Heartburn over pacemaker push
March date for cable hike
Trader held for car help to Gabbar
Youth stabbed at tea-stall
Cop power, not military might
The City Diary
Merit reward for medicine students
CMC upbeat over malaria drive success
Mayor targets Esplanade
Railways line up eviction blitz

Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
Three weeks after a permanent pacemaker implantation (PPI) in a reputed city hospital, the blackouts came back to haunt Sharmila Kumar, 55. She rushed to the doctor, who had insisted that she required a pacemaker urgently. The cardiac-surgeon told her to “ignore” the problem. Kumar then visited a specialist in Vellore, who concluded that “the PPI was unnecessary”, as she did not have a severe heart condition.

More and more Calcuttans are now undergoing PPI without actually knowing whether they need it or not. In 2001, over 1,680 such implants were carried out in prominent city hospitals. No less than 700 were carried out in the state-run SSKM Hospital, making it the largest PPI hospital in southeast Asia. A distant second after SSKM is B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre, where 12 implants are conducted, on an average, every month .

Statistics and trade figures reveal a 10 per cent jump in pacemaker sales in Calcutta 2001, over 2000. According to trade circles, Calcutta accounted for over 3,000 units, with Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore picking up the remaining 4,000 that were sold last year.

A pacemaker, valued between Rs 56,000 to Rs 2 lakh, is needed to regulate the heartbeat artificially when the natural electrical signals are not generated. “Of late, there has been an increase in the controversial usage of the pacemaker. Ideally, a patient with a limited heart block should go for extensive tests to determine whether he needs it or not,” said cardiologist Prakash Hazra.

SSKM’s officiating superintendent Dr Elabandha Pal Choudhury attributes this rise to “the good facilities” and “quality control” at the hospital. Eminent doctors, however, say that at least 50 per cent of these cases were unnecessary. “In some cases, patients with complaints like syncope (blackouts) and palpitation continued to have them even after the implant,” said a senior surgeon attached to the B.M. Birla centre.

Several doctors in the city are violating the American Heart Association norms, which are considered the standard in judging whether a patient needs an implant or not. Patients requiring pacemakers can be divided into class A and class B. Class A includes patients who have “complete heart blocks” and definitely need an implant.

“The grey area lies in class-B patients, where cases with suspected bi-facicular, or incomplete, blocks are implanted with a pacemaker. Instead of carrying out further electrophysiological tests on these patients, cardiologists often insist that the patient must go for an implant,” added the senior surgeon.

The Indian Medical Association (Calcutta branch) has decided to discuss the pacemaker push during its conference on January 19. “This is a serious issue. I have taken it up with our senior members. Malpractice among doctors will definitely be discussed at length,” said senior IMA member Dr Shib Dutta Choudhury.

Cardiologist Jyoti Deb is worried about the trend. “I have come across cases where I felt the procedure was not necessary. There should be some uniformity… The government should do something about it.”

Most cases of malpractice do not reach the West Bengal Medical Council. “A few cases against indiscriminate pacemaker implants do land up at the council office. They remain limited to departmental probes only,” said registrar D.K. Ghosh.

The PPI manufacturers, meanwhile, are doing brisk business in Calcutta. Symbios, a city-based supplier of Vitatorn pacemakers, sold 560 units in 2001, compared to 230 in 2000. The company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of pacemakers, claims to have touched Rs 3 crore in Rs 2001 and expects to sell about 750 units this year.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
The New Year has signalled a cable rate rise of around Rs 50 in a few pockets of south Calcutta. But the new financial year looks set to see all Calcutta cable and satellite (C&S) homes dishing out “Rs 40 to 50 more” for their TV fare.

With satellite channel broadcasters demanding increased fees for their pay channels, citing soaring production costs and under-declaration, cable operators in Calcutta are predicting a rate rise by March-April. Around 15 to 20 per cent operators have already flashed the fare hike message to their consumers.

Despite being locked in talks throughout Thursday, cable operators from across the city and the suburbs failed to reach any agreement on the immediate course of action. But the majority feels it won’t be possible for them to absorb the beam blow beyond March.

There is some talk of one major platform (like ESPN or the STAR package) being knocked off beam to keep the subscription at present rates, but not all operators are agreeable to this radical line of action. The bitter fallout of last year’s prolonged blackout of the STAR bouquet is holding them back.

“STAR has jacked up rates from Rs 25.75 to 40.50 and ESPN-STAR Sports from Rs 16 to 24. The Turner stable has gone up by another Rs 2, while Fashion TV, which was free-to-air, now charges Rs 7.15. With Zee expected to raise rates by Rs 12-15 and Sony to follow suit, we are really looking at an additional burden of almost Rs 50 per consumer,” says Tarak Saha, secretary, Forum of Cable Operators.

In recent talks between broadcasters and operators, big players like STAR have made it clear that they will not roll back rates.

Saha feels it will be “particularly tough” for smaller operators to ask for more at this stage. “How much can we burden our customers? After all, they were asked to pay more for their cable connection only a few months ago… The only solution, it seems, is addressability, where the viewer can pick the channels of his choice.”

Supratim Halder, secretary of Cable Television Operators’ Association, while backing Saha on the need for addressability, rubbishes the broadcasters’ claim that operators declare only “15-20 per cent” of their actual connectivity.

“I think our declaration is fair and scientific. It’s more than 40-50 per cent, if we take the average of all the operators’ connectivity,” he contends.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
A businessman, believed to have helped criminal Gabbar in the past, was arrested on Thursday. Sanjiv Goyal, 30, owner of a transport firm, was picked up from his Kankurgachhi residence and remanded in custody for seven days.

Zulfiquar Hasan, deputy commissioner, central division, said Goyal would lend Gabbar his cars. “Gabbar used to change cars frequently for security reasons. A few days before his arrest, he was spotted in a Santro owned by Goyal,” Hasan said.

According to the sleuths, Goyal and Gabbar would meet frequently at the Gold Star club in Kankurgachhi, from where Gabbar was picked up a few weeks ago.

Goyal’s role came to light after Sunita Huda, alias Bhabiji, who used to run a brothel in Salt Lake, spilled the beans.

“Goyal used to visit Huda regularly and even introduced her to Gabbar. Initially, Huda was not aware of Gabbar’s identity,” said a sleuth.

Meanwhile, the arrest of Khadim’s kidnap case co-accused Sona from Shyambazar recently has caused tension among policemen. The two rivals — Sona and Gabbar — are both lodged in Hare Street police station. “Gabbar and Sona turned rivals after the killing of Sanjiv Jhulka, alias Bunty. Sona had then provided shelter to Gabbar but dreaded the fact that the police might arrest him for no fault of his,” said Hasan.

Hare Street police have made special arrangements for the two criminals. “Gabbar and Sona have been kept in separate cells. We do not want to take chances,” said a police officer.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
A 20-year-old youth was stabbed to death after an altercation near a tea-stall on Broad Street, late on Thursday. The assailant fled.

Police said the victim, identified as Jamil Ahmed, alias Kalua, arrived at the tea-stall around 7.30 pm, where he met Laga, alias Hanif. The two ordered tea. Later, they got into an argument. “Laga warned Kalua to hold his tongue but the altercation continued,” Alamgir, a bystander, told Karaya police.

Those present at the tea-stall tried to mediate. “Laga lost his temper and drove a pair of scissors into Kalua’s abdomen,” said deputy commissioner of police (south) Kuldeep Singh. As Kalua fell, Laga fled. Kalua was taken to a nearby nursing home, where he was declared dead on arrival. The area has been sealed off.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
The parade will be on, people will line Red Road, but the Republic Day celebrations will just not be the same. For, in view of the prevailing “war-like scenario’’, the army has decided not to join ranks with the R-Day parade.

A circular issued by the state additional director-general of police, administration, Ajay Prasad, on Thursday, made it clear that the army would not participate in the January 26 celebration this year. When contacted, Lt-Gen Arvind Kumar, chief of staff, Eastern Command, said the army is “keeping a low profile” because of the “extra-ordinary circumstances’’.

Every year, the army organises the parade in grand style. According to army officials, 17 units of the armed forces, including high-powered tanks, armoured vehicles and other weaponry used on the battlefront, would have rolled out on Red Road this year. But the December 13 attack on Parliament changed everything.

Director-general of police Dinesh Chandra Vajpai said this year’s parade will be organised by the police. “With war clouds hanging over the country, the army is moving men and material to the front and has expressed its inability to take part in the parade,’’ he said on Thursday, after convening a high-level meeting with senior police officers and the home secretary.

DIG, modernisation, Ranjit Pachnanda, will be the parade commander, a post usually reserved for the army’s deputy general officer commanding, Bengal Area. Deputy commissioner, reserve force, P. Ravi, will be the parade secretary.

Additional director-general of police, armed police, Ranjit Mohanty, has been asked to supervise the arrangements. “With the army pulling out this year, we are banking on the paramilitary forces and police contingent to add colour to the show,’’ Mohanty said.

Police firepower will replace the army big guns this time. “We have sophisticated arms and ammunition, which will all be on display on January 26,’’ confirmed Mohanty.

The police have drawn up a budget of Rs 1.58 million for the parade that will showcase their strength. But Calcuttans queuing up to catch a glimpse of military might are bound to return home disappointed. A drop in the crowd count is also on the cards, with the T-90 tanks, BMP-1 and BMP-2 armoured personnel careers, L-70 anti-aircraft radar-guided automatic guns and anti-tank missiles steering well clear of Red Road.



Civic crackdown on meat display

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s health and market departments will launch a joint crackdown on the open sale and display of meat in butcher shops from next week. Mayor-in-council members Javed Ahmed Khan and Samsuzzaman Ansari and chairman of Borough-XV Gazi Iqbal will lead the drive, which will commence in Garden Reach. There are more than 300 stalls in the Garden Rach area and about 60 per cent of them sell meat in the open, clogging the drains, said Ansari. Butchers are required to use a curtain in front of their shops and a glass case for display of dressed meat. The health inspectors served notices in this respect under Section 441 of the CMC Act-1980 to all butchers in February 2001, but they did not take any action. There are more than 1,200 meat and 500 beef shops in the city.

Hi-tech room at Writers’

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee inaugurated a modern conference room at Writers’ Buildings on Thursday. Built at a cost of Rs 30 lakh, the room will accommodate 30 persons at a time who will be provided with state-of-the-art facilities like multi-media projection system, video-audio conference and telecommunication.

Fog disrupts flights

Dense fog in Delhi disrupted air traffic to and from Calcutta for the third consecutive day on Thursday. Morning flights of Indian Airlines and Jet Airways took off for Delhi around noon. While the flights of these airlines arrived in Calcutta from Delhi at 2.30 pm, the Calcutta-Guwahati flight was delayed by six hours. The flight for Delhi took off an hour and half late in the evening.

Thana gheraoed

Supporters of Trinamul Congress gheraoed the Bhowanipore police station on Thursday, protesting the deterioration of law and order in the area.

Fake cassettes

The Enforcement Branch of the city police recovered fake cassettes worth about Rs 50,000 from Chandni Chowk on Thursday. One person was arrested.

Winter death

Two unidentified persons died of cold at Deganga and Ashoknagar, in North 24-Parganas, on Wednesday night.


The 16th national heat and mass transfer conference was inaugurated at Science City on Thursday. The conference is being organised by Jadavpur University and Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University). Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre B. Bhattacharya inaugurated the conference. Also present were chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Prof S.P. Sukhatme and the vice-chancellors of the two host universities. Around 200 delegates, including 40 from abroad, attended the inaugural session. The biennial conference, which is being held in eastern India after 18 years, will conclude on Saturday.

Video parlour raid

Dilip Jaiswal, a video parlour owner, was arrested in Rabindra Sarani for stocking pirated compact discs of latest Hindi releases and pornographic films. The police recovered 70 pirated CDs from the parlour.    

Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
Needy students in the city, keen to pursue homoeopathy as a career option, have help coming their way, as do indigent patients. The Calcutta centre of Dr Batra’s Positive Health Foundation, which was launched on Thursday, will identify students of homoeopathic medicine on a merit-cum-means scholarship to sponsor their tuition fees.

“We will support them for the entire duration of their course and the scholarship is open to students from all over Bengal,” explains Dr Mukesh Batra, chairman and managing director of Dr Batra’s Positive Health Clinic Ltd (DBPHCL), an ISO 9002 company.

The Rs 1.01-crore Foundation, which was inaugurated in Mumbai last July on Dr Batra’s 50th birthday, also aims to promote homoeopathy as the “remedy of choice” by identifying needy patients and providing such treatment totally free through a sponsorship scheme at structured pre-determined rates. “Under this scheme, we will adopt these patients and integrate them into our system through membership cards,” says Dr Batra.

The Foundation will also promote use of homoeopathy by “building public awareness”, using DBPHCL doctors to disseminate information at schools, colleges and corporate houses, with special stress on the youth.

“These are not gestures of charity. It’s an acknowledgement of the promise in these students and a small token of gratitude to the stream of homoeopathic medicine. We preach the values of positive health to try and build a better and healthier India,” says Dr Batra, the first Asian to receive the honorary fellowship of the UK Homoeopathic Medical Association and the British Institute of Homoeopathy.

Funds for the Foundation are generated internally through voluntary donation from the staff, suppliers and by setting aside a portion of the company’s annual net profit. The Foundation also has a ‘Support-A-Patient’ scheme funded in part by individual sponsors, nominating unnamed needy beneficiaries for free treatment at any homoeopathic clinic. The balance is borne by the clinic.

In Calcutta, the clinic, which opened in October 2000, has treated 17,692 patients till December 31, 2001. “Most of the problems here are stress and pollution-related. Besides skin and hair problems, we get a lot of patients with GI tract complications like colitis and irritable bowel syndrome,” observes Dr Tejal Ajmera, branch head. Asthma and other forms of respiratory distress are equally common.

“Calcutta has an in-built faith in homoeopathy, but most patients are used to being treated on symptoms alone. Our method of treatment is fully supported by clinical evidence,” says Dr Batra.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
It was self-congratulation time for Corporation health officials as the Trinamul Congress-led civic board passed a second successful year of controlling malaria in the city. The number of people afflicted with the disease dropped by around 10,000 than the previous year’s count.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee congratulated the civic health department for the commendable achievment. Member, mayor-in-council (health) Javed Ahmed Khan said on Thursday that though the incidence of infection with malignant malaria-causing pathogen Plasmodium falciparum was higher, timely intervention could check the death toll. The malarial death toll for 2001 was only 21, as against 55 in 2000.

Officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee said malarial death would decrease further with the setting up of a malaria hospital at Kalighat before the Pujas.

“The 50-bed hospital will be operational before the Pujas”, mayor said.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
A day after ordering the hawkers out of Brabourne Road and around Writers’ Buildings, mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Thursday announced the creating of a hawker-free corridor between Victoria House and Victoria Memorial.

Shortly after assuming office as mayor, Mukherjee had taken up a scheme to rid the stretch from hawkers, amidst stiff resistance from party boss, Trinamul Congress chief, Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata at that time did not want to tarnish her pro-people image. Mukherjee, too, realised that hawker eviction at that time would have provided the Left Front with a campaign plank.

But now, Mukherjee has his own plans for Calcutta, even at the cost of rubbing Mamata the wrong way. His friction with Mamata over hawkers and encroachers began when the Trinamul leader fought tooth and nail to thwart the eviction before the Pujas. Mukherjee not only had supported the eviction but at one point of time, even threatened to resign over it.

“I am committed to the city’s development. The encroachers have to move out. Basically, encroachers are law-breakers. I am determined to rid the city of hawkers. And this time, I will not disclose my plans beforehand,” Mukherjee told Metro on Thursday. The mayor said that if hawkers or encroachers were allowed to carry on, it would encourage flouting of rules at the cost of development.

Aware that party leaders are poisoning Mamata’s ears against him, Mukherjee said: “Do you think this is the first time my colleagues are trying to turn Mamata against me? Let them try. Mamata is a mature politician. She knows what is good for her ultimately,” the mayor added.

Sources said Mukherjee would stop at nothing to clean up the patch between Victoria House and Victoria Memorial.

“This is the best part of the city. At present, the stretch between Esplanade and Park Street looks pathetic because the hawkers have completely taken over the pavements. Once they are gone, the stretch will look beautiful,” said a member of the mayor’s council.


Calcutta, Jan. 3: 
After their remarkable success in flushing out hundreds of hawkers from the Sealdah station courtyard, the Railways said on Thursday that similar drives would be carried out against the thousands of settlers or hawkers on railway land in Calcutta and its suburbs.

Officials said the drives will also target platform-dwellers from Sealdah to Baruipur in the south and Sealdah to Barrackpore and Barasat in the north.

In the first phase, settlers will be evicted along the railway tracks from Ballygunge to Majherhat, on the Sealdah-Budge Budge section of Eastern Railway. By a high court directive, the Railways will have to evict the settlers of this zone (commonly known as the Lake Campus area) by January 25. To comply with the order, the government and the CMC will provide them the necessary help.

According to a railway source, the eviction of unauthorised hawkers from the platforms will begin soon. “Before that, we will slap notices to the slum-dwellers who have been living on the railway land for more than 20 years. Those living on the railway siding between Dhakuria and Jadavpur have already been asked to quit.”

Railway sources said unauthorised hawkers had taken over the platforms at Ballygunge, Jadavpur, Bagha Jatin, Sonarpur, Mullickpur and Baruipur, on the south section, and Bidhannagar, Dum Dum, Belghoria, Sodepur, Titagarh and Barrackpore. The encroachers enjoyed political patronage, they added.

Rahul Roy, president of the Passengers’ Association of the South section of Sealdah division, said that during rush hour, commuters were crowded out of platforms by the hordes of vendors and encroachers. The removal of hawkers from Sealdah platforms had been a long-standing demand of his association, Roy added.

According to a Railway Board source, senior officials have been asked to hold talks with Citu and Intuc leadership to avoid problems during subsequent eviction drives. “In areas such as Jadavpur, Titagarh, Baruipur, Belghoria, Titagarh and Barrackpore, eviction will be possible only after consent is received from the trade union leaders,” he said.

The Railways were sure the union leaders would cooperate in the drive, “as both the state and Central governments have virtually agreed to the proposal of the Board.”

In the second phase of the flush-out, the Railways will reclaim its land from the illegal occupants. “Vast tracts of the railway land have been occupied in the city and its suburbs along tracks in Subhasgram, Sonarpur and Baruipur. Pucca stalls have come up on some of them. We have asked the stall-owners to demolish their structures before we launch our drive,” said senior railway officials.


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