Seven proposals and an MoU to cure health system
Jail bharo triumph for Mamata
Buddha clean-up message to party
In darkness amid light
13 die in accident burst
Biman sings Front unity tune
Digha clone in Hooghly
Customs, excise officers held for extortion
Thief today, cop tomorrow
Sai Baba escapes murder attempt at darshan

 
 
SEVEN PROPOSALS AND AN MOU TO CURE HEALTH SYSTEM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
The participants swallowed it all. “But digesting all this ambitious talk will not be easy,” said one of them at the end of a day-long workshop on the setting up of centres of excellence in medical sciences, organised by the state health department.

Besides the signing of an MoU between the government and IIT Kharagpur to establish a National Institute of Medical Technology, as many as seven blueprints were presented for discussion at the workshop today by the director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Each one related to major health issues that the state needs to address.

Over 70 medical specialists and senior administrators from both the government and private sectors heard of the health department’s intent to erect new centres of super-speciality as well as upgrade and improve the few existing ones. “We examined how much we can set up in Bengal by inviting experts from Delhi,” said minister Suryakanta Mishra at the end of the day.

Feasibility reports were placed on the following: a sophisticated referral laboratory at the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine; specialised haematology centres at all teaching hospitals; gastroenterology centres; specialised centres for nephrology and urology; neurology and neurosurgery centres; centres for cardiology and cardiac diseases; and specialised paediatric and neonatology centres.

Prof. N.K. Ganguly, director-general of ICMR, brought with him a bagful of proposals, most of them especially tailored to the needs of the state. “Inputs were examined and demarcations in short-term and long-term made. The results will be seen soon,” he said.

Both he and the minister, however, did not mention any deadlines. Nor did they say anything about the total outlay that would be required for setting up these centres. But Ganguly did mention substantial allocations that the ICMR could make for creating this new “superstructure of excellence”.

He added that the apex medical research organisation would be sending teams from Delhi to “bypass bureaucracy and hasten perfect development”. His assistance would also include the necessary equipment and reagents for each of the proposed facilities.

Other than replicating at all medical colleges the haematology module set up with ICMR support at NRS Medical College, Ganguly also spoke of a cancer registry centre where emphasis would be given on cervical cancer, and of polymerised chain reaction (PCR) machines that would help in early detection of communicable diseases. “The objective is to link these science institutions with the public health structure.”

In addition, programmes on setting up modules for the control and treatment of diabetics, mental health and septicaemia (especially in the villages, where the incidence is high) were discussed. “The workshop was a needs assessment exercise that also took into account cost estimates and financing options. As of now, we shall start on capability building through training of personnel,” Ganguly said. The National Institute of Medical Technology will be a tertiary medical centre on the IIT campus at Kharagpur and will serve as an essential adjunct to the School of Medical Science and Technology, said IIT director Prof. Amitava Ghosh. The first batch of 10 meritorious doctors undergoing the three-year specialised course has already completed the first semester.

“This course on medical science technology is the only one of its kind in the country,” pointed out Prof. Sujoy Guha, himself an engineer from IIT Delhi.

   

 
 
JAIL BHARO TRIUMPH FOR MAMATA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
In Calcutta, her recent rallies had drawn only a lukewarm response. In North 24-Prganas, too, the response had been far from enthusiastic.

But today, perhaps for the first time after her humbling poll defeat, the Mamata magic worked when some 40,000 of her supporters lined up for a jail bharo programme in Howrah, taking the police completely by surprise.

The police fell hopelessly short of vehicles in which to ferry the supporters to prison from in front of the district magistrate’s office where they had assembled.

“Today, about 40,000 party supporters gathered to join the movement,” claimed party MLA Partha Chatterjee.

Mamata Banerjee was there to cheer her supporters along. At the end of the day, she blamed the police for their inadequate arrangements.

But her success — which threw traffic out of gear in the district — comes at a time when she is facing sudden threat from Somen Mitra who has returned after his bypass surgery in New Delhi.

Back in Calcutta on Tuesday, Mitra has taken it upon himself to revive the sagging fortunes of the Congress. Not only is he meeting his supporters but also the dissidents in Mamata’s party, among them suspended MP Ajit Panja.

Mitra today urged all Trinamul functionaries to rejoin their old party as it was the only party which could function as an alternative to the ruling Front.

“Everyone in Trinamul except Mamata Banerjee can rejoin the Congress. Our door is open for all of you,” the Congress stalwart said.

With their old enmity back in front, it will be the CPM which stands to benefit the most in the panchayat polls slated for 2003, feel political observers.

It was when Mitra was president of the Congress state unit that Mamata had quit the party and formed Trinamul.

But Mitra had taken a backseat in the state Congress, making it possible for Trinamul and Congress to fight the CPM on a common platform. However, after her poll debacle, Mamata was quick to put the blame for her defeat on the Congress.

With Mitra publicly meeting Panja, who is down with jaundice, state Congress leaders feel the move is significant.

It is learnt that the state leadership is now preparing itself to bring some important Trinamul functionaries to their fold. They are banking on Mitra to play Pied Piper.

In another development, Congress MP Priya Ranjan Das Munshi today visited Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to meet mayor Subrata Mukherjee. Mukherjee, who still considers Das Munshi his mentor, held a closed-door meeting for about an hour with the Congress MP.

The confidential assistant of Mukherjee, Ashis Chakraborty, was also not allowed to be present in the meeting between the mayor and Das Munshi.

   

 
 
BUDDHA CLEAN-UP MESSAGE TO PARTY 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Siliguri, Jan. 17: 
First came the confession. Yes, the CPM, too, was “infested” with “antisocials”, admitted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Then came the message: this won’t do, not in the CPM. It was time to “weed out these elements”.

Addressing the open rally of the party’s 17th Darjeeling district conference here this evening, the chief minister said: “What difference will there be between other political parties and the communists if the CPM, too, is full of antisocials and “real estate middlemen”? We will have to cleanse all these elements from within the party.”

He added: “We will not tolerate them any longer. The party needs to project a cleaner image. Unless this is done, we will be branded with the rest of the parties.”

Coming down heavily on the BJP-led Union government, Bhattacharjee, who also looks after the party’s Darjeeling district affairs, said: “The country is passing through troubled times with tensions between India and Pakistan. The Pakistan government is making a serious mistake by trying to push us towards war…. But a war will certainly have an adverse impact on India. It will put an untold burden on the common man. The Centre should keep all the paths of dialogue with Pakistan open to avert war at any cost.”

However, Bhatacharjee said the Centre must take care not to play into the hands of the US. “It is the US which created terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Let us not allow the same Americans to dictate terms to us. We must not let America take an upper hand in the Indo-Pak impasse.”

Bhattacharjee alleged that the BJP might try to gain mileage out of the war-like situation in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

“The BJP should realise that they … have been routed in almost all recent polls. And by no way will the party be able to defeat Mulayam Singh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.”

Stressing the larger need to “discipline” state government employees, the chief minister urged policemen to teach hooligans a lesson or two.

“The police should realise that they are there to serve the poor and not only the rich and well-heeled. The police will have to teach goondas the meaning of the law. Do not work under any pressure and neglect your duty towards the poor and the downtrodden. It is your duty to serve all sections of the society with the same yardstick. Do not let the antisocials rule the roost.”

Coming down on “negligent” state government teachers, Bhattacharjee said: “Government teachers have the moral duty to attend school regularly and discharge their duties towards society. Wayward behaviour by government teachers will not be tolerated.” He also warned state government employees that their attendance would be monitored.

   

 
 
IN DARKNESS AMID LIGHT 
 
 
FROM RANJAN LAHIRI
 
Burdwan, Jan. 17: 
The tribals of Bathanpur and Gorabari villages in Asansol sub-division are up in arms. Not merely for food and clothing, but also for education and culture.

Till today, only one person from these twin villages in Salanpur panchayat, which have a population of about 2,000, has completed Madhyamik. In contrast, Burdwan district has won a certificate for a successful literacy movement.

Besides, neither village figures in the list of 10 chosen by the Burdwan zilla parishad to be built up as model habitations for the Hool Utsav, which is observed with much fanfare.

Bathanpur and Gorabari, which border Jharkhand, are covered by high hills and thick forests. The Barakar river flows by them, adding to the natural beauty of the region. However, they have not found a place on the tourist map. This despite both government and non-government agencies having made a lot of effort for the uplift of Maithan village, which is very close to these two villages.

The scenario is, however, changing fast. The new generation is not ready to accept the prevailing situation. The reservoir for the power plant at Maithan is in their villages, the residents of Bathanpur and Gorabari say, adding that despite this they are forced to live in darkness. They complain that they have to depend on the river for drinking water and on moonlight for illumination. After drinking the water, they have been afflicted by leprosy, asthma and other diseases, they claim.

The river has washed away several bighas of their cultivable land, the villagers add.

Ramkrishna Banerjee, the zilla sabhadhipati, is aware of the sufferings of these villagers. However, when questioned on the issue, Banerjee’s answer was predictable. “We cannot develop these two villages for want of funds. However, we are still trying,” he said.

But, after the years of deprivation, the residents of Bathanpur and Gorabari are not ready to suffer any longer.

These tribals, in whose memories the sacrifices made by people such as Mangal Pandey still glows even after half a century, want their problems addressed now.

   

 
 
13 DIE IN ACCIDENT BURST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Thirteen people were killed and at least 60 injured in a series of accidents in South 24-Parganas, Howrah and Burdwan districts during the past 24 hours.

A minibus from Diamond Harbour fell into a ditch after hitting a tree at Dakshin Bishnupur in Mandirbazar area in South 24-Parganas. Seven persons died and more than 25 were injured.

District police superintendent Debkumar Ganguly said: “The accident happened when the bus tried to take a turn. Six persons died on the spot and one expired in hospital.” Members of a local club joined hands with the police in rescue operations. They pulled out injured persons by breaking open the windows and sent them to Mandirbazar Rural Health Centre. Those in critical conditions were rushed to the Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital.

Police said five of the victims were identified as Asit Purkait (32), Sajammal Seikh (38), Goutam Mondal (26), Sripati Haldar (55) and Kalipada Ghosh (40). Two people could not be identified. The driver and conductor of the killer bus however fled and could not be arrested.

In another accident at Uluberia in Howrah district, four persons were killed and 20 were injured when a bus carrying pilgrims from Ganga Sagar hit a stationary truck on Mumbai Road. The victims were identified as Gitarani Das Mahapatra (45), Manoj Mahanti (18), Joginder (40) and Babu (18).

In the day’s third accident, two persons died on the spot and 15 were injured when a Maithon-bound bus carrying tourists from Barasat in North 24-Parganas collided with a truck on G.T. Road.

   

 
 
BIMAN SINGS FRONT UNITY TUNE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Malda, Jan. 17: 
CPM politburo member Biman Bose today held a section of CPM functionaries responsible for heckling government doctors in rural Bengal.

“I know many of our party supporters don’t behave well with the doctors. I have been told by some of our leaders that a section of CPM workers had threatened a physician in Ratua at gunpoint. You can’t blame a doctor if he refuses to stay in villages under such circumstances. It is unfortunate that many of our party leaders misbehave with government doctors and we have to stop this,” Bose thundered at the concluding session of the party’s Malda district conference, held at the Pakua college ground here.

Bose also voiced concern over the killing of Front activists in the state due to rivalry among the Front constituents. He said lack of unity and understanding among the Front partners at the grassroots level often led to murders of Front leaders.

“Some of our (CPM’s) activists were recently murdered in Gosaba in South 24-Parganas due to rivalry between two Front partners. It is myself and Debabrata Banerjee, RSP’s state secretary who visited the area and held a joint meeting with the local leaders of both RSP and the CPM. I had criticised both our party supporters and those who belonged to the RSP. I had told them specifically that we have to stop such killings. It is the responsibility of the CPM to protect the unity of the Front,” Bose told the conference.

The veteran politburo member said many sincere workers of a number of Front constituents were quitting their organisations as major parties under the Front umbrella were facing the problem of intra-party rivalry.

   

 
 
DIGHA CLONE IN HOOGHLY 
 
 
FROM RATHIN BHATTACHARYA
 
Chinsurh, Jan. 17: 
New Digha is the new hotspot on the tourism map. And this New Digha is not the one you know beside Digha in Midnapore, but in Hooghly district.

It was inaugurated by industry minister Nirupam Sen on Monday.

New Digha has come up on a 100-bigha plot between Delhi Road and Chandannagar railway station, as a spin-off from the re-excavation of the Kath-Kunti drainage basin by the irrigation department in the early 1980s.

Besides cottages and picnic spots, there are arrangements for riding toy trains, ropeway, cota-rica, rock garden and boating here.

There are 200 picnic spots where more than 5,000 people can enjoy feast at a time. The entry fee has been fixed at Rs 10 per head. Daily rent for the cottage has been fixed at Rs 250.

However, it has been a controversial start for New Digha. There has been protests over renaming of a popular tourist destination.

The Hooghly zilla parishad has set up gardens and nursery for medicinal plants here. The parishad sabhadhipati said that the crowd mark had already touched 50,000.

A spokesman of the parishad said that since there were rows of jhau trees here on the embankment of the water body, people started calling it as “New Digha” about 20 years ago when only Digha was there in Midnapore.

Another controversy snowballed after the handing over the management of the spot to a lesser-known private organisation. This was reportedly done after about Rs 1 crore had been spent by the zilla parishad.

   

 
 
CUSTOMS, EXCISE OFFICERS HELD FOR EXTORTION 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Jan. 17: 
Five people were arrested this evening on charges of extorting money from a chartered accountant and kidnapping his employee.

Customs authorities said two of them were excise inspectors and a third a customs official. The two others were also said to be junior personnel of the customs and excise departments, but identities of none of the five could be confirmed. One of the arrested is a woman.

Hare Street police station declined to identify either the victim or the culprits. Joint commissioner of customs, S.S. Lenka, said: “Customs commissioner Amar Singh will study the report and take action, if guilt is established.”

According to the deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, the chartered accountant had sent his employee from his Central Avenue office to deposit Rs 2 lakh in a bank in Old Post Office Street on January 11.

The man was walking down Chowringhee when a wireless-fitted Maruti Gypsy intercepted him. Passengers of the car allegedly identified themselves as CBI and IB officers and asked the man to get inside.

After that they went to a house in Salt Lake. Police sources claimed the house belonged to a customs inspector. They kept the man holed up in a room and made him call his employer on his cellphone.

One of them, claiming over the phone to be a CBI officer, accused the chartered accountant of being involved in a scam and said he could be let off the hook provided he asked his employee to part with the Rs 2 lakh.

After bargaining, a deal was struck for Rs 50,000. After the employee paid up, he was allowed to go.

The accountant later lodged a complaint with the Hare Street police station. Police claim they traced the call to the Salt Lake house of the customs inspector.

They later picked him up and, according to the police, he confessed to the incident and gave details about the involvement of his colleagues.

Hasan said the inspectors are posted in the preventive intelligence, range and appeals tribunal wings of the customs and excise departments. “We have got the vehicle number. Police will seize it,” Hasan added.

Hare Street police, however, failed to explain how the officers working in different sections of two separate offices managed to conspire together.

   

 
 
THIEF TODAY, COP TOMORROW 
 
 
FROM MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Punisole (Bankura), Jan. 17: 
Even a few months back, Kata wouldn’t dare to go anywhere near the police outpost here. Just in case someone peeped out and recognised him. After all, there were several cases against him that were pending.

But those days of fear and hide-and-seek are over. Kata now goes to the outpost daily. He works there.

True, he can still pick a lock like any good burglar, but he’s probably put those days behind him. It was the place really that set him off: Punisole, some 25 km from Bankura town, a village that had earned the notoriety of being one of the most criminal-infested in the country. Nearly 60 per cent of its 35,000 inhabitants are history-sheeters.

Kata is now working as a water-carrier at the phanri. It fetches him much less than he made breaking into houses, but at least there’s the peace. He doesn’t grudge the Rs 700 he makes every month.

Kata’s rehabilitation began with a police scheme.

Basudeb Bag, the district superintendent of police, said the district forces had tried several measures in the past to check the local youths from getting involved in criminal activities. But they seemed reluctant to give up their “traditional profession”.

“After many experiments, we found that the best way to check crime was to develop a friendly relationship with the villagers. For that we took several steps. Our decision to employ young criminals like Kata in the police station was part of one such scheme,” said Bag.

There are still a large number of cases pending against him: robbery, loot, snatching.

“I committed my last crime in Garbeta when I broke into a petrol pump. I have committed many crimes…. I am happy with the little amount that I am earning. I am a free man now and I don’t have to feel scared of getting caught by the police,” says Kata. But he adds as an afterthought: “Of course, you need more money to run a family.”

The big daddies of Punisole operate not just in Bankura but also in other districts: Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas, Purulia and Midnapore. Some have spread their tentacles to Calcutta, and the more daring ones to even Bihar, Orissa and Maharashtra, local police said.

As part of their scheme, the district police have stopped the old practice of raiding Punisole and picking up for interrogation villagers some of whom were innocent.

Now, there are meetings between the police and the local youth. There are also football matches.

And, in keeping with the new-found bonhomie, two criminals have been recruited as constables. Talk of role-reversals.

   

 
 
SAI BABA ESCAPES MURDER ATTEMPT AT DARSHAN 
 
 
FROM HABIB BEARY
 
Bangalore, Jan. 17: 
Once the alarm bells rang, the first to visit controversial godman Sai Baba at his ashram in Whitefield on the outskirts of the city was director-general of police V.V. Bhaskar, an ardent devotee.

Bhaskar and his team found the baba in fine fettle but fear had gripped the hallowed precincts.

Police had just taken into custody a youth who appeared to be the would-be assassin. The man, identified as Somasundaram, was found lurking inside the ashram with a hidden air-pistol.

Initial interrogations revealed that Somasundaram was from Dharmapuri district in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, arousing suspicion of links with the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). A case of attempted murder has been registered, Bhaskar said.

In August, the police had tightened security around Sai Baba, who has millions of followers in India and abroad, following reports that he was under threat from the LTTE.

Preliminary investigations have revealed no link between the man arrested and the perceived LTTE threat. Somasundaram, an unemployed youth, is a devotee of Sai Baba and had been to the ashram for darshan.

But why the air-pistol?

Somasundaram, who was first caught by volunteers at the ashram while the godman was giving an audience in the morning, has told the police that he was carrying the gun only to scare volunteers in case they prevented him from getting Sai Baba’s darshan.

“He is an obsessed devotee who was only trying to get the attention of Baba as he had been prevented from getting a direct audience with Baba in the last couple of days. He was carrying with him a lottery ticket, which he wanted Baba to bless,” said a district police official.

The Sai Baba’s devotees regard him as a miracle man. One of his most famous acts is producing sacred ash from thin air. But his critics have dubbed him a trickster.

In early 1993, the controversial godman, whose main abode is his Puttaparthi ashram in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district, had survived an assassination attempt involving his own devotees. It was foiled by the police but the encounter left four people dead. Investigations by the Andhra Pradesh police are still under wraps.

Two of the suspected assailants — Vijay Prabhu and B.Ravindranath — had told the police at that time they wanted to expose the “clique” surrounding the godman, whose trust has assets worth several crores of rupees.

The LTTE is reportedly unhappy with the godman for not only encouraging Sinhalese politicians but also for not condemning the atrocities against Tamils by security forces in Sri Lanka. However, neither the Sai Baba establishment nor the police have received any direct threat from the Tamil Tigers.

   
 

FRONT PAGE / NATIONAL / EDITORIAL / BUSINESS / THE EAST / SPORTS
ABOUT US /FEEDBACK / ARCHIVE 
 
Maintained by Web Development Company