests to mahajans on loans we have to take before Diwali to manufacture the crackers... Otherwise,we.re burning a not-so-slow fuse..

(Names of the manufacturers have been changed on request)    

 

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