Call-up crisis in career crunch
Mid-March halt on tuition ban
Father flays pointless probe
Doctor in dock ill at hearing
Shadow lines in law souvenir
Days and nights in the forest, revisited
Student killed in road mishap
The City Diary
Break from bondage of blood
Accused return blocked

 
 
CALL-UP CRISIS IN CAREER CRUNCH 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT AND ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
It’s a lazy February afternoon at Jadavpur University. Probir, Ujjwal and Indranil (names changed on request) are sitting on the greens and staring blankly at a cricket match between two departments of the university. But the next ball bowled is not what their minds are on --- it’s their next career move they are worried about.

The three 23-year-old students, among the best in the batch of 2001, are caught at a critical career crossroad. Having been picked up on campus by the likes of Wipro and Infosys in August 2001, these young men are yet to get their promised call-up, owing to “challenging market conditions”.

The story’s much the same across the Hooghly, at Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University). Arijit, a student of the electrical engineering department of BE College, who had been spotted by Infosys in 2001, said: “There appears to be no opening in the IT industry any more. We have tried our luck with various placement agencies, but the best we could bag was commission-based marketing jobs.”

Infosys, which snapped up around 45 engineering graduates from Jadavpur and around 20 from BE College, has deferred their joining dates twice, first from August 2, 2001, to November 5, 2001, before finally telling them recently that the wait will have to be “indefinite”.

Wipro has also deferred joining dates of around 125 engineering graduates from these two tech schools before finally admitting “… we are unable to absorb you and the earliest we can revert to you is in the month of January 2003.”

Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTS), one of the big-ticket software firms in the city, has recently told the batch completing their bachelor’s degree this year that they might not be able to recruit them as planned before. The company had signed up 40 students from various departments of BE College in 2001. Of the 12 recruited from the university last year, five have been shown the door.

Both Wipro and Infosys have blamed this “phased-out” joining schedule of campus recruits on their business requirements. “It is after a lot of deliberation and review that we have taken this step. We will be in touch with them (the students) as soon as we have clarity,” said an Infosys spokesperson. The companies say they are well aware of the “disappointment” among students. Pratik Kumar, corporate vice-president, human resources, Wipro, said: “We would like to reassure the students that we will be honouring all pending offers.”

The students have few options to explore. “At times, we plan to sit for GATE, GRE, CAT, while sometimes we feel like firing off our CVs to companies in other sectors,” said Probir. But that’s not getting them anywhere in the “depressed economic environment”.

For the students, hope began to die, slowly, after the WTC attack. “But by then, it was too late to prepare for other entrance tests,” recounted Ujjwal, who has got calls from some middle-rung management schools but can’t decide what to do.

The despair is reflected in this year’s placements, too. Subroto Mondal, placement in-charge at Jadavpur University, said: “The students this year are more interested in jobs with hardcore manufacturing companies… Students are thinking twice before accepting IT offers.”

Narayan Maity, former head of the computer science department, BE College, added: “It’s been a tremendous loss for the students. I find them completely demoralised, and there is ‘still too much fog on the windscreen’, as Infosys chairman Narayan Murthy said.”

   

 
 
MID-MARCH HALT ON TUITION BAN 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
The state government on Wednesday backtracked on its stand on banning private tuition by teachers of government and state-aided schools. It postponed till March 15 the decision to collect a declaration from the teachers .

The government had sought a declaration from the teachers every three months, admitting that they were neither engaged in private tuitions nor involved in any other vocation, apart from teaching. The notification was slated to come into effect from March 1.

On Wednesday, state advocate-general Balai Ray said the government had decided to defer the implementation till March 15, as certain “legal formalities” were yet to be completed.

Legal experts feel the government is “buying time” to shore up its resources and prepare a more “legally-fortified case”.

Supriya Chattopadhyay, assistant teacher of a government school and the wife of Trinamul Congress MLA Sovandeb Chattopadhyay, had earlier filed a case challenging the validity of the declaration. Her counsel, Kalyan Banerjee, had argued that the declaration was “below the dignity” of the profession and described it as “unconstitutional”. He added that neither the education department nor the state government had the authority to penalise a teacher on this ground.

The matter came up for a second hearing on Wednesday in the court of Justice Aloke Kumar Chakraborty.

The court asked Roy to clarify why the declaration was sought every three months. “Do you also provide grants to a state-run or state-aided school every three months?” asked Justice Chakraborty.

Roy replied that grants were provided to schools once a year but the banks concerned had been instructed to disburse the funds quarterly.

“To further clarify the government position, we want to file an affidavit and so we need more time,” Roy added. The court allowed a two-week deadline to the government to draw up the affidavit.

Chattopadhyay’s counsel demanded that the court ask the government not to give effect to the declaration till the disposal of the case. The court fixed the next hearing on March 13.

   

 
 
FATHER FLAYS POINTLESS PROBE 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Krishnadhan Ghosh has served as an officer in the West Bengal Civil Services for 26 years. On Saturday, he saw his 26-year-old son bleed to death from a “minor head injury” at one of the city’s premier government-run medical institutes.

Krishnadhan has been part of several probe committees, with the powers of a first-class magistrate. Now, he is one of the key witnesses set to depose before a government-instituted panel to probe the death of his son, Bappaditya.

But the father of the thalassaemia patient, who died due to the lack of specialised facilities at Medical College and Hospital, has lost the faith. “I have been part of several government probes when I was a public servant,” he said on Wednesday. “I know what will come out of this. Nothing.”

The inquiry committee was set up on Monday by the state’s director of medical education, Chittaranjan Maiti, a day after Krishnadhan lambasted the lack of basic emergency attention provided to his son. “If I am asked to depose, I will ask the probe team only one thing,” said Krishnadhan. “I will ask them how a hospital that churns out 155 medical graduates every year can have an emergency ward without an oxygen cylinder and a ward without a senior doctor.”

Krishnadhan arrived at the ward around 7.45 pm on Saturday, minutes after his son was rushed there with a head injury, following an accident on Amherst Street.

“The stitches had not yet been administered and when I told them that Bappaditya was a thalassaemia patient with a haemoglobin level of 5.6, I was asked why we had not done anything to raise that count,” he recounted.

There was no oxygen cylinder on hand. One arrived nearly 90 minutes later, after Bappaditya had developed severe breathing problems. “We kept requesting the hospital staff for some oxygen for over an hour,” Krishnadhan said.

There was no machine to monitor his son’s heartbeat. “A senior doctor apologised to me for the hospital’s shortcomings.” For four hours, from 7.30 pm, all that Bappaditya received by way of medical care were two X-rays, a couple of tranquilising injections and five stitches.

“Doctors apologised repeatedly for the lack of infrastructure,” said Krishnadhan. “I accept their argument, but how many more lives will be lost like this?”

   

 
 
DOCTOR IN DOCK ILL AT HEARING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Principal accused in the Anuradha Saha death case Sukumar Mukherjee fell ill while deposing for the second day before chief judicial magistrate Ananda Raha at Alipore court on Wednesday. The death has been blamed on alleged medical negligence.

The senior consultant in medicine had answered over 65 questions during the day, when he started feeling unwell a little after 3 pm. He asked for water, prompting Justice Raha to ask him to remain seated.

As he continued to feel uneasy, the magistrate asked the court doctor in the room to check what was wrong.

Mukherjee was taken to an adjacent room, where his blood pressure was checked. With a reading of 210/110, the magistrate adjourned the day’s hearing till Thursday morning, allowing him time to recover.

Before the adjournment, the doctor was able to answer 83 of the 124 questions drawn up by the magistrate, on the basis of submissions of the prosecution witnesses. The two other consultants, Baidyanath Haldar and Abani Roy Chowdhury, charged in the case by Anuradha’s husband Kunal Saha and brother Moloy Ganguly, were last week asked 48 questions each.

Based on the statements of Anil Shinde, medical director of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of Depomedrol, the magistrate asked Mukherjee whether the medication had an anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic action. “This is true, and that was the basis of my prescription of Depomedrol for the patient.” The complainants have charged the doctor with an overdose of the long-acting cortico-steroid drug, which led to the patient’s death.

Asked whether the literature accompanying the medicine warned about the over-use of Depomedrol, he replied that this is the “standard warning for the use of cortico-steroids. Despite this warning, cortico-steroids are used in clinical disorders where indicated under supervision, after weighing the benefit and risk ratio in favour of the patient.”

On whether, according to the warning, the increase in dosage of the drug could increase the chances of infection, the doctor said clinicians who use these products are capable of combating these infections before they become fatal.

On Kunal Saha’s submission that the maximum dose of Depomedrol, as allowed by the manufacturer, is between 40 and 120 mg at one to two-week intervals, Mukherjee replied: “I don’t agree in totality; there are reports... which are contrary.”

   

 
 
SHADOW LINES IN LAW SOUVENIR 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR AND TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
From an insertion by the owners of a resort near Joka — the kind that often gets raided by the police — to several more from promoters, builders and contractors. The souvenir of the West Bengal Judicial Service Association (WBJSA), released recently, has it all and has sparked a debate in legal circles about the propriety of accepting advertisements from sections often entangled in legal imbroglios.

Though spokespersons of the organisation that brought out the souvenir said the money would go into “social welfare projects”, the high court administration has frowned upon advertisements from contractors and agencies with whom courts of law “should have only a professional relationship”.

A senior court official said: “High court judges, in a decision they took some years ago, communicated to all courts in Calcutta and elsewhere the need to maintain certain proprieties in the larger interests of the profession… Collecting advertisements, inserted at a cost, from organisations and associations representing guilds and professional groups is considered to be a favour.”

A senior Association spokesperson, however, said the antecedents of advertisers were carefully scrutinised. “We are engaged in various social welfare activities. We need funds for these projects and a souvenir is the most transparent way of raising that money.”

But the publication is replete with insertions which, say officials, were “best avoided”. A full-page has been sponsored by a district-level association representing the interests of contractors who take up government projects. There are also insertions from cold-storage owners’ associations, flour-mill and rice-mill owners, individuals running brick kilns, “government contractors and land-sellers”, transport operators and their associations. Two quarter-page insertions from owners of “shady” resorts have drawn flak.

Association leaders, however, said the administration would do well to address the “real problems” of judicial magistrates, explaining that a 15-point charter of demands was now pending before the Supreme Court.

   

 
 
DAYS AND NIGHTS IN THE FOREST, REVISITED 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Ashim (an ex-political activist), Sanjay (the typical middle-class Calcutta, ) and Hari (a sportsman) decide to go into a forest for a holiday. That’s what they had done, exactly 33 years ago. Unlike then, this time they are accompanied by their wives and children. They miss Shekhar, their fun-loving friend. Same place, same people (well, almost), different time…

Three decades after Aranyer Din Ratri took audiences by storm, there is a twist in the forest tale. In what marks a first in the history of Indian cinema, one of the leading directors of modern times is taking off from where the master of another era shut his camera-box. The result: A yet-to-be-named venture directed by Goutam Ghosh, which carries forward Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri.

The idea is simple: Ghosh is going to take up the characters immortalised by the Ray masterpiece. He is even taking up as many of the same actors and actresses he possibly can, putting them in the same milieu and then carrying the story along. Shooting begins in mid-May and the location, at the moment, is a forest near Shamsing, in north Bengal.

In the 1969 film, four Bengali young men left Calcutta for the forests of Palamau. The characters were Ashim, Sanjay, Hari and Shekhar, played by Soumitra Chatterjee, Subhendu Chatterjee, Samit Bhanja and the late Robi Ghosh. Making it a trip to remember were the sophisticated Aparna (played by Sharmila Tagore), her widowed sister-in-law Jaya (the late Kaberi Bose) and Aparna’s father (the late Pahadi Sanyal).

Now, the three friends are all married, with children. Ashim and Aparna are back, having first met in the forests of Palamau and then going on to get married. But some faces are lost forever. What hurts most, says the director, is the absence of ‘Shekhar (Robida)’. Also missing from Ghosh’s scheme of things is the smouldering presence of Duli (Simi Garewal), the Santhal girl. All externals, from “the forest to the political situation to the social matrix”, have also changed.

“When I was making a documentary on Manikda, I saw Aranyer Din Ratri after a long time… I thought it would be interesting to take the characters back to the forest. But mind you, it’s not a sequel,” says Ghosh. “Sunilda’s (Gangopadhyay) novel was also a source of inspiration.” The actors are “most excited” at the prospect. “It is something like Yarrow Revisited. We are all looking forward to a return to the forest,” said Subhendu.

   

 
 
STUDENT KILLED IN ROAD MISHAP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
Aniruddha Kwaliwala, a first-year student of Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, was knocked down by a bus and killed at the Eden Hospital Road-C.R. Avenue intersection early on Wednesday. The victim was a resident of Lake Town. The driver fled after the mishap. Aniruddha was taken to Medical College and Hospital, where he was declared dead. Locals blocked the road demanding the driver’s arrest.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Trinamul leader lynched

Trinamul Youth Congress leader Pradip Das, 51, was lynched and another man seriously injured in the Manoharpukur area of south Calcutta early on Wednesday. Police said Das was attacked on Sunday night by some shanty-dwellers who hit him on the head with iron rods. They also beat up his associate. He was admitted to a local hospital where he died. Local Trinamul Congress councillor and chairman of Borough 7 Debasish Kumar said Das fell prey to a long-standing quarrel between two groups of shanty dwellers. A police picket has been posted in the area.

Puja politics on campus

Supporters of the SFI and the Chhatra Parishad demonstrated at Calcutta University and in different colleges on Wednesday to protest a clash on the Calcutta University campus over Saraswati puja on Monday night. Each group blamed the other on Wednesday for “playing politics with democratic and religious sentiments” of students.

Railway exam off

The written examination scheduled for February 24 by the Railway Recruitment Board, Trivandrum, for recruitment to the post of enquiry-cum-reservation clerk, Group II (category 203) stands postponed till further notice in view of the ongoing indefinite strike by government employees and teachers in Kerala, Eastern Railway authorities announced. Candidates from Calcutta should retain with them the call letters, already issued to them, to appear for the examination on the new date which will be announced later.

Phoney link

The Ballygunge police arrested five persons working with a public-sector enterprise on charges of illegally transmitting long distance national and international calls to commercial subscribers. Calcutta Telephones authorities had lodged a complaint against the men. Investigators seized switch-gears from the gang.

Four held

Four persons were arrested from the Narkeldanga area on Tuesday night after police recovered about 3,000 bottles of foreign liquor, worth around Rs 1 lakh, from them. Police said the four were wanted on a number of charges, including drug-peddling and theft.

Heroin haul

A 22-year-old youth was arrested from central Calcutta after heroin worth about Rs 50,000 was found in his possession.

Mock parliament

A mock parliament was arranged at Kidderpore Academy on Wednesday to increase student awareness about the functioning of democracy in a representative government. The programme was attended by local councillor Roma Bose.

Suicide on tracks

Samiran Bibi, 24, threw herself on the tracks before a train at Mathurapur, in South 24-Parganas. Police said her six-month-old child was found nearby. It is suspected that she tried to commit suicide with her child but the infant was saved. Police are looking for her husband. Thumbs Up TO marwari relief society for organising a Hepatitis-B vaccination camp on its premises    

 
 
BREAK FROM BONDAGE OF BLOOD 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
They have been bled mercilessly to produce life-saving shots. Now, thanks to a unique retirement home created at Ashari (Animal Shelter-cum-Hospital And Research Institute), more than 20 horses, used for blood-letting to manufacture anti-venom serum, have got a fresh lease of life.

Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Ltd, among the four manufacturers castigated by a special committee and show-caused by the Supreme Court for using “horrendous and unscientific methods” in extraction of blood from the animals, has stepped forward to make amends. In association with People For Animals Calcutta (PFAC), which runs Ashari, Bengal Chemicals has built a shed over a 7,000-sq. ft area inside the animal hospital and fenced off open ground for the horses to move freely. It will also pay the NGO Rs 100 per horse a day towards fodder and medicine.

“Once the horses recuperate sufficiently and are declared fit by our vets to bleed again, we will return them to the company’s lab. But the horses which are beyond recovery will have to be retired or euthanised,” says PFAC managing trustee Debasis Chakrabarti, who has been running a crusade to save these distressed horses “for the past three years”.

Horses are used to make snake-bite antidote. Snake venom is injected into their body and blood (up to 10 per cent of their body weight) is drawn from them after the anti-body is formed. The blood is then processed for preparing anti-venom serum. Injecting the venom causes massive ulceration and drawing of large quantities of blood at short intervals is extremely painful and weakening. This results in calcium and other deficiencies and after some years, the horses are no longer able to create antibodies, rendering them “useless” to the manufacturers.

The Committee for the Purpose of Control & Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA), concerned about the plight of these hapless horses, took up their case with the Supreme Court, which appointed a six-member committee to look into the matter.

Initial visits by CPCSEA representatives threw up “compelling evidence” of “complete violation” of medical, ethical and legal norms at four of the eight labs making the vaccine, including Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Ltd in Calcutta. A report by the special panel told the apex court that animals, sick, infected, blind and lame, were “regularly bled 12-18 litres of blood every month” at these labs.

“These firms often procure horses cheap from unregistered dealers, hence there’s no guarantee on their antecedents,” says Chakrabarti. Probir Roy, managing director, Bengal Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals Ltd, however, maintains they are careful to check the pedigree of livestock before making a purchase, mostly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

After studying the findings, the court slapped a showcause notice on the four manufacturers — Vins Bio-Products, Hyderabad, Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corp, Pune and CRI, Kasauli besides Bengal Chemicals — giving them two weeks to answer as to why action should not be taken against them.

“We are committed to the welfare of the animals and are ready to abide by the guidelines set by the CPCSEA,” says Roy.

For PFAC and its sister NGO Compassionate Crusaders Trust (CCT), which had been snapping at the heels of pharmaceutical firms engaging animals for research “under atrocious conditions” for years, the horse shelter has come as a “huge satisfaction”.

   

 
 
ACCUSED RETURN BLOCKED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 20: 
The authorities at Liluah Home for Destitute Women are making all efforts to stop an inmate, accused of harassing her colleagues, from returning to the centre. The accused, Monalisa, was acquitted recently and is currently lodged in Howrah Jail.

Earlier, two of the inmates at the home had attempted suicide when Monalisa started harassing them regularly. One of the girls attempted to hang herself from the ceiling, while the other almost set herself ablaze. Both were rescued at the last minute.

Following a complaint, the police had tried to arrest Monalisa but the girl locked her cell from inside, preventing the men from taking her away.

The state welfare department conducted an inquiry, which found Monalisa guilty of torturing the inmates.

Later, the Howrah court absolved Monalisa of all charges on February 15.

Since then, the home employees have started appealing to the higher authorities to stop her return to the centre.

“Monalisa might file a plea for her return to the home. Her return, however, depends on the court verdict,” sources said.

Monalisa’s parents had met her when she was acquitted. “They wanted to take her to her village Kandi, in Murshidabad. But Monalisa chose to stay back and return to the Liluah home,” said an official.

J. Sundershekhar, director of state welfare department, said: “I will go through the inquiry report submitted by the district administration. If necessary, I will speak to the inmates to find out why they are opposing Monalisa’s return.”

According to home sources, as soon as the inmates heard of Monalisa’s acquittal, they voiced their concern.

“They appealed to us to stop her from coming back. In case they pressure us, we might have to send her to Murshidabad,” added an official.

   
 

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