Cardiac alert for young adults
Salt Lake signal for traffic rules
Vendor files complaint over burns
Butterfly battles Bollywood biggies
The City Diary
Walk-in, walk-out cataract cure
Depletion threat to water tables
Special cell in terrorism fight
CPM strikes at grassroots to fight factionalism
Naxalite brief for anti-terror state battalion

 
 
CARDIAC ALERT FOR YOUNG ADULTS 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
In a flash, Nisha’s world came crashing down on her and her six-year-old daughter. Her husband, Rakesh, 42, left home for office one morning last month, and never came back. The ad executive died of myocardial infarction (or heart attack).

Nisha is not alone in her predicament. More and more young male professionals in the city, like in other Indian metros, are succumbing to stress-laced success and falling victim to cardiovascular diseases.

And now, it’s official. Heart ailment is not “daddy’s disease” any more. Collated statistics emerging out of studies conducted by cardiac epidemiologists and institutes have shown that the median-age indicator for heart problems has plummeted from 60 to 45 in less than a decade.

The city’s medical fraternity has sounded the alarm with rising incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) among young adults engaged in high-tension, high-expectation jobs, chasing deadlines and dreams in a roller-coaster lifestyle.

“Even 10 years back, there was this teaching dogma that Indians are less prone to cardiac disorders,” observes Dr Kunal Sarkar, consultant cardiac surgeon with the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS). “But before realising it, we are actually sitting on the threshold of an epidemic which will be upon us by mid-2002,” he warns.

A recent study of emerging medical trends, led by cardiac epidemiologist Dr R. Gupta, concluded that “the prevalence of hypertension was around 20 per cent in urban areas, as opposed to 7 per cent in rural zones”. It also found a rise from “four to nine per cent in CAD among the young urban male population”, in the last two decades. Gupta insists that Calcutta has as much to fear as a Mumbai or a Delhi.

An RTIICS-backed study of admission records in city hospitals has shown 25-30 per cent of the patients taken in for myocardial infarction to be below 50 years. “The fatality rate in infarction among patients in their forties is extremely high and very often, they succumb to the killer even before they can be taken to hospital,” says cardiologist Dr B.P. Pandey.

The first six hours after a patient suffers a myocardial infarction is referred to as the “golden critical period”, and reaching medical aid to the distressed during this timeframe can mean the difference between life and death. “Earlier, the jargon was pain-to-hospital time, meaning the time taken for the patient to be taken to hospital after angina. Now, with the victims getting younger, the gestation is referred to as pain-to-needle, or the time taken to inject the life-saving streptokinase, which is basically purified snake venom that helps dissolve clots,” explains Dr Sarkar.

Doctors identify smoking and diabetes as the two most serious risk factors among young Calcutta adults afflicted with CAD. Hypertension and high cholesterol levels are next in danger line. “Smoking is surely the chief culprit in Calcutta and the main reason why so many young people in this city, with a yen for the puff, are falling prey to cardiac problems. More than 95 per cent of my patients below 45, laid low by double or triple-vessel disease, are heavy smokers. They either suffer cardiac arrest without any warning or complain of angina on effort,” observes Dr Pandey.

Diabetes is an equally potent trigger for heart ailments. Around 70 per cent of young CAD victims in Calcutta suffer from diabetes. “Type-II diabetes in young adults has reached alarming proportions here. This is directly related to CAD, as it causes thickening of blood vessels and diabetic cardiomyopathy,” says internal medicine expert Debasis Basu.

   

 
 
SALT LAKE SIGNAL FOR TRAFFIC RULES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
Traffic cops at ‘islands’; police patrols doing the rounds; pavements cleared of trees and bushes for pedestrians…

Road rules are set to rule Salt Lake from the New Year. With the number of vehicles in the township rising steadily, the North 24-Parganas police and Salt Lake municipality have decided to introduce a “proper traffic system” in the township by mid-January.

“With road accidents on the rise, we have urged the police to start the system as soon as possible,” said Dilip Gupta, chairman of the municipality.

The North 24-Parganas has identified the areas adjacent to the Karunamoyee bus terminus, the Punjab National Bank, the Salt Lake stadium, the Sukantanagar More leading to Nicco Park, the intersections on the EM Bypass, and stretches of Saltlec as “accident prone”. The 30 home guards manning some of the major islands are clearly inadequate.

According to M. Harisena Verma, superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas: “To start with, traffic policemen will be posted in these areas. Later, electronic signals will be put in place.”

Guha, convener of the Salt Lake transport sub-committee, explained the need of the hour: “The number of vehicles has doubled in three years, with the township fast becoming an industrial hub.”

With changes in road rules, the pavements must also be cleared for pedestrian traffic. The police have carried out a survey to identify footpaths that been turned into “private gardens”. Verma has asked municipal officials to clear all such pavements before the new traffic system is launched.

The municipality is in the process of preparing a list of errant house-owners. “We will first request them to clear the pavements in front of their houses. If they do not oblige, we will do it ourselves,” warned Gupta.

   

 
 
VENDOR FILES COMPLAINT OVER BURNS 
 
 
BY TAMAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
A hawker-eviction drive in Salt Lake has left a couple selling alu chops nursing severe burn injuries and struggling to make ends meet.

According to an FIR filed by vendor Bimal Biswas, a vehicle of the Salt Lake municipality drove into his van on Friday, during the drive against illegal occupiers near a park in BC block. A cauldron, full of boiling oil, overturned on Biswas and his wife, Asha. Bimal’s back was burnt, as were Asha’s hands.

Asha said the couple first went to Salt Lake Hospital for treatment but was turned away, as it did not have a burncare unit.

“Believe me, I am not a hawker. I sell alu chops and begunis from my cycle van, which I bring to the park every day, without encroaching on the pathway,” Biswas said. On Saturday, he lodged an FIR with the Bidhannagar (North) police station against Banibrata Gupta, assistant engineer of the municipality, who had led the eviction drive.

Admitting that an FIR had been filed, an official of Bidhannagar North police station said that no action could be taken on Sunday as most officers and policemen were at the Salt Lake stadium.

Gupta admitted he had been leading the drive. “I am not aware of such an incident occurring. Since the police accompanied us, I am not sure whether it was our vehicle or their’s that hit Bimal’s van. I don’t know why an FIR has been lodged against me,” said Gupta.

   

 
 
BUTTERFLY BATTLES BOLLYWOOD BIGGIES 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
The Names: Amitabh and Jaya, Shah Rukh and Kajol, Hrithik and Kareena, with Rani Mukherjee thrown in, directed by Karan Johar. The Budget: Rs 35 crore. Top ticket tag in town: Rs 150. The Hype: Scream on every TV beam.

The Names: Mithun Chakraborty, Aparna Sen, Konkona Sen Sharma, with Rituparno Ghosh at the helm. The Budget: Rs 40 lakh. Top ticket tag in town: Rs 60. The Hype: Posters on city walls.

Titli hit five city halls at high noon on Friday, the same hour as Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham invaded seven city cinemas. Several shows of high drama later, Tollywood’s National Award-winning line-up is still very much in the ring with the biggest of Bollywood belles and beaus.

K3G” has been “house-full from Day I, with the “next two weeks sold out at Menoka and Paradise”, according to Pritam Jalan, distributor for the film in West Bengal, Assam and Bihar. “It has broken all city records,” he adds. Jalan expects the film to enjoy “at least a silver jubilee run”.

Though Rituparno Ghosh’s “film about inter-personal relationships, revolving around a mother-daughter duo” may not send the cash registers at Metro and Priya ringing as loudly as Karan Johar’s family (“it’s all about loving your parents”) drama, it’s doing enough to hold the promise of a Tollywood turnaround.

Those who’ve backed Ghosh’s seventh film over Johar’s second insist that this could be the second coming of “quality Bengali films”, with mainstream muscle backing directors who have been known to deliver.

“Both the audiences and the industry have been enthusiastic about Bengali films of late, so we decided to go with Titli this weekend,” explains Premendra Dave of Metro, which has brought regional cinema back to its screen after 17 years. “Kabhi Khushi… might be a sure-shot revenue-earner, but with Titli, we know that we have a film of high artistic calibre.” Response has grown daily, with a half-full house on Friday, growing to 60 per cent on Saturday.

“Attending the premiere at Metro was amazing, as I don’t remember seeing any Bengali film running at the hall in my lifetime,” says Konkona. “If Bengali films are shown in more and better halls, people at least have a choice. And after all, if Calcutta doesn’t show more Bengali films, which city will?”

At Priya, Saturday’s shows of Titli were “close to house full”. Says owner Arijit Dutta: “We have done the Yash-Karan format many-a-time. Instead of a hot two to three weeks, a film like Titli, with a winning combo, ensures a smooth seven to eight-week run with good audiences, with much lower investment. Not only are we supporting good Bengali cinema, it also makes more financial sense.”

What makes the difference, is the distributor’s ‘cut’. “To screen a film like Kabhi Khushi…, halls would have to cough up at least Rs 25 lakh in advance. For a Bengali film, we’d pay around Rs 10 lakh if the film has had a good run,” explains a hall-owner.

Tapan Biswas, producer-distributor of Titli, who refused to shift the release date despite the K3G factor, was confident of the “upper-middle class city film” doing well in Calcutta. He now plans to “release more prints” and take the fight for filmi honours to the districts, as well.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Hunt for murderer of hired killer

The CID and the police on Sunday launched a hunt for Pinaki Mitra, suspected to have murdered contract killer Malcolm Pingault on Saturday. DIG (CID) V.V. Thambi said they had “enough evidence to suggest Mitra’s involvement in the killing”. Mitra, who is out on bail, after being arrested from Digha, is absconding. Santosh, a former aide of Mitra, who was injured in Saturday’s shootout, is being kept under tight security at NRS Hospital. According to sources, Malcolm was being tailed by Pinaki’s men over the past few days. Malcolm, a resident of Gaighata, is believed to have committed a series of murders, including that of a Parsi woman, Nawaz Wadia.

Crackdown

The police raided a number of hideouts late on Saturday and picked up several people for questioning to track down associates of Gabbar. They also recovered a revolver from a hideout of Pappu, a former aide of Gabbar, who was arrested earlier from Taltala.

Tanker crash

A speeding oil tanker crashed into a bus stand in New Alipore, killing a 20-year-old youth late on Saturday. The driver of the tanker, was caught and handed over to the police.    

 
 
WALK-IN, WALK-OUT CATARACT CURE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
The times are changing. Patients with complicated cataract problems need no longer go to speciality centres outside Bengal for surgery. Expert ophthalmologists from Ahmedabad and Mumbai are willing to vouch for this.

They were in Calcutta on Sunday to take part in a day-long workshop on advanced phacoemulsification, the process of breaking up the cataract lens before removing it. Modern microsurgery techniques enable a foldable intraocular lens to be implanted, replacing the faulty lens.

Phaco and IOL implants allow a cataract patient to enter an eye clinic in the morning with blurred vision, and walk out in the evening with perfect eyesight, that too without the help of spectacles. In Calcutta, this procedure costs between Rs 6,000 and Rs 18,000, depending on the quality of the lens implanted.

After problems of refraction, where powered lenses are required to correct vision, cataract is the most common eye disease. Up to 60 per cent of the population reaching 70 years suffer from it. Besides, a fair number of cases occur prematurely due to diabetes and congenital factors.

“But not all cataracts are simple, and not all phaco interventions are easy,” explained Divyesh Shah, consultant ophthalmologist and convener of the workshop, organised by the Ophthalmological Society of West Bengal at Kothari Medical Centre. “Complicated cases like hard brown or black cataracts, small pupil cataracts, cataracts with glaucoma and/or iritis, or a posterior polar cataract, require skilled and experienced hands for their successful management.”

Ahmedabad-based phaco surgeon Abhay Vasavada was brought in to share his experiences and give demonstrations at the workshop. A conference hall, packed with over 80 eye surgeons from the city, saw and listened as he carried out live surgeries on difficult cataract patients. This was followed by an interactive session.

Consultant ophthalmologist Shashi Kapoor from Mumbai spoke on various types of phaco interventions, as well as the latest foldable IOLs. Leading city-based eye surgeon P.K. Bakshi conducted a live phaco on a patient with glaucoma.

A unique aspect about the workshop was that the society had chosen patients who could otherwise have not been able to afford the surgery.

   

 
 
DEPLETION THREAT TO WATER TABLES 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
Most of the 10,000 deep tubewells in the city may turn dry in the near future because of excessive drawing of underground water by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). Civic engineers also fear arsenic contamination as an added problem.

Ignoring expert warnings on the rapid depletion of underground aquifers, the Trinamul Congress-BJP board in the CMC created a record by sinking 82 deep tubewells in a year to please their votebanks in south Calcutta, specially at Jadavpur and Maniktala. The average rate of sinking and resinking deep tubewells till 1999 was hardly 20 a year.

According to experts, sinking of 82 deep tubewells meant additional lifting of a crore gallons of underground water daily, over and above the existing rate of pumping out of 5.5 crore gallons of water a day.

Member, mayor-in-council (water supply), Sovan Chatterjee, said: “How can we take the CMDA’s warning seriously when they themselves are sinking deep tubewells for an upcoming township in east Calcutta?”

Engineers say if the policy of indiscriminate sinking of deep tubewells continues, a drinking water crisis will inevitably set in. Areas like New Alipore, Tollygunge, Tangra-Tiljala-Topsia, Jadavpur and Behala, which are largely dependent on big-diameter tubewells, are likely to suffer during the summers ahead.

CPM chief whip Amal Mitra said while the civic water supply department itself had been violating restrictions on tubewells, it had turned down almost 400 proposals from outsiders.

According to chief engineer (water supply) Dibyendu Roychaudhury, in the 60s, a British expert had cautioned of the increasing gap between drawing out and replenishment of underground water resources.

According to Roychaudhury, the underground water table had already receded by more than 25 feet in the past decade. “We anticipate that a good number of deep tubewells will become defunct because of the receding water table within a month,” said an official of the water supply department.

As 186 million gallons of filtered water, produced daily at Palta, and 40 million gallons at Garden Reach waterworks, fall far short of the city’s daily requirement of 250 million gallons, the water supply department has to run 325 big-diameter tubewells to raise an additional supply of 30 million gallons.

“All this is adding to the crisis,” said an official.

   

 
 
SPECIAL CELL IN TERRORISM FIGHT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has formed a special group to track down miscreants in the city, who have links with the Mumbai, Delhi and Dubai underworld and are passing on vital information.

Deputy inspector-general, CID, V.V. Thambi, said sleuths trained in anti-militant operations, including decoding electronic messages, tracing cellular phone calls and checking forged passports, have been recruited for the job.

“This special group will collect information on subversive activities and recruitment procedures of the underworld in Mumbai and Dubai,” he added.

CID sources said that the formation of the special group has become necessary following reports that information about city businessmen and their travel plans are being passed on to the underworld in Mumbai and Dubai.

While working on the Parthapratim Roy Burman case, the CID found that a number of youths from the Beniapukur, Topsia, Rajabazar and Narkeldanga areas were being trained in militant activities in West Asian cities and towns.

Asif Reza Khan, alias Rajan, recently killed in a shootout with the Rajkot police, and his brother Amir Khan, now in Dubai, had recruited eight youths from Beniapukur and Topsia before taking them to Dubai for training in subversive activities.

“We have evidence that Amir Khan had arranged forged passports for the youths and had taken them to Mumbai from where they travelled to Dubai for training,’’ said a senior CID officer, who is part of the special operations group.

The special group will also liaise with other security agencies, including the immigration and passport offices, in order to prevent these criminals from forging passports.

“We are in touch with our counterparts in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai. It’s vital to maintain a network of information as the boundaries of criminals now extend way beyond city limits ,’’ the CID officer added.

   

 
 
CPM STRIKES AT GRASSROOTS TO FIGHT FACTIONALISM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 16: 
The CPM state leadership has expelled 17 local-level leaders across the state over the past two months for ignoring its instruction to hold organisational polls at the zonal and local committee levels in a harmonious atmosphere by accommodating representatives of even minority groups in the party.

Rattled by growing factionalism in the party, the CPM had sent a circular a couple of months ago to all the district committees, instructing them to avoid differences among members and hold the polls after reaching a mutual understanding on the candidates. Party officials said the 17 leaders had violated these instructions and tried to put up candidates of the majority groups while electing the new committees.

The CPM state committee, which met today at the party headquarters on Alimuddin Street, reiterated its command that party leaders avoid bickering among members while reconstituting the new committees. Party insiders said the expulsions were unlikely to be the only ones.

All the 22,711 party units will be reconstituted during the organisational polls expected to be completed by the end of January, CPM sources said. There are 1,414 local committees and 256 zonal committees in the state. Elections to all the zonal committees are yet to be completed, but most of the 1,414 local committees have been reconstituted, CPM sources indicated.

Politburo member Jyoti Basu, who attended the meeting, asked the state leadership to take steps to educate the party members on Marxism-Leninism. “We should take more care to improve the political consciousness of our younger members, who will be working among the people and campaigning for our party,” he told the meeting.

Despite the state leadership’s efforts to reconstitute all the party units based on consensus, reports from North 24-Parganas have worried the state leadership. Some party functionaries reportedly tried to bribe some of their colleagues to keep a local committee under their control, the state committee was told during this morning’s meeting.

An influential minister from the district dominates the local committee and his rivals were allegedly trying to capture it by buying out some of the minister’s trusted aides. Reports of muscle power being used to intimidate those in minority groups have come in, too.

The state leadership is also concerned about some party functionaries in Nadia district, who tried to wrest control of the local committees with the help of dissidents close to the local Party for Democratic Socialism leader and former CPM MLA Subhas Bose.

The state leadership today clearly instructed the Nadia district leadership to take stern action against leaders hobnobbing with PDS activists in the district.

   

 
 
NAXALITE BRIEF FOR ANTI-TERROR STATE BATTALION 
 
 
FROM OUR BUREAU
 
Dec. 16: 
The state government will recruit 900 jawans to raise a special battalion that will combat terrorism. Home department officials in Calcutta said the recruitment is likely to be completed in two months.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had earlier announced the formation of the special force in the Assembly. The Centre will bear the cost for the force, estimated at Rs 13 crore.

The India Reserve Force will be headquartered in Durgapur. Initially, soldiers will be deployed in four districts — Burdwan, Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia — where the People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre combine is active.

The chief minister has asked home secretary Amit Kiran Deb to speed up the process of raising the battalion. “The battalion, led by a senior IPS officer, will be stationed at Durgapur and will be despatched as and when necessary. We want to make the force fit for combating all kinds of terrorist activities. We have selected Durgapur as it is easier to reach Bankura, Midnapore and Purulia from there. We hope the battalion will be ready soon,” Deb said.

“We are finalising the formalities for recruitment of 900 personnel. It has not yet been decided whether all of them will be recruited through the Public Service Commission (PSC). It is likely that some will be recruited through the PSC and some from outside. In both cases, the emphasis will be on the intelligence and physical fitness of the candidates,” said a senior officer from the home department. Though the Centre will bear the expenses, the commando-like force will work under the command of the state police.

Selected candidates will be given extensive training in sophisticated arms, conducting combing operations in forests, neutralising explosives and countering terrorist strikes by experts from the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force.

The state government is worried over the increasing footprints of the PWG-MCC combine in the state. Though a huge armed force has been deployed in the disturbed districts and senior IPS officers are monitoring combing operations, the administration has failed to trace the Naxalites, who have killed two CPM leaders and assaulted four within a month.

Hospital upgrade

Two new departments — surgical intensive therapeutic unit and audiology — were inaugurated at the 50-bed N.G. Bangur hospital in Thakurpukur on Sunday. The hospital, which already had an ICU, a cardiac-monitoring unit and ventilators, would soon have a CT scan department, medical director Dalia Chatterjee said.

The new departments have made the hospital the first medical unit in South 24-Parganas to offer such facilities.

   
 

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