Waist not, for thin is in
Hospital fee hike falters
Cops rapped for clogged route to medicare
Clean-Sealdah drive stalled
Headcount: Taxwoman on tiger trail
The City Diary
Fatal mishap of rail staff sparks protest
Left no to road handover proposal
Special security on cards for rebel belt
BSF plays down Bangla influx

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
An 18-year-old struts into a city slimming centre. Wearing skin-tight jeans and a tank top, the 5’3’’ girl is 53 kg, which, she is told, is “normal body weight”. But she insists on losing one inch from each thigh and three from the waist…

A gaggle of girls strides into a nightclub. The rake-thin girls in black are dressed in an assortment of backless, sleeveless and midriff-less tops…

The slimmer the sexier, the leaner the lovelier. With plump going out of style and thin ‘in’ as never before, teens are under more and more pressure to shed their puppy fat. The result — booming slimming centres with more adolescent girls and boys; psychiatrists, doctors and dieticians treating a growing number of teens fixated with weight and suffering “eating disorders”.

At VLCC, a “slimming and beauty centre”, at least a dozen adolescents walk through the doors every week to shed “extra” pounds. “We have to turn down many of them, because they just aren’t overweight. Neither can we reduce bone mass, nor do we want to eat away at lean muscle essential for fitness,” explains Doel Majumdar at the Shakespeare Sarani centre, which turns away “eight to 10” teenagers a week who “don’t need to lose weight”.

But do youngsters realise they have a problem? No, affirms Vanessa Mirza of St Thomas for Girls, who wrote a play on anorexia for the British Council one-act play festival this year. “Dancers, models and everyday girls seem to be suffering from this problem. There are so many girls in school who have a nibble at breakfast, skip lunch, avoid starchy foods at dinner. They don’t even realise they have a problem,” says the 17-year-old, whose play ended with the protagonist, a model, fainting at a beauty pageant and blowing her chance of landing the crown.

The problem, stresses consultant psychiatrist Dr Amitabha Mukherji, is as much “psychological as physiological”. And with “shifts in social perceptions and the media beam of beauty”, Mukherji warns of “an increase in anorexia nervosa and bulimia in the next couple of years”.

Many youngsters do consult dieticians. At least 10 patients between 15 and 25, both male and female, walk into the office of AMRI dietician Vijaya Agrawal every week. Three of these customarily have “normal” body weights. “They all want to skip meals in the hope of shedding weight, but still gorge on junk food,” she observes. “A balanced, nutritious diet is most important, specially in the crucial growing years.”

That’s a fact seemingly lost on GenX drawn by the glitz of the beauty biz, with Miss Indias and Ally Mcbeals as role models. Nikita, a first-year student at St Xavier’s, blames weight obsession on “peer pressure”. Sujata Bhattacharyya, senior school-teacher at G.D. Birla Centre for Education, feels the pressure to be slender is more on students frequenting discos and parties.

Actress Moon Moon Sen agrees: “Go to any of the nightclubs and you see all the young girls looking the same — thin as hell and dressed in black. Now, it’s all about conforming to a certain look.”

With slimming centres mushrooming, potions promising “perfect vitals” over the counter, the dangerous message is that weight loss need not mean sweating it out. Fitness consultant Preetom Mukherjee warns that quick weight-loss plans damage the “liver, kidneys and heart in the long run”.

Actress Pallavi Chatterjee has “been there, done that”. Having returned from the “brink of anorexia”, she feels it’s important for young girls to be told: “Be slim, but stay healthy; eat in moderation, but don’t stop eating; have fun, but know where to draw the line.”


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Government hospitals in the city and elsewhere in the districts are expected to stick to their existing charges, as the “modified” circular from the health department listing revised rates had not reached the authorities till late on Friday.

The government decided to increase hospital rates early this month after a stormy discussion on the issue in a Left Front meeting, amid protests from the RSP and Forward Bloc.

Though the government announced on Friday that hiked charges would be effective from Saturday and modified circulars to the effect had already been sent, a number of hospital superintendents told Metro that they were yet to receive anything on this score. A senior health official later said that though circulars have been sent to various hospitals, the superintendents cannot implement them until they actually receive them. “The circulars are likely to reach the hospitals by the middle of next week,” he added.

The government announcement of revised charges follows the Left Front’s decision to improve healthcare in state-run hospitals. However, after a draft of the increased charges was drawn up, the health department felt that some of the charges, like those for X-rays, CT scans, ultra-sonograms and various pathological tests, should be reduced to make them affordable to the common people. Health department sources said CT scans and other tests should be “modified” so that they are available at rates 40 per cent to 50 per cent less than those in private nursing homes and test centres.

Hospital superintendents were told by senior health officials at the state secretariat on Thursday that they would receive the circular with “modified” rates shortly.

S.N. Sinha, superintendent of Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, said he was yet to receive the circular. “Until then, we cannot introduce the revised rates. So, we have decided to continue charging the old rates for now,” he added. SSKM Hospital superintendent D.D. Chatterjee echoed the view..

Front leaders have protested the government’s circular on revised rates. “We wanted the rates to be discussed at a Left Front committee meeting before they were sent to the hospitals. We did not expect the government to implement the revised rates by issuing circulars overnight. We are still in the dark about the details,” said former PWD minister and senior RSP secretariat member Kshiti Goswami.

A Forward Bloc leader said it would have been better had the rates been discussed in a Front meeting. The IMA, Calcutta branch, said healthcare services must improve before the rates are revised.

Mainline Opposition parties, particularly Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul Congress, have lined up a string of agitations to protest the new rates.


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
The state transport department has pulled up the city police for not taking action against illegal parking and encroachment of pavements near hospitals and nursing homes.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty is understood to be peeved at roads being clogged with vehicles in front of SSKM Hospital, RG Kar Hospital and other healthcare facilities. The cars are parked illegally near the entrance and exit points, in two to three rows.

Similarly, pavements leading to Kothari Medical Centre and BM Birla Heart Research Centre are overrun by vehicles of a high-profile automobile showroom.

It is learnt that patients close to the transport minister, who recently went for treatment at Kothari, complained about the entire pavement being occupied by the showroom vehicles and those belonging to its customers.

“It is dangerous to walk near Kothari Medical Centre. The pavement near the corner of the road has been taken up by a traffic signal box. As you walk towards the nursing home, rows of vehicles of an automobile showroom are parked on the footpath, even spilling on to the road,’’ said a resident of Ekbalpore Road.

Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, and several other senior officers live just a stone’s throw away from Kothari Medical Centre.

Transport department officials had met senior traffic police officers on Monday in an effort to clear the bottleneck. With no improvement in the situation till Friday morning, the department has decided to pull up the traffic police.

Officials say the situation is much the same in front of SSKM Hospital, where vehicles are parked illegally on Harish Mukherjee Road, in front of a school, in two or three rows, almost blocking half the road in front of the hospital.

A stand for Matador vehicles has come up recently in Gariahat, which has inconvenienced patients approaching a private hospital and pathological centre in the area.

Another illegal lorry stand on R.G. Kar Road, near RG Kar Hospital, has been impeding vehicles and ambulances, resulting in frequent traffic snarls in the area.

The SSKM Hospital authorities said they had already informed the local police and the traffic control room of the prevailing conditions. The authorities of RG Kar Hospital and other private nursing homes have done likewise, without making any headway.

Singh said it is difficult to post police personnel in front of every nursing home and hospital. “I have instructed the force to take extra care and ensure that roads and pavements in front of nursing homes and hospitals are free of congestion and encroachment,’’ he added.

Singh admitted there are certain grey areas, but hastened to add that he would personally look into the complaints on Monday.


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
A last-minute directive from the office of the inspector-general, railway police, thwarted the third attempt by the authorities to evict hawkers from Sealdah station.

At a meeting on Friday, Citu leaders had warned the railway authorities that “wheels will stop turning across the state” if the eviction was carried out.

The authorities had made all arrangements, including three water cannons and requisitioning a large police contingent.

“I have been told to postpone the drive for an indefinite period,” said G.P. Singh, superintendent of railway police, Sealdah.

Later in the evening, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya said the eviction would be carried out within December 7.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty to resolve the impasse.


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
She is a commercial tax officer who refuses to be bound by the confines of her Beleghata sales tax office. For her, the call of the wild is a clear call that cannot be ignored. She has roamed the jungles, spearheaded a tree census in town and is now ready to hit the tiger trail.

Chandana Mitra, 34, will join 10 other “first-time” volunteers as they head off to the Sunderbans for this year’s tiger census, from December 7 to 14. Chandana, who discovered her passion for the wild in the forests of north Bengal, is “most excited” about a journey she knows could be fraught with danger. “I am not afraid of the dangers,” she asserts. “This is a wonderful opportunity for me and I want to make the most of it,” says the founder-member of the city-based Mission for Environment.

With 10 rookies in the ranks, the authorities have been busy training the volunteers, starting with a workshop conducted in Sajnekhali on November 19. They are being warned just how difficult the Sunderbans census will be. “There is no fixed trail to follow and the swamps compound matters,” says deputy field director Subrat Mukherjee.

The census team will be divided into 23 groups of eight each. Two coolies carrying food, two local villagers, two armed forest guards and two census workers will work in tandem, covering over 2,500 square kilometres of mangrove area to count “the exact number of tigers”. The team will stay in “small motor boats” during the census. “The presence of a large number of crocodiles in the swamp does not make our stay in the waters safe. But I am still looking forward to the experience,” smiles Chandana.

Instructors have been busy telling the first-timers — who include another woman from Jalpaiguri — how to follow the tiger trail, identify tiger pockets and analyse the surrounding soil samples during their seven-day adventure.

“There has been so much to learn about the tiger in the past few days. Not many people would know how a tiger’s age is calculated or how to distinguish between the pugmarks of a fishing cat and a tiger cub,” says Sisir Dey, an advocate and one of the volunteers.

In order to ward off possible attacks by tigers, the census team will be equipped with “special metal throat guards”, besides helmets with a human mask fitted on the back. “A tiger always goes for the throat if it feels threatened and so the protective gear has special spokes,” says Mukherjee.

But why risk taking the volunteers along? “We wanted to bring greater transparency to the process and train more voluntary organisations for the census, undertaken every two years,” explains Mukherjee.



Police sound bike theft alert

The police have expressed concern over the increasing thefts of motorcycles in and around the city. Soumen Mitra, DC, DD-I, said on Friday that on an average, 500 motorcycles are being stolen every year. The engines of the stolen two-wheelers are smuggled into Bangladesh through the Bongaon and Swarupnagar frontier areas. “We are talking to leading motorcycle companies for installing security locks and alarm systems to prevent thefts,” said Mitra.

Twin fires in factory, shop

A fire broke out at a factory in Jogacha of Howrah on Friday morning. Five engines had to be pressed into service to bring the blaze under control. Firemen fought for over four hours to douse the flames. However, no one was injured. The cause behind the blaze has not been ascertained. Another fire broke out at a book-binding shop in Rajabazar on Friday evening. Four fire tenders were pressed into service and fire brigade personnel had to fight for three hours to control the flames. No injury was reported till late on Friday. A short circuit might have led to the fire, said an official.

Madhyamik forms

Students appearing in Madhyamik 2002 will be able to submit their examination forms with the fees between January 1 and 7, sources in the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education said. The examinations will be held in March. The examinees will be charged test fees at enhanced rates. Those submitting the forms between January 8 and 14 will be required to pay late fees.

Held for fraud

A youth, Indrajit Das, was arrested by the Baguiati police on Friday for cheating a cigarette company of Rs 30,000. Das’ two associates are still at large. The three worked as salesmen in a company. “They had been missing for the past two weeks. On receiving a complaint, we laid a trap and netted Das,” police sources said.

CMC holidays

The employees of Calcutta Municipal Corporation are in no mood to accept the mayor’s decision to decrease the number of annual holidays. The trade unions requested the mayor Subrata Mukherjee to discuss the matter with them. However, Mukherjee was still undecided about accepting their proposal, sources said.

Six arrested

The Munchipara police arrested six snatchers from different hideouts on Friday afternoon. A number of stolen articles and cash were also recovered from them. Police said all of them hailed from South 24-Parganas.

Smuggler netted

A smuggler was arrested in Barasat on Friday. About 40 kg of ganja, worth around Rs 80,000, was seized from him.

Dacoits caught

Four dacoits were arrested on Friday while attempting to rob a jewellery showroom in Behala.

Fuel campaign

In a bid to upgrade customer services, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation will launch a ‘Mega drive-in campaign’ for customers, according to a press release. The scheme will commence from December 1 and continue till December 31 at 50 strategically-located petrol pumps in the city. The draw will be held on January 5.    

Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Traffic in Garden Reach was disrupted for more than an hour on Friday following the death of an employee of South Eastern Railway in a road accident.

The victim, S.Bhaskar Rao, 27, was employed in the office of the chief commercial manager of SER at Old Koilaghat Street.

The accident occurred around 9.30 am, while Rao was crossing the road near Colony Gate. A truck coming from opposite direction ran him down. Local residents took him to hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

The driver of the truck fled with the vehicle after the accident. Rabi Mahapatra, chief public relations officer of SER, said: “Rao was a junior employee of SER, posted at Old Koilaghat Street. The incident has shocked us deeply.”

After the accident, local residents put up a road blockade, demanding speed-breakers in the area. They also demanded the arrest of the errant driver. “We have noticed that trucks ply recklessly in this area. We have brought this to the notice of the police, but nobody pays heed to our request. After the accident on Friday, they are assuring us they will ensure road-safety measures,” said a local resident.

Later, an officer of West Port police station said: “It took a lot of persuasion from the senior officers for the residents to lift the blockade.”


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
For the first time in the history of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), the Trinamul Congress-led civic authorities are all set to hand over road maintenance to a private company, amid stiff opposition from the Left Front .

The civic authorities, who spend nearly Rs 100 crore every year to maintain city roads, received an offer from an Ahmedabad-based company, which promised to supply the road-repairing hot-mix at lower rates

But the Left Front councillors are against the idea. They feel the existing hot-mix plants can deliver the goods.“We cannot imagine that the roads of Calcutta will be repaired and maintained by a private company. We will not only oppose it, but take to the streets to stop it,” said Amal Mitra, chief whip of Left Front in the CMC.

Officials said that the CMC’s cost of hot-mix production at its own plant presently is Rs 2,000 per tonne while the Ahmedabad company has offered to supply the same at Rs 1,500 per tonne.

However, civic officials said that if the contract goes to the private sector, the CMC would save Rs 15 crore a year, which would also take care of the escalating electricity bills.

About 500 workers are employed at the Goragachha and Palmer Bazar hot-mix plants, who pick up an annual pay packet of Rs 3.5 crores. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has, however, assured workers there will be no retrenchment even if the private firm helps in road maintenance.

Member, mayor-in-council, roads, Anup Chatterjee, said the two hot-mix plants have been proving very expensive and difficult to run. Left Front councillors say that the former CPM-led civic board had once ensured quality work by discontinuing contractual road-repairing work.

“They (the Trinamul-led civic board members) are taking steps to privatise road work for their own benefit. This will destroy job opportunities in the roads department. We refuse to believe that a company can supply hot-mix at such low rates. There must be more than what meets the eye,” said Sudhanshu Sil, CPM councillor and former mayor-in-council member in charge of roads.


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Stung by the recent Naxalite attacks in Midnapore, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is planning to set up a special task force for increased vigilance in the affected areas.

“We will not allow them to step up their activities in our state,” Bhattacharjee said today after an appraisal meeting with senior police officers and health minister Suryakanta Mishra, an MLA from the district.

“We are going to have to strengthen the security setup in those particular areas, though I will not give you the details right now,” the chief minister said.

The fact that members of the People’s War Group (PWG) had infiltrated Belpahari and adjacent areas was also discussed at the meeting.

Naxalites had gunned down a CPM local committee secretary, Sudhir Singha Sardar, in a daring daylight strike on Wednesday. A day earlier, the body of a National Volunteer Force jawan was found with bullet injuries in the area. Police suspect both were PWG victims.

Today’s meeting was of particular significance as senior district police officers are keeping their fingers crossed over the proposed visit of a host of Cabinet ministers to Garbeta on December 2, the PWG’s foundation day. The outlawed extremist outfit has threatened to strike that day at the ruling Marxists and the state administration to retaliate against “arrests and harassment of its activists”.

“We are wary of the activities of these groups throughout the state…. (We) have apprehended 18 Maoist guerrillas recently in north Bengal and handed them over to the Nepal government,” Bhattacharjee said.

On Monday, December 2, a team of Left Front leaders led by finance minister Asim Dasgupta will visit Garbeta to inaugurate a number of development projects. Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and forest minister Jogesh Barman will also be part of the team.

This is the second time a team of Left Front ministers will be visiting an area in Midnapore district which witnessed a great deal of political violence in the recent past. Bhattacharjee visited Keshpur on November 11 along with some senior ministers.

District superintendent of police K.C. Meena said they would spare no efforts to ensure the ministers’ security.

“We are leaving nothing to chance and taking all possible steps to maintain peace and order during the ministers’ visit to Garbeta on Sunday,” he said.


Calcutta, Nov. 30: 
Going against available evidence, the Border Security Force today said the influx of Bangladeshi Hindus to Bengal was “insubstantial”.

BSF inspector-general S.B. Kakati said till date, only 141 Bangladeshis had crossed over to the state after being driven away from their homeland because of “religious persecution”.

“We apprehended 350 Hindus crossing over clandestinely from across the border but most of them said during interrogation that they left more out of fear of oppression than any serious atrocity,’’ Kakati said.

Union home minister L.K. Advani has often expressed his concern over the persecution of minorities in Bangladesh following the October 1 polls which saw the BNP-led regime come to power in Dhaka. Delhi even sent special envoy Brajesh Mishra to Bangladesh to request Dhaka to take steps to stop the persecution on religious and political minorities and stem the influx.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the Left Front, too, had admitted to the increasing influx after efforts to play down the issue. Bhattacharjee had also met Advani and requested tightened security for the border in view of the problems in Bangladesh.

Most families interviewed by this newspaper said they fled after their homes were looted by fundamentalists when the outcome of the Bangladesh polls was known; some had lost family members and some had rape victims.

Muslim leaders of the Opposition Awami League, perceived to be “more secular” by the 1.3-million Hindu population in Bangladesh, were interviewed at safe shelters well inside Indian territory.

Kakati, however, admitted that there were some cases of rape of Hindu girls. “Four girls of a family of Satkhira in Bangladesh were raped and were forced to seek shelter in India,’’ he said.

But his “reckoning” of the number of Bangladeshi Hindus who crossed over since the polls — “about 2000” — fell far short of the estimates by groups like the Bangladeshi Udbastu Kalyan Parishad and the Bangladeshi Udbastu Unnayan Sangsad, working for the refugees in the border areas.


Maintained by Web Development Company