Death case hearing annulled
CU exam revamp for early results
Multiplex on Society plot
Custody-busters target ‘Tigers’
Ministers eye Writers’ return
The City Diary
Power of the press and the pavement
Cables crossed on rates
Keeping track of mishaps
Woman twist to murder

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
A division bench of Calcutta High Court on Thursday ruled that the three days of hearing conducted so far by the West Bengal Medical Council into the Anuradha Saha death case be treated as null and void, as the testimony of accused doctor Sukumar Mukherjee was heard ex-parte.heard.

The complainant, NRI doctor Kunal Saha and husband of the deceased, abstained from the hearing, pending the court’s judgment on a petition filed by him, demanding the removal of Council president Ashok Chowdhury from the hearing committee. The bench, comprising Justice T.K. Chatterjee and Justice Jayanta Biswas, directed the medical council to start the hearings afresh from Friday.

The ruling was a modification of trial bench judge K.J. Sengupta’s order, directing the Council to start the hearing from February 12. It has also extended the time for completion of hearings and disposal of the matter till June this year. Saha had approached the division bench, challenging the ruling of Justice Sengupta, who had observed that the hearings of Mukherjee in the Council were valid.

The division bench has directed Saha to pay the Council Rs 1,700 towards the cost of the hearings already held. Council lawyer Saibalendu Bhowmik argued that the daily expenditure for conducting the hearings was Rs 25,000, as several Council members had to be brought in from outside Calcutta.

Justice Chatterjee, however, dismissed the plea, saying: “The Council members have enough money to bear this cost.” The bench did not pass any order on the petition for removal of Chowdhury, as the case was pending before the trial bench.

Meanwhile, Mukherjee completed his deposition before chief judicial magistrate Ananda Raha at the Alipore court, where Saha and brother-in-law Moloy Ganguly have filed a criminal case against him and two other prominent city doctors, holding them responsible for Anuradha’s death due to medical negligence.

In response to a recorded statement by AMRI attending physician Balaram Prasad, that he had treated the patient before her admission there, Mukherjee said: “My prescription was for three days, from the evening of May 7, 1998, till the morning of May 11. There is no proof that my prescription on Depomedrol (an overdose of which allegedly led to Anuradha’s death) was followed in toto. I had administered the first injection but the rest was not given under my supervision.”

Mukherjee denied that the patient had been admitted at AMRI under him. “I also deny that I had examined the patient on May 11 in the presence of the other two accused doctors.” He said that since he had to attend a medical conference abroad and leave the city after midnight that day, he had requested the two specialists to examine the patient. After May 11, he had no knowledge of the case as he was out of the country for three weeks.

In his concluding statement, Mukherjee said he had occasion to examine the patient three times — once at her home on April 24 or 25 (he was not sure of the date), once in his chamber on May 7 and once at AMRI on May 11. “Based on several factors, my diagnosis was that she was suffering from allergic or hypersensitivity vasculitis. On May 11, I had suggested immediate consultation with a dermatologist for validation of treatment but did not get any feedback.”

Another application was moved on behalf of Ganguly, praying for further examination of two other accused doctors Abani Roy Chowdhury and Baidyanath Haldar.


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
To expedite the publication of results of under-graduate examinations, the Calcutta University (CU) authorities have decided to introduce a series of measures.

For the first time, the university has decided to decentralise its examination system to ensure that results are published in less than three months from the completion of the examinations.

The university move follows complaints from the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and other students’ bodies over lack of opportunities in higher education due to the delay in publication of the results.

Under the new system, the university will conduct spot evaluation of answerscripts of certain subjects, specially those papers that are attempted by a maximum number of students, like compulsory English and Bengali.

The university this year will set up three centres in the city, where the examiners will check papers within a deadline. Similar centres will be set up in the districts, as well as colleges affiliated to CU.

The university had been practising the system of collecting answerscripts from respective examination venues to a centralised location on its main administrative campus on College Street, and then distributing the scripts to the examiners.

From this year, the answerscripts in compulsory English and Bengali will not be brought to College Street. Instead, they will be retained at the fixed venues, where spot evaluation will be held.

“We hope to save time, since the examiners will not be coming to the university to collect the scripts,” said Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations, CU.

This year, nearly 2.4 lakh examinees will appear for the compulsory English and Bengali papers. According to Adhikari, so far, college teachers have been examining the answerscripts of under-graduate exams.

“There is an acute shortage of teachers, because of which we cannot ensure timely publication of results. A need has been felt to decentralise the system,” said Adhikari.

Apart from this, the university has simplified the examination procedure. For example, in the past, attendance of students in each of the papers was logged on different sheets. In the revised system, the exam centres have been asked to put down the attendance on a single sheet. The controller said the old system often delayed results, whenever officials misplaced such sheets.

The authorities will also start holding meetings with principals from next month to keep them posted on the developments in the examination system, the controller added.


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided to construct a multiplex by demolishing Society cinema, in the New Market area, in a joint venture. “The multiplex will have two cinema halls, a market complex and an auditorium,” said Mukherjee.

The plot on which Society stands belongs to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and was leased to the owner of the hall. About four months ago, when part of the Society portico collapsed, killing three people, the CMC sealed the hall and then took it over.

The mayor’s takeover and makeover plans have drawn flak from Society manager Jahiruddin Khan. “We are victims of land sharks. Such a move is not expected from a trade union leader and veteran politician like Mukherjee,” said Khan. “There are other halls in the area whose lease terms have also expired, but the mayor has made no movesto take them over.”


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
“We have been outnumbered… They have managed to free the men we had arrested… Please intercept them at the next crossing... They are dangerous.” This was the distress call over wireless from a battered officer of Tiger 34 to a patrol car near Beadon Street.

The Tigers, who had allegedly turned tail in the line of fire outside the American Center on January 22, were forced to beat a hasty retreat late on Wednesday when they ran into a resistance wall of local youth protesting the arrest of some of their friends in north Calcutta.

Nine persons, including five policemen, were injured in the free-for-all between cops and members of a local club on Ramesh Dutta Street. Four of the youths were finally ‘re-arrested’ and remanded in custody.

Trouble broke out soon after midnight on Beadon Street, when members of a Saraswati puja immersion procession assaulted Subhash Bera, driving a Maruti, “for honking and trying to overtake” the revellers.

Bera managed to free himself from their clutches and seek help from a police patrol car. Tiger-34 members intercepted the procession, identified one Rajesh Kumar Singh as the main culprit and herded him into the patrol car.

All hell broke loose as a large number of club members gheraoed the seven ‘Tigers’, beat them up and managed to free Singh from their clutches. “They were outnumbered and assaulted by the club members,” confirmed DC (headquarters) Banibrata Basu.

The badly-mauled ‘Tigers’ then wired a Tiger 44 patrol car for help. But the policemen were greeted with brickbats and abuses. “We have done nothing wrong, we won’t allow you to arrest anyone,” shouted the youths, throwing a ring around the cops.

After a street battle that lasted around half-an-hour, the police finally managed to arrest four troublemakers, including Rajesh Singh.

“Five policemen, including sub-inspector Dhirendra Singh and head constable Phatik Roy, suffered injuries,” Basu said. Three others, including two sepoys and a constable, were also injured in the melee.


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
Most people may be willing to do anything to settle down in Salt Lake. But two Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) ministers, Amalendralal Roy and Ganesh Mondal, whose offices are located in the satellite township, are desperate to return to Calcutta.

Some Trinamul Congress supporters had stormed the office of minister of state for irrigation Ganesh Mondal at Salt Lake on Monday and littered his table with hyacinth collected from Kestopur canal. They were demanding that the canal be cleared of hyacinth immediately.

Mondal’s senior, Amalendralal Roy, felt it was reason enough to get his colleague resettled in Writers’ Buildings and, accordingly, wrote to chief secretary Sourin Roy.

Roy, who has offices both in Writers’ and at Salt Lake, wrote to the chief secretary that he would wind up his Salt Lake office on security grounds.

He said: “I am only worried about the office files and other important documents, security arrangements at Salt Lake being what they are.” Roy has asked Mondal to carry out all official work from his home till he is allowed an office in Writers’.

Mondal, who had worked for five years from Writers’, was dislodged by CPM minister Kanti Ganguly, who joined the Cabinet after the 2001 elections.

Mondal returned to Writers’ after taking the oath of office, only to find that his chair was appropriated by Ganguly. He took up the matter with PWD minister, also from the RSP. But the new PWD minister, Amar Choudhury, was unable to oblige him.

Under pressure from the CPM lobby, Mondal shifted to Salt Lake. The Jyoti Basu government had shifted the education, irrigation and Sunderbans development ministries to Salt Lake because of a space crunch in Writers’ Buildings. But the RSP ministers refused to budge.

After the May 2001 elections, the irrigation minister and his deputy were relegated to Salt Lake. Mondal said: “I shall stick to my decision not to work from Salt Lake. If necessary, I shall talk to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.” Security will now be tightened up at government offices in and around Salt Lake.



Facelift for Nimtala burning ghat

The Nimtala crematorium area will receive a face-lift through the joint efforts of the CMDA and the Sahara Group. The project to attract tourists to Rabindranath Tagore’s memorial at the burning ghat was finalised at a meeting on Thursday morning. The area will be developed as a riverfront driveway connecting north Calcutta with Rabindra Setu. The beautification scheme would cost about Rs 1 crore and include the creation of parks on the northern and southern stretches of the burning ghat, construction of an extended platform to facilitate immersion of images during the pujas, repairing of eight bathing ghats and construction of vats in the area. It will be funded from the Rs 1.86-crore Central grant that the state government has received for green schemes.

Hospital ransacked

A mob ransacked a hospital and assaulted doctors in the Bhowanipore area on Thursday following the death of a patient. Police said the patient’s family members alleged that the death was caused by negligence.

Dry Howrah threat

Water supply in Howrah may be affected on Friday morning for urgent repairs undertaken at the Padmapukur water supply plant since Thursday afternoon, municipality sources said.

Road mishap

Two youths were killed in an accident in Howrah on Wednesday night when two buses collided on GT Road. Police said one of them died on the spot while the other succumbed to injuries in hospital. One of the buses was impounded.

Berths added

Eastern Railway authorities decided to generate 82,672 addition berths on long-distance trains to tackle the summer rush of passengers between April 15 and June 20. Additional accommodation will be generated by adding an extra AC 3-tier coach to eight express trains, including the Rajdhani Express via Gaya, Patna and Sealdah, one sleeper coach to 10 mail and express trains and two sleeper coaches to five express trains.

Walk-out at CMC

Left Front councillors walked out of the civic house on Thursday as chairman Anil Mukherjee accepted a discussion on an adjournment motion brought by leader of the Opposition Nirmal Mukherjee without taking the councillors’ consent.They alleged that the chairman was conducting the House “under instructions from mayor Subrata Mukherjee”.

Woman kills self

A 25-year old homemaker committed suicide at Titagarh, in North 24-Parganas, on Wednesday. Police said the woman was married eight months ago. Her relatives alleged that she was tortured by her in-laws over demands of dowry. The husband and the in-laws have been arrested.

Held for blockade

Eight persons were arrested in Watgunge on Thursday for demonstrating and blocking roads in the area. Police said the arrested men were protesting cow slaughter.    

Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
Since the 50s, when he came to Calcutta from Kerala as a young man, city historian P. Thankappan Nair had been a frequent visitor to the bookstalls of College Street. He used to go there in search of books on the city.

He had, thereby, collected a prodigious number of books on the city, which he sold off to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation before he returned to his hometown recently.

One bookseller he knew from his childhood was Abul Kalam, who used help out his uncle. That was way back in 1964.

After being employed at his uncle’s stall for over two decades, Abul Kalam, now close to 50, opened his own stall in 1992. He recalls how Nair would ask for hard-to-get books related to the city — be it a catalogue or a map, irrespective of vintage.

Before Nair left the city, Abul Kalam requested the historian to allow him to publish one of his books. As a parting gift Nair actually gave him the permission to bring out his book on James Augustus Hicky, who was responsible for bringing out Bengal Gazette: Calcutta General Advertiser from this city in 1780.

That was the first newspaper to be published in the whole of south-east Asia.

Nair’s book, Hicky and his Gazette, saw light of day during the Book Fair. In spite of his limited resources Abul Kalam’s maiden venture has proved a success.

The book is well-produced and though it is not expected to sell like the proverbial hot cake, the publisher is not unhappy, because he has not had to pay any royalty to Nair.

In spite of its flaws, Abul Kalam has created history of sorts as Nair’s book is the first to be brought out by a pavement publisher. Unfortunately, after having breathed in all that dust at the Book Fair, where he had opened a stall, Abul Kalam is down with an attack of asthma.

Hicky, who was a “wild Irishman,” is remembered for his scathing — often libellous and scurrilous — attacks on his own countrymen who were bleeding the country dry. Undaunted as he was, he did not hesitate to attack Warren Hastings either and expose him, and considered himself “a scourge to Tyrannical Villains, and upstart Schemers and Embezzlers of the Company’s property, Stainers of the British Flag and Disgracers of the English name;…”

In this new book, Nair has included a wealth of information discovered of late. These include extracts sent by Graham Shaw, deputy librarian of British Library. Nair also read the 72 volumes of handwritten notebooks of Justice John Hyde, dating back to 1773. Initially available at the Bar Library, these are now preserved at the Victoria Memorial Hall.

He has also added scraps of information about the man that were not available before. For example, even H.E. Busteed in the chapter on “the pioneer of the Indian Press” in his Echoes from Old Calcutta, wrote about his end: “What became of him is not revealed…the ‘Bengal Obituary,’ does not enshroud him.”

But Nair writes, quoting the Calcutta Gazette of Thursday, December 16, 1802, that “Hicky died early in December 1802, on his way to China, on board the Ajax, and was buried at sea.”

What should be of interest to the lay reader is the inclusion of weekly extracts from the Bengal Gazette. These throw light on life in colonial Calcutta. The advertisements that used to appear in the gazette are even more curious.


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
Talks between city cable operators under the RPG Netcom umbrella and officials of the Zee-Turner conglomerate fell through on Thursday as the major cablemen’s associations refused to accept the combined rate of Rs 41 for the package.

“We had sought an assurance that there won’t be another rate hike, at least in the next one year, but we are not convinced that they can keep this commitment in such a fluid scenario of mergers and strategic realignments. For instance, the Turner package had earlier pledged status quo till March 31, but now everything has changed after the merger,” said a representative of the cable operators.

The Zee-Turner combine has threatened to black out its beam from the RPG-controlled network if the operators failed to introduce the revised rates at once.

The operators, meanwhile, said they were now having a rethink on the STAR package as well, forcing viewers towards another protracted cable war.


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
In order to check train accidents in Bengal and elsewhere in the country, the railways have decided to instal a device to prevent collisions.

Eastern Railway will soon instal an automatic anti-collision device (ACD) on all long-distance trains and EMU locals to reduce the number of accidents. Sources said the ACD has been named “raksha kabach” and will be installed at an estimated cost of Rs 200 crore.

“The network will be satellite-based, so we can keep track of trains leaving from stations. If two trains run on the same track and come within a distance of three km, the device will be activated automatically. Each ACD costs around Rs 10 lakh, but we have to bear this expense to provide safe journey to passengers,” said an official.

“The country has recently seen a spurt in rail accidents due to lack of modernised equipment,” the official added.

The satellite manning the train movements will immediately warn and activate the ACDs through the transponders in case of a possible collision.

Sources said about 2,000 local and long-distance trains ply in Bengal. “At least 1.4 million daily commuters and lakhs of long-distance passengers will benefit from the new device,” said another official.

Swapan Chowdhury, divisional railway manager, Howrah, said that in case of human error, the ACD will automatically activate itself, thereby minimising the chance of a collision.

The railways’ Research, Development and Standard Organisation (RDSO), which issues the technical clearance certificates, has already given its nod to the installation of the ACDs after examining their ‘climate suitability’ factor.

Officials said the RDSO has advised that devices similar to to those used by the Konkon Railway be installed in the eastern region, because the climatic conditions are almost similar.


Calcutta, Feb. 21: 
The police are on the lookout for a woman they think is involved in the murder of a city-based timber and cotton merchant, Satyendra Prasad Singh, on February 6.

Sources said a person, who shared lunch with Singh at his Strand Road apartment on the day of his murder, is also on the list of suspects. Singh was first smothered with a pillow and then had his throat slit. Singh’s wife was away at the time.

“The killer definitely held a grudge against Singh,” the police said on Thursday. The probe got underway with the police examining witnesses and interrogating associates of the businessman over the past few days.

“Initially, we were led to believe that the murder was a fallout of a business rivalry. But later, we stumbled upon another clue involving a woman. Her name is not being disclosed for the sake of investigation,” said deputy commissioner of police (north) K.L. Tamta on Thursday.

The police even went to Midnapore to question Singh’s brother, with whom his relations were reportedly strained.

“The woman was a friend of Singh’s for a long time. We are trying to figure out her motive in the killing,” said an officer. That the apartment was not ransacked proved that it was not a case of “murder for gain.”

Singh, who owned a timber shop in Sealdah and a cotton yarn shop on the ground floor of his highrise, had fought with a business associate over a godown sale in Rajakatra area of Burrabazar.

Residents describe Singh as a quiet person, who kept to himself. His three sons have been interrogated, too.

“We are taking a closer look at the woman’s involvement in the case, since recent interrogations have pointed the needle of suspicion to her,” Tamta added. Some of Singh’s relatives are expected to be summoned this week for further interrogation.


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