Medical monitor makes debut
Torture tag on death in cop custody
Conman gives bank loan lesson
Shot dead at doorstep
Bridges of business, prayers of peace
The City Diary
Piracy tops Tollywood woes
Road mishap claims CMC employee
Master’s degree in rights
Fighting factions defy unity sermon

Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
The parents of a new-born have moved court against a prominent city hospital and a paediatrician, alleging gross negligence and lack of infrastructure, that led to the death of the 10-day-old infant.

The move comes a few days before the official inauguration of People for Better Treatment (PBT), a forum where victims of medical negligence and malpractice can take their grievances. The forum, the formation of which was reported in Metro last month, will provide advice on redressal procedures, legal assistance and other measures.

Sarita and Subir Saha, parents of the baby that was born at Woodlands Hospital on November 19, approached the forum after seeing advertisements in newspapers. On hearing the case, forum functionaries advised the family to file formal complaints to the Indian Medical Association and the West Bengal Medical Council.

“We had already lodged a complaint with Alipore police station and were distressed that the personnel there would not consider it an FIR,” Subir said. On advice from the PBT, they approached the sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court and filed a petition under Section 156(3) CrPC, saying that the police were not responding. On court orders, three organisations will investigate the complaint.

Three days ahead of its formal unveiling, the forum has created a buzz, especially after its founder-president, Dr Kunal Saha, arrived in Calcutta for it.

Some question the competence of a new body when consumer courts and state medical councils are empowered to take up complaints against doctors and hospitals. Others ask: “Who will judge whether it is a case of negligence?”

The fact that young parents and many others have swamped the PBT with their cases is proof enough that popular demand is growing for another watchdog that will initiate effective reforms in the medical establishment.

“We hope the forum will help remove the complacency that has set in amongst doctors over the years. They must get their act together. If it means increasing fees, so be it. But a mistake over a life is not the same as a mistake a bureaucrat or a lawyer commits while passing a file,” says Kunal Sarkar, a cardiac surgeon who has recently returned from the UK.

“The existing legal systems are not strong enough. The move will, hopefully, make practising doctors toe the line. I feel this is a starting stimulus for their being more accountable,” said an orthopaedist, also from the West.

That Kunal Saha, a doctor, has started the forum after his wife’s death in 1998, allegedly due to neglect by three city doctors, has given PBT the added push.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
A youth died “under mysterious circumstances” in Charu Market police station late on Tuesday. The local police, surprisingly, did not inform the victim’s family till 10 hours after the incident.

Protesting the death of Kashinath Sardar in police custody, local Trinamul Congress supporters held a demonstration in front of Charu Market thana and demanded a “high-level probe” into the matter.

Sukumar Chakroborty, officer-in-charge of Charu Market police station, said Kashinath was epileptic.

“We found him lying unconscious at the intersection of Tollygunge Circular Road and Deshapran Sashmal Road around 11 pm on Tuesday. Our officers rushed him to M.R. Bangur Hospital, where doctors declared him dead. He had no criminal record,” confirmed Chakroborty.

The police version, however, was refuted by family members of Kashinath. “My son had no disease. He was a healthy young man, and the only earning member of our family. We heard from his friends that the police dragged him into a jeep and disappeared,” said Balai Sardar, Kashinath’s father.

“I saw injuries on his face and blood was oozing out of his nose. I am sure he was beaten up by the police,” said the distraught father.

Sheikh Alam, a friend of the dead youth, said: “Kashinath left home around 10 pm to buy something. He was stopped by some policemen on Deshapran Sashmal Road, who asked him to accompany them to the thana.”

Alam recounted that “when Kashinath refused, the cops slapped him and dragged him into their jeep. That was the last we saw of him.”

Arup Biswas, chairman of Borough 10, blamed Kashinath’s death on “police torture” and demanded action against “the guilty officials”.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
This “headmaster” had not done his homework well enough and learnt his lesson the hard way on Wednesday.

It all began in September. Hoping to ‘cash in’ on an Allahabad Bank loan scheme for teachers, 45-year-old Prosenjit Pal Choudhury, an unemployed man, decided to “appoint” himself the headmaster of two institutions in Entally: Bhutnath Mahamaya Institution and Sarada Vidyalaya.

He made some small capital investments. He got letterheads of the two institutions printed, bought rubber stamps and then started hunting for ‘recruits’ — unemployed persons, who would ‘enrol’ as teachers of the two institutions for a small fee.

The loan scheme was simple, the main requirements being a certificate from the school headmaster — that the teacher applying for the loan was a bona fide employee of the institution — and a salary certificate.

Pal Choudhury selected 29 ‘eligible candidates’ who would qualify as “teachers” in these schools. For a commission of 10 per cent on the loan amount — Rs 50,000 — he handed them letters of appointment, salary certificates and letters of good conduct.

On letters issued on the Bhutnath Mahamaya Institution letterhead, he signed himself as Prosenjit Pal Choudhury — the police are still verifying whether it is his real name — and on the letterheads of Sarada Vidyalaya, he was Ratan Lal Das.

He disappeared once the letters were handed out and the commission had been pocketed. The ‘teachers’ approached the New Alipore branch of Allahabad Bank, where the loans were disbursed.

The first signs of suspicion arose when the first repayment instalments fell through. “That is when the bank authorities started thinking that something had gone wrong,” said DC, DD, Soumen Mitra. “It was too much of a coincidence that each and every recipient of the loan had defaulted on repayment.”

A quick check at the two schools revealed that the defaulters were not employed there. The bank called in the police and the hunt began. Tracking down the defaulters proved difficult: The addresses were false. “It took us almost two months to get them,” Mitra said on Wednesday.

It was the folly of four ‘teachers’ that came to the aid of the police. They had deposited the account-payee cheques in their own accounts in various banks, unlike the others. Four days ago, they were grilled and named Pal Choudhury, who was then rounded up from his Baguiati flat.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
The sound of bullets woke up Bowbazar’s residents on Tuesday night, but by then, Amil Khan, 21, was dead in front of his Weston Street house. Khan, an unemployed youth, was reportedly shot from point-blank range by five others. The cause has still not been ascertained.

On Tuesday, Khan had just finished dinner when his assailants turned up at his doorstep. “It’s him. Kill him,’’ a witness heard one of them shout, before the sound of gunfire shattered the silence. Neighbours took Khan to Medical College and Hospital, where the doctors declared him dead.

Khan had no police record. “He was a hawker and used to put up his wares on the Esplanade pavements,’’ said Zamil Ahmed, a neighbour. “But, of late, he could not run his business because of a cash crunch.” Bowbazar police have detained two people for interrogation.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
Izhar Saukat Kapoor came to Calcutta last week with the hope of extending his trade in hand-woven Lucknowi fabric to eastern India. On Wednesday, as Calcuttans poured into the Karachi-based businessman’s store at the Industrial India Trade Fair (IITF) on the Maidan, Kapoor couldn’t conceal his anxiety: “Rail and road links between the two countries have already been cut. Our family members want us back in Pakistan right now, but we can’t leave the fair midway… We don’t know how we will get back home if the situation worsens and air links are snapped.”

Kapoor is here with 24-year-old son Rehan and an employee from his Karachi shop. He, along with five other stall-owners from Pakistan, are now trying to make the most of “the business opportunity” provided by the trade fair and “praying for peace” between the two neighbours.

A 20-member Pakistani delegation had arrived in Delhi to first attend the India International Trade Fair last month. “While six of us stayed back to explore business opportunities, the rest returned home for Id. They were to join us in Calcutta, but were denied visas,” said R.S. Rehman, chairman of the Indo-Pakistan exhibition committee and a regular at trade fairs in India since 1995.

This has left Rehman and Kapoor managing their own stalls and helping out at around five others where the owners have not turned up. “There were first-time participants from Islamabad, Lahore, Hyderabad and Quetta, who were caught in the diplomatic crossfire and had to cancel their visit,” said Kapoor, a cricket enthusiast (Gundappa Viswanath being his favourite) and a Bollywood buff (“Sunil Dutt ka beta” Sanjay his ‘hero’).

The Pakistani businessmen — showcasing handicrafts made of onyx and hand-woven fabric — had booked their space at the Bidhan Mela in Salt Lake. But now, they have decided to “take the first flight out of India”, after December 31. They all see India as a big market and view incidents like the “attack on Parliament” as the biggest hurdle in the growth of trade and commerce between the two countries. “First, Vajpayeeji came to Lahore, then President Musharraf visited India. We thought things would improve, but now the situation seems worse than Kargil,” laments Rehman.

“We come to your country, Indian businessmen visit Pakistan. These are like bridges that bring us closer. Ab, halaat ke chalte agar yeh bhi ruk jaye, to na jane kya hoga (Now, if circumstances put an end to even this, we wonder what will happen),” sighed Kapoor, before returning to attend to his customers in Calcutta, who’ve bowled him over with their “simplicity and sweetness”.



Search for Behala dancer in Mumbai

A Behala police team left for Mumbai on Wednesday in search of teenage dancer Payal Haldar. Two persons were arrested on Tuesday in connection with the mysterious disappearance of Payal. “We have gathered enough evidence against the men to suggest that the girl may have been sold off or hidden somewhere. We will explore these possibilities as well,” a senior official said. The team will carry out search operations in association with the Mumbai police.

Principal held for fraud

Rama Bhattacharya, 45, principal of an English-medium school in Teghoria, was arrested on Wednesday. Police said Bhattacharya had allegedly collected money from students for admission to Class XI of George William Day School, although the school had permission till Class X only. The parents of one of the complainants allegedly paid Rs 10,000 for admission to Class XI in 1999. “The day he went to school, he found that the school neither had the required permission nor did it have a room designated for the class,” a senior police officer said. When repeated pleas to return the money went unheeded, the parents filed a case at Barasat court. Following a court order, Bhattacharya was picked up from her residence in Hatiara, in the Rajarhat police station area, on Wednesday evening. She will be produced in court on Thursday morning.

Body recovered

A 20-year-old youth’s body was recovered on Dufferin Road early on Wednesday. The youth, identified as Chandan Mullick of Padmapukur Road, was possibly knocked down by a passing vehicle after midnight, police said. He was taken to SSKM Hospital, where he was declared dead.

Knocked down

Ajoy Sharma,12, was knocked down by a passing vehicle early on Wednesday. He was admitted to National Medical College and Hospital, where his condition was stated to be critical.

Protest at varsity

Employees of Calcutta University, belonging to Calcutta University Employees’ Unity Centre, on Wednesday held a demonstration and submitted a memorandum to Ashis Kumar Banerjee, vice-chancellor, demanding withdrawal of the university’s decision to implement the new attendance and other service rules for employees from January 1, 2002.

Youth found dead

The mysterious death of a 23-year-old youth in Barasat has caused tension in the area. Police said Amit Nandy left his house after lunch on Tuesday to meet his friends. But when he did not return till midnight, his parents started worrying. After a search in the locality, a domestic help traced Amit’s body on the terrace of his residence. The body, which did not bear any external injuries, has been sent for post-mortem. Foul play has not been ruled out.

Airport security

Security agencies at Dum Dum airport have intensified checking of the shoe soles of passengers, following the shoe-bomb incident in the US recently, O.P. Gupta, superintendent of airport police, said on Wednesday.    

Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
Sasurbari Zindabad and Amar Sansar in 2000; Pratibad and Churiwala in 2001. That tells the sad tale of the Tollywood ‘commercial’ cinema in the new millennium. With only four films “breaking even” in two years, the Tollygunge tinseltown is desperate for a turnaround.

This was made clear at a meet to announce the newly-elected executive committee of the Eastern India Motion Picture Association (EIMPA). “Immediate measures must be taken to check the deplorable decline of the Bengali film industry,” EIMPA members said, after naming Pratibad, starring Prosenjit and Arpita Pal, and Churiwala, featuring Ferdous and Madhumita Sarkar, as the only two success stories at the box-office.

The EIMPA committee for 2001-2002 includes president Rabindra Agarwal, vice-presidents Bijoy Khemka and Arijit Dutta. Chairpersons K.N. Daga, M.K. Kankaria and S. Dutta have been appointed to the producers, distributors and exhibitors sections respectively.

Topping the list of the trade body’s concerns is piracy. “Video piracy is killing the film industry, with cable channels showing films a day after their release,” complained Agarwal.

Video parlours, popular in the suburbs and districts, are also “eating into revenues”, according to the committee.

An encouraging trend, according to Arijit Dutta, is that urban audiences have made a return to Bengali films. “In the last two years, non-commercial films such as Dekha, Utsab, Ek Je Achhe Kanya, Titli and Cancer, targeting NRI audiences as well, have also been recovering costs,” he says.

Another issue that the Association will be taking up is the “lack of halls” available to screen Bengali movies. The need of the hour: Smaller halls and tax rebate.

“Government halls should be made available to screen Bengali cinema,” feels Bijoy Khemka, who also reiterated the need for state incentives to set up multiplexes.

“The average cost to set up a multiplex is between Rs 12 and 14 crore. Many states have given tax incentives to make this investment feasible.”


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
Traffic in Phoolbagan was disrupted for more than an hour on Wednesday morning after a Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) employee was killed in a road accident. Residents blocked the road soon after to protest the mishap.

The accident occurred around 9.55 am, when the CMC employee, Mrinal Chatterjee, 44, was hit by a private bus on route 221. Chatterjee was on a bicycle.

The Gol Park-bound bus knocked him down near the Phoolbagan-CIT Road crossing.

He was taken to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.

The driver tried to flee but was caught. Officer in-charge of Beleghata police station, Piyush Chakraborty, reached the spot and arrested him.

Later, Chakraborty said: “The driver has admitted that the accident occurred due to a brake failure. We will ascertain the cause after a technical check.”

The blockade was lifted after an hour, on Chakraborty’s assurance that steps would be taken to control the unruly traffic in the area.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
In a bid to attract international students, Calcutta University (CU) is planning to introduce a full-time post-graduate course in human rights. Once the Syndicate okays the proposal, CU will be the pioneer in entire south and south-east Asia to offer such a course.

“The course will be introduced from the next academic session in July and we are sure it will attract students from neighbouring countries,” said Buddhadeb Choudhury, senior teacher of the anthropology department.

The syllabus will deal elaborately with the status of Dalits, refugees, tribals and the minority communities.

The University of Vancouver has offered assistance by way of sending down its faculty for delivering lectures. Besides, CU will also seek the cooperation of human rights organisations from Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal to run the course.

A workshop was organised recently by CU to frame the syllabus for the course. The university has decided to charge higher fees from foreign students, though the structure has not been finalised.

Calcutta University is among the few institutions which offer post-graduate and doctoral degrees at low fees. But apart from getting foreign students under International Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR)-sponsored programmes, the 146-year-old university has failed to attract students from other countries.

“One way we can attract such students is to start courses in rare disciplines, which are in great demand but scarcely taught in international universities,” said Choudhury.

A survey carried out by the university has revealed that the demand for masters’ degree-holders in human rights is rising.

The anthropology department is the only discipline to have a Polish student, who is in his second year. It had a student from Japan a few years ago. “At present, we have a handful of students from Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka,” said an official.


Calcutta, Dec. 26: 
The CPM’s efforts to stop faction strife from influencing organisational elections and constitute party committees by consensus appear to have suffered a setback in key district units.

State party secretary Anil Biswas conceded today that in North 24-Parganas, Hooghly and Nadia, rival factions went into open confrontation for control of the committees, ignoring the leadership’s directive to avoid elections to reconstitute them.

The leadership is worried by the state of affairs in the North 24-Parganas unit after Nanda-gopal Bhattacharya, who has been secretary of Salt Lake-I local committee for 10 years, failed to get elected to the district committee. He was fielded by the Amitava Nandy faction. Swapan Das was elected in his place.

Subhas Chakraborty’s men were also reduced to a minority in the Salt Lake II local committee. Of the 15 members on the committee, Chakraborty has only six loyalists. The remaining nine are from Nandy’s camp. CPM insiders feel it will be difficult for Chakraborty to fight the Nandy faction after his defeat in both the local committees.

Biswas said the developments could not be seen as a sign of defeat for the party leadership’s efforts at consensus. But party officials admitted in private that they might trigger another round of faction feud as Bhattacharya is Chakraborty’s brother-in-law.

Chakraborty, said sources, is likely to interpret Bhattacharya’s elimination as a personal defeat and mount a campaign against the Nandy faction.

According to the CPM’s constitution, the party has to reconstitute its units after three years. This time, the CPM state leadership instructed all district units to avoid elections while reconstituting the committees.

The CPM leadership has been trying to check factionalism in North 24-Parganas for the past five years. It had even set up a powerful sub-committee, comprising Jyoti Basu, Biswas, Biman Bose and Sailen Dasgupta, for the purpose. The committee met both Chakraborty and Nandy a number of times, but failed to sort out their differences.

Taritbaran Topadar, MP and another Chakraborty loyalist, has also been defeated in the organisational polls in Titagarh, considered his stronghold. Topadar, who enjoyed majority in the Titagarh local committee for six years, was defeated in Sunday’s election. In the newly-elected committee, Topadar has only two representatives. The remaining 13 members are from Nandy’s camp.

But Topadar managed to capture the Panihati III local committee, with a trusted aide, Ajit Sarkar, becoming secretary.

The CPM leadership’s move to avoid elections to the committees failed in Barasat, too. The Barasat (west) local committee was reconstituted on Sunday after a crucial election. The rival factions represented by Chak-raborty and Nandy ignored the directive to avoid elections to form the committees.

The district CPM leadership in Hooghly also failed to reconstitute zonal and local committees by consensus. All the three important zonal committees — Serampore, Uttarpara and Bansberia — were formed through elections.

But Biswas claimed that 98 per cent of the 256 zonal and 1414 local committees were formed by consensus. Only two per cent of the total units were reconstituted through election.

The CPM leadership is believed to have taken strong exception to these developments and is planning drastic action against those who violated its directive.


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