Incomplete surgery suit by patient
Riots sear ties, trade
City-centric slur on Madhyamik English test
Heritage haven for streetcars
The City Diary
Crusader of peace in Teresa town
Guide to the path of righteous living
Boat banner for Ganga benefit
Suit disposal gets panel push
HIV trauma trail dogs Howrah housewife

 
 
INCOMPLETE SURGERY SUIT BY PATIENT 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Seven years ago, Asima Naskar’s doctors admittedly made a “bona fide mistake” in her discharge certificate. They forgot to tell her that they had left behind a part of her uterus in her body after claiming to have conducted a “total hysterectomy” on her.

Two years ago, Asima learnt what had actually happened. An ultrasound report confirmed that a “uterine-like structure” could be seen in her cervix and it was “most likely” that only “a part of her uterus” had been removed.

Today, Asima is fighting a case in a consumer forum, located within a kilometre of the court-room where a more widely-followed case of medical negligence is being fought by Kunal Saha.

She is claiming compensation for what she has been reduced to — a pill-popping, tonic-taking woman, with bleeding-induced anaemia and anaemia-induced fits of unconsciousness.

Needless to say, the family of five, with three school-going daughters and a single earning member, has not been able to arrange for another surgery to take out the part of the uterus left behind. “Doctors told us we will need at least Rs 35,000 for this operation,” said Asima’s husband, Kamal.

Legal circles, however, see a silver lining in this. The fact that people like the Naskars have come forward to take the battle to the ‘elite’ doctors, is itself proof of the growing awareness level of rights among those sections, they say.

Asima’s woes began in 1995 when she complained of severe pain in the lower abdomen. After identifying the cause as appendicitis, her physician, C.K. Haldar, referred her to Green View Nursing Home in Amtala.

A few minutes into the operation, being conducted by oncologist Prabir Bijay Kar, Asima’s relatives were told that doctors had identified a tumour in her uterus.

According to the affidavit filed in the South 24-Parganas District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum at Alipore by advocate N.R. Mukerje, there was no option for the needy family from Sarsuna, near Behala, but to go in for an expensive hysterectomy (surgery for the removal of the uterus) as well.

The discharge certificate clearly stated that “total hysterectomy under G.A. (general anaesthesia)” had been performed. But, with abdominal pain and bleeding persisting, Asima was forced to go back to her doctors.

Four months after an ultrasound revealed that “a uterine-like structure is seen in the cervix”, the couple filed a complaint with the consumer forum, demanding Rs 3 lakh damages.

The defendants have claimed that they told the Naskars about the “sub-total hysterectomy”, and the discharge certificate, which mentioned otherwise, was a case of a “bona fide mistake”.

   

 
 
RIOTS SEAR TIES, TRADE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Reassuring pictures of a tentative return to normality back home have not stopped the prayers in the homes of Gujaratis settled in Calcutta. They will continue to pray until March 15, when the VHP has threatened to perform bhumi pujan for the Ram temple at Ayodhya.

“We are relieved to hear that people are back on the streets and shops have reopened. Over the past week, there were only stories of violence and loss of lives,” said Hena Gorsia, secretary, Bhawanipur Gujarati Education Society.

The helplessness the Gujaratis, numbering around 70,000, have felt since violence erupted with the massacre on the Sabarmati Express was nothing like what they had experienced during the earthquake last year.

“Gujarat has seen the worst of cyclones and earthquakes. Though we couldn’t make it to the affected people during those incidents, we did our best from here by sending money and other support. This time, we don’t know what to do,” added Gorsia.

Ketan Shah is a trader hailing from Rajkot. “My brother and two sisters live there. We have been exchanging hourly messages over our cellphones for the past week,” he said.

Shah is one among thousands of fellow-Gujaratis who make their living from trading. Gold and diamond jewellery, tea, jute bags, textiles, chemicals and pharmaceutical products are the major items of trade between Gujarat and Bengal.

“In Surat (the centre for cutting and polishing diamonds), the units have stopped production. We know some have started functioning, but the volume won’t reach normal level unless the tension is defused,” said Jaysukh Parekh, of Ramesh Chandra Parekh Jewellers.

Parekh fears that Calcutta-based jewellers will begin to feel the pinch of a slump in supply of diamonds and raw gold in a month, because of the “one-month lag” in the production cycle.

“Besides, artisans from Bengal, employed in the hand-made gold and studded diamond jewellery industries (in Gujarat), will also be severely affected,” he said.

No new consignment of tea from Bengal has reached major markets in Gujarat. “Traders are banking on earlier stocks, but if the situation stretches beyond two weeks, the industry will suffer,” said Piyush Desai, chairman, Federation of All India Tea Traders’ Association.

Threat of a drop in supply of drugs from Gujarat, home to several pharmaceutical companies, also looms large, said B. Mehta, an agent.

The impact on the transport industry is immediate. “Normally, 500 to 700 trucks leave Calcutta for Gujarat, but the number has dropped to between 100 and 150,” said Ashok Das, organising secretary, Truck Owners’ Association of Bengal.

   

 
 
CITY-CENTRIC SLUR ON MADHYAMIK ENGLISH TEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Examiners of Madhyamik 2002 on Tuesday urged the authorities of the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education to work out a formula for lenient evaluation of answerscripts of the English paper.

Some of the questions were “too city–centric,” which many students, particularly those from the villages, found difficult to answer.

The teachers’ appeal followed complaints from examinees that factual errors and “use of too many technical terms” in the questions had caused confusion among students in many examination centres in the city as well.

According to teachers, a large number of students in the rural belts skipped a question which required them to write on Sir Don Bradman’s life. They were also unable to write an article on traffic snarls.

“Though the examinees were given guidelines on tackling the questions, many from the remote districts were unable to answer the questions properly,” said an examiner.

The Board authorities held a meeting with the head examiners of English on Wednesday to discuss the matter.

“I have given the necessary instructions to the head examiners. They will soon organise meetings with the examiners of their respective regions, at which they will discuss means of dealing with the problem,” said Haraprasad Samaddar, Board president.

Madhyamik Board sources said some questions in the English paper had led to confusion in many centres. Students said they were given an unseen passage, which they found difficult to understand, as it contained too many technical terms.

The passage was an excerpt of an article on the test flight of a geo-synchronous satellite launching vehicle, published in an English daily last year.

They alleged that the questions on grammar, too, were confusing. Students were befuddled as, according to one question, Netaji was born in 1887, instead of 1897.

Some teachers in Madhyamik schools attributed the errors to the Board’s inability to appoint efficient moderators. They said before question papers in each subject are sent for printing, moderators vet them.

“It is the moderator’s responsibility to ensure that the question papers are free of any errors. The Board should take proper action against those responsible for causing confusion among students this time,” said Ratan Laskar, a leader of the Secondary Teachers’ and Employees’ Association.

According to teachers, for the past two years, the Board had engaged inexperienced teachers as moderators. This was one of the major reasons for the goof-ups.

Till two years ago, only teachers with more than five years’ experience were eligible for appointment as moderators.

   

 
 
HERITAGE HAVEN FOR STREETCARS 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
To revive memories of the Raj, when horse-drawn trams were a common sight on the streets, the country’s first tramcar museum in the city is ready to roll, pending a government nod.

If it comes about, Calcuttans will get to view the vintage wooden single-coach vehicles, fitted with four iron wheels, at the museum at Calcutta Tramways Company’s (CTC) Nonapukur workshop, near Park Circus. Sources said the proposed museum would be on the lines of the National Rail Museum.

“A horse-drawn tramcar will be the main exhibit, along with 14 discarded cars, that are presently dumped across seven depots in the city,” said Sudhir De, chairman-cum-managing director, CTC.

Officials at Writers’ Buildings are considering the CTC proposal, which was first mooted in the 70s by the then CTC managing director, Sumantra Choudhury.

Transport minister Subhash Chakraborty, who has discussed the project with secretary D.M. Kanwar, is reported to have asked for a detailed report. “The project does not require infrastructural assistance, but we would need at least Rs 50 lakh from the government for refurbishing the coaches,” said De.

CTC officials say the heritage tram tour, introduced on February 24, has notched up 100 per cent booking. Officials add that all 42 seats on the heritage tram have been booked for the March 10 and 17 tours.

“Though we conduct the tour only on Sundays from Esplanade to heritage sites of north Calcutta, we have received feelers to run them on weekdays too,” an official added.

Works manager S. K. Mitra said some tramcars, that were commissioned in the early 30s, are still being run from Gariahat, Tollygunge, Rajabazar and Belgachhia depots.

“I feel these cars should be replaced and kept in the museum too,” he added.

D. K. Panti, senior engineer, building, posted at the Rajabazar depot, said Nonapukur would be an ideal spot for the proposed museum. “A big shed and short tracks for movement of tramcars can be the added attractions for the proposed museum,” he added.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Twin rallies choke city centre

The Left Front rally marches along Jawaharlal Nehru Road on Wednesday. Picture by Amit Datta Traffic was thrown out of gear on Wednesday afternoon as Left Front and SUCI activists marched on the city’s arterial streets in support of communal harmony. Commuters had a tough time returning home from the central business district as traffic came to a halt at Esplanade. Left Front supporters converged on Rani Rashmoni Avenue and took out two processions around 4 pm — one towards Hedua Park, in north Calcutta, and the other towards Southern Avenue. The most affected roads were J.L. Nehru Road, Lenin Sarani and College Street as hundreds of rallyists blocked the roads. Vehicles came to a stand-still on S.P. Mukherjee Road, Nirmal Chunder Street, College Street, Bidhan Sarani and Hedua as over 40,000 people joined the rally. Before the processions started, Left Front chairman Biman Bose read out a resolution condemning the massacre in Gujarat. He invited all secular forces to come forward in the hour of crisis and join hands to mount a country-wide protest.

Man run over in Entally

An unidentified person, around 35, was crushed under the wheels of a private bus early on Wednesday. Police said the man had got off the front door of the bus on route 202 at the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road stop, in Entally, around 10 am. He was crushed under the rear wheels of the same bus. A mob gathered soon after the accident and pelted stones at the bus. While the driver managed to escape, police impounded the vehicle.

Held for fraud

A company sales supervisor and internal sales manager of a metal-cutting tools manufacturing unit was arrested for siphoning off Rs 18 lakh from the company’s coffers over the past two years, using forged documents and signatures. Police said C.V. Radhakrishnan, 48, was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by company branch manager Sumit Kumar Kundu, who lodged a complaint with the detective department. A police team raided Radhakrishnan’s apartment on the EM Bypass and arrested him.

Several documents, including investment papers in the names of his mother and son, valued at over Rs 10 lakh, were recovered from his flat.

Protest blockade

Armed miscreants slapped a bus conductor and snatched his bag, containing collections from ticket sales, on a bus on the Howrah-Sealdah route near the crossing of C.R. Avenue and M.G. Road around 3 pm on Wednesday. Immediately after the incident, bus drivers blocked the crossing, throwing traffic out of gear. Senior police officials rushed to the site and brought things under control after half an hour.

Labour safety

Senior representatives of the government, industry and trade unions got together recently to discuss measures to enhance the safety of the labourer at the workplace. State labour minister Md Amin, state chief inspector of factories R.K. Gangopadhyay and National Safety Council (West Bengal chapter) general secretary S.K. Ghoshal spoke at the seminar, which preceded an exhibition showcasing equipment aimed at preventing mishaps at factories.

Fire at factory

A fire ravaged a shoe factory in Topsia, destroying goods worth thousands of rupees. Police said the fire in the factory, on Kustia Road, started around 2 pm. No loss of life was reported.    

 
 
CRUSADER OF PEACE IN TERESA TOWN 
 
 
BY SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
“If I met Mother Teresa, I’d tell her ‘Please put on my uniform. You can do a better job’.” Though he bursts out laughing while saying this, General John Gowans, the world leader of the Salvation Army, in town on an official tour, will leave Calcutta with one regret: Of not having met the “amazing lady” who combined “99 per cent compassion” with “one per cent intelligence and articulation”.

On his first visit to Mother Teresa’s city, the 68-year-old Scotsman with a silver goatee has been “extremely impressed” by the vitality on the streets. Though all his impressions were “fleeting glimpses” from the car window, he noted with interest how everyone was doing something or the other. “I know the city has its share of problems, particularly unemployment, but nobody is sitting in a corner and knitting. This creates an atmosphere far more positive than what I had heard about the place,” he points out.

The General is on his fourth visit to India, the first having been three years ago immediately after he took over the leader’s mantle. Along with Mumbai and Pune, that January 2000 trip had also included the now riot-torn Ahmedabad. “The situation is absolutely terrifying, because of not just what is happening but the thought of what provoked it.”

According to him, the solution cannot be reached by signing treaties, which can only come to superficial conclusions, but by bringing about a change in attitude. The evangelist is also disappointed with the role religion has played in dealing with such situations. “The religious bodies provoke more than they bring peace, I fear,” he says.

General Gowans is scheduled to call on Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee on reaching Delhi on Thursday. Admitting that the premier’s is a “seven-ulcer job,” the “praying man” says he would wish him “wisdom in anxious times”. During his tenure as Salvation Army commander, Gowans has met a number of world leaders, including the likes of former President Mandela of South Africa and Emperor Akihito of Japan. “Politicians need to be peace-makers first. But peace does not always suit everyone’s private agenda,” he comments, with a hint of sadness in his voice.

A mention of Indian cuisine brings the smile back on his face. “I am still coming to terms with curry for breakfast. They always tell me it’s mild, but I end up burning my throat.” His wife —Commissioner Gisele Gowans, who heads the Army’s women’s wing — has been “much more courageous” in this regard. “She’s French, you know,” he adds, by way of explanation.

The general spent the morning of his only full day in the city meeting and praying with his pastors at the Army’s Lenin Sarani centre. “One can read reams of reports, but it is only on meeting the people who are present at the grassroots level that one can have a feel of the work being done,” he points out.

The Army’s main source of strength, he feels, is its volunteers, (“the army behind the Army”) who join its cause irrespective of religious belief. He is happy with the operations of the local unit which runs four establishments in Calcutta. But being a “passing-through person”, he did not offer any suggestions. “It’s such a big city, we have to be judicious about using our limited resources. But something is better than nothing,” he explains.

Gowans’ tenure finishes in 2002. Even at the end of the hectic four-year term which required him to travel to all 108 countries where his organisation operates, he feels he still will remain active with Army work. “And who knows, some day someone in Calcutta might think ‘Gowans did a good job. Let’s bring him here’, he says, breaking into a wan smile.

   

 
 
GUIDE TO THE PATH OF RIGHTEOUS LIVING 
 
 
BY SANKAR SRIDHAR
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
A destitute child at the Howrah station moved a young commercial artist based in Mumbai. Thus began the saga of Vijayan Pavamani’s life. “You might call it fortuity, or even providence,” he says, “but I felt drawn to Christ, to serve the less fortunate.”

Moving away from his family and bidding his job goodbye in the early ‘60s, Pavamani came to Calcutta and studied theology at the Calcutta Bible College while working for an organisation, Youth for Christ. However, as this organisation was open only to Christians, he felt impaired. “I wanted to serve everyone, irrespective of his or her religious background,” he says.

Teeming up with a young lady, Pramila, now his wife, they made their first move by placing an advertisement in a local daily — “Dial 442842. Someone to talk to” — which changed their lives forever. Voices of “victims of circumstance”, who hailed from all strata of society, in need of emotional stability, found Pavamani’s receptive ear to pour in their plight.

To reach out further, the Calcutta Samaritans was formed in December 1971. “We did not know how we would achieve our purpose, but we believed in prayer,” Pavamani reminisces.

In 1976, trade union leader George Fernandes stayed as his guest for a while during Emergency, and soon after, helped register their organisation.

The same year, destiny led him to meet singer Cliff Richard, who donated enough money to set up Arunodoy Midway Home, a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts and alcoholics, the first of its kind in eastern India.

From then on, there was no looking back. The Samaritans went on to build a night shelter for the destitute, a vocational training centre for the socially challenged and a school for the under-privileged, in order “to cater to the individual needs of different people... we wanted to provide guidance and show the way to a purposeful existence,” says Pavamani.

The day-care and counselling centre at 48, Ripon Street, that has been recognised by the ministry of welfare, extends valuable guidance to AIDS patients, prostitutes and slum-dwellers. This service is conducted with the help of a panel of experts, including social workers and psychiatrists.

The Pauline Bhavan, Pavement Club, Extension Care Centre, Rickshaw-Pullers Fellowship and the Calcutta Emanuel School are the Samaritans’ other claims to fame. Seeking to reinstate the vulnerable and children at risk as individuals of dignity and potential, they strive to bring them out of the vicious circle of criminal activities that would otherwise “eat into the vitals of their formative years”.

Proof of their success lies with the likes of Mithun Saha and Manoj, who are now pursuing higher education after having graduated from St Xavier’s. Many of their predecessors have already found their way into acceptance in the society.

Even with age slowing him down, Pavamani is not ready to call it quits. “There is so much we still have to do to and so little time… A hundred years from now, it won’t matter what bank balance I had or what car I drove. What will matter is whether I had been able to show even one child the path of righteous living,” he muses.

   

 
 
BOAT BANNER FOR GANGA BENEFIT 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Organised by the city-based Disaster Management Institute (DMI), along with the state government, seminars and workshops on ‘Saving the Ganga’, through a cruise ride, is on the cards from March 16. Part of the plan involves a round-the-year seminar and workshop aboard a boat that will set sail on the Hooghly from March 16 and reach various parts of the country, spreading the message: “Ganga bachao jibon bachao — Save the Ganga, save life.”

Talking to Metro, former CBI director and now head of DMI, Upen Biswas, said: “The state government has been generous enough to readily agree to the proposal. We have also procured two boats from the Calcutta Port Trust (CPT), which will be used in spreading the message of saving the Ganga. I always felt that there is lot one can do to save the sacred river. The objective is to make people aware of the programme and also strengthen the network among various NGOs and clubs.”

A gigantic boat, fitted with a 15-foot sail, displaying the message of saving the Ganga, will be strategically placed opposite Millennium Park.

A cultural extravaganza on board the cruise vessel will follow the seminar, comprising a distinguished panel. “The shows will include concepts on the Adi Ganga and discourses on the life of Rani Rashmoni,” said Biswas.

Later, the boat will set sail on the Hooghly and halt at various centres, including local clubs, where workshops, informing the people about the disastrous effects of pollution, will be conducted.

Driven by the Supreme Court directive on saving the Ganga, Biswas has many a plan up his sleeve.

“Very few people are aware that a sadhu had initially filed a public interest litigation on this issue in a Patna court. Our objective will be to include everyone in a concerted battle to set the river free of pollution,” Biswas added.

The state government has already released Rs 50,000 for the project. “It is basically a self-financing project. We are fortunate to get infrastructural resources from the CPT, the Inland Water Authority of India and the National Thermal Power Corporation of India,” Biswas added.

   

 
 
SUIT DISPOSAL GETS PANEL PUSH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
The state judicial department has drawn up plans to form block-level committees in Calcutta and other districts for speedy disposal of legal suits.

The committees will comprise an advocate, a social worker and an officer of that particular block, who will counsel the petitioners. The committee, which will meet twice a week, will hear different cases, ranging from family disputes to complaints against government or non-government officials.

After hearing the cases, if necessary, reports will be sent to the legal aid committee.

The committees have been formed following a directive from the principal secretary of the judicial department. Dibyendu Biswas, sub-divisional officer, Alipore said: “In this sub-division, committees have already started functioning from Wednesday. In all probability, our sub-division was the first to start such committees.”

Alipore sub-division has five blocks — Alipore, Budge Budge I and II, Bishnupur I and II, Thakurpukur and Maheshtala. In all, South 24-Parganas has five sub-divisions — Alipore, Baruipur, Canning, Diamond Harbour and Kakdwip.

Dates on which a particular committee will hear the cases will be informed in advance. On Tuesday, a workshop was held at Alipore with committee members from all the five blocks, at which the SDO informed them about the functioning.

Biswas said: “Such committees will help those who belong to the economically-backward section. I am sure many people will be relieved that they don’t have to come to courts and face an ordeal.”

   

 
 
HIV TRAUMA TRAIL DOGS HOWRAH HOUSEWIFE 
 
 
BY TARAK NATH DE
 
Calcutta, March 6: 
Rude shocks are in store for many a Howrah resident. Three months ago, a 30-year-old housewife from Kadamtala was told by experts that she had been detected with HIV. The pre and post-test counselling could have helped her tide over the trauma, but for her insensitive in-laws.

Five years ago, newly-married Surupa (name changed) had arrived at her new home with a lot of expectations. Till her husband, a BSF jawan, fell ill and was advised an HIV test. When it turned out positive, she and her baby daughter were asked to take the tests as well.

The child had escaped, the mother had not. But the worst was yet to come. When her in-laws got to know of the development, they held her responsible for her husband’s plight. According to Surupa, her in-laws have been torturing her, despite her husband admitting that he was responsible for contracting and spreading the virus.

Sitting in the counselling room at Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine (STM) last week, Surupa was a shattered woman. What is worrying her the most is: “Who will look after my child when we are gone?”

Relating her story, she said: “I could not believe my ears when I heard that I was infected. My husband had hidden from me the fact that he was HIV positive. It was at the insistence of the counsellors and doctors that he took me to STM. I believe he used to frequent brothels when posted outside. When he fell sick, his superiors told him to get a test done. Once the result was known, he was counselled and advised to inform me and take precautions.”

Surupa’s husband, however, hid the truth — a price for which his wife is paying dearly now. Perched on her lap, her three-year-old daughter asked: “Ma tumi kandcho keno? Tomar ki oshuk koreychey?” (Ma, why are you crying? What illness do you have?)

Surupa is more worried about her child than her life. “I am lucky that my daughter is not infected. But what will happen to her after my death? I wanted to see her as a doctor, but now I do not know whether I will live that long.” She is grateful to doctors “who are trying to motivate me. But the ultimate saviour is God.”

Surupa is not the only woman in the state to face this ordeal. “There are quite a number of housewives — both in the city and the rural areas — who have been infected by their husbands,” said Prof D.K. Neogi, head of the virology department at STM. The detection rate in all sections of society has “definitely increased over the years.”

In the early ‘90s, it was two to four new cases a year. “Then it grew by 10s and 100s. In 2001, there were 700 new HIV cases detected. The epidemic is spreading and awareness, along with behaviour change, are the only true weapons we have,” he adds.

   
 

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