Hormone high in chicken feed
Doctor couple drugged, robbed
Longer lifeline for feline
Now, cool new New Market
The City Diary
Lessons from mistake on the lake
Strong case for pathological post-mortem
April date to ‘free’ GT Road
Wife passes on life-taking disease
New Mint notches up gold

 
 
HORMONE HIGH IN CHICKEN FEED 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
Wah murgi, bah murgi and Taaza murgir mazaa. The ad-lines promoting chicken may make you salivate, but is the meat safe?

After getting a detailed feed-back from its sources following a petition filed by a Calcuttan, the Environment Appellate Authority (EAA) has ordered a probe into allegations that poultry farms — particularly the bigger ones, which mass-breed chickens — fatten them by stuffing them with hormones.

In an order dated March 12, EAA chairman Bhagabati Prasad Banerjee has directed the biochemistry department of Calcutta University to look into every aspect of poultry farms — including the levels of hormones in the chickens they produce and you eat, and the nature and quality of the poultry feed — and submit a detailed report. The EAA is the government’s apex body which looks into all environmental issues.

“The biochemistry department of Calcutta University has been requested to find out the types of hormones fed and to ascertain whether they are carcinogenic,” the order states, adding that the step is necessary to effectively deal with “problems of poultry-produced chickens in the interest of the people”.

The university department was told to seek assistance from the West Bengal Pollution Control Board and other authorities.

The directive follows a complaint lodged with the Board by a person living in the city’s southern suburbs, alleging that a poultry farm near his house was polluting the area. Another complaint raised the issue of hormones being pumped into chickens for quicker growth.

Banerjee said: “We have information that some poultry farms feed hormones without any regard for the permissible level, so that the chicken can be fattened within a short period,” he said. “But, in the absence of any official report, we have directed the CU to give a detailed report,” he added.

The most dangerous aspect, according to the EAA chairman, was the possibility of some of the hormones being carcinogenic. “We have consulted eminent scientists and food technologists, who felt that hormone feeding must be stopped,” Banerjee said.

This has also been corroborated in Five Thousand Days to Save the Planet, an internationally-acclaimed book on environment and hygiene, published by Hamlyn and prepared by four eminent researchers — Edward Goldsmith, Nicholas Hildyard, Peter Burnyard and Patrick McCully. It had contributed in influencing the EAA’s decision.

The report, which, according to Banerjee, is a standard guide for environmentalists and food technologists, says: “Several growth hormones have been banned in the US and other developed countries as carcinogens but there is strong evidence that the illicit use of banned hormones still thrives.” Representatives of two of the largest poultry chains in the city, however, denied any wrongdoing. Enzymes were fed to facilitate fast growth, but hormones was a strict no-no, they claimed.

   

 
 
DOCTOR COUPLE DRUGGED, ROBBED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
A domestic help drugged a doctor couple in their Behala home and escaped with valuables worth several lakhs late on Wednesday.

The doctor couple, Madan Choudhury, 65, and Geeta, 59, were admitted to a south Calcutta nursing home, where sources said the husband had slipped into a coma and Geeta’s condition was serious. There is no sign of the domestic help, Kancha, a Nepali youth from Darjeeling.

The Choudhurys — Madan having retired as head of the department of surgery at SSKM Hospital, from where Geeta had retired as head of the department of gynaecology — live in their two-storeyed house, P-27, Arcadia, Behala.

Post-retirement, Madan is serving as medical director of a south Calcutta diagnostic clinic and nursing home, with Geeta a consultant there.

Investigations revealed that the Choudhurys had employed Kancha last fortnight. “A common friend had introduced him to them, when the Choudhurys were desperately looking for a domestic help,’’ said deputy superintendent of police, South 24-Parganas, Subhankar Chatterjee.

On Wednesday night, Kancha served them dinner around 11.15 pm. After about an hour, Madan and Geeta fell unconscious.

Police suspect Kancha then stole whatever valuables he could lay his hands on and escaped. The city police have alerted their counterparts in the railways and other areas to track him down.

On Thursday morning, neighbours sounded the alarm when they found the front door to the house open and the doctor couple lying unconscious in their bedroom. They were rushed to the south Calcutta nursing home, where they were admitted to the ICCU.

“The domestic help appears to have mixed Mandrax, a potent barbiturate, with their dinner,’’ said a doctor at the nursing home. “Madan Choudhury is in a state of coma. Geeta is slowly responding to treatment. But both of them are still not out of danger,’’ added Dr Abhishek Dey, resident medical officer of the nursing home.

According to neighbour Santanu Bose, the only son of the Choudhurys is a doctor, currently in London.

   

 
 
LONGER LIFELINE FOR FELINE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
A stray cat caught in the grill of a fourth-floor window hung on to one of its nine lives, courtesy a compassionate fire brigade team.

Often in the line of fire of Calcuttans, personnel of the West Bengal Fire Services department carried out a ‘feel-good’ rescue act on Thursday morning, after they received an SOS from Rakesh Bhatia, a resident of 9/3, Hungerford Street.

“Could you please do something? A cat is stuck between the grill and the pane of a fourth-floor window in our building since early morning. It isn’t moving, but I think it’s alive,” pleaded Bhatia, after he dialled 101 for the Free School Street fire brigade headquarters, just before 9 am.

Bhatia, a businessman who lives on the fifth floor of Latika Apartments, noticed the cat poised precariously while returning from his morning walk. The crows had noticed the helpless animal and were hovering close. “I tried Animal Rescue but they hadn’t opened. Then, I dialled 101, but really didn’t think they would respond,” recounted Bhatia.

Within 10 minutes, he was “pleasantly surprised” by the clanging of a fire engine. Seven firemen, led by a supervising officer, quickly took up position. A few rushed up to the fourth floor and removed the window pane.

One of the firemen finally managed to reach out a hand, grip the cat by the scruff of its neck and drag it carefully through the window. “The moment it was let down, the frightened animal scampered off down the stairs,” said Bhatia. Operation Cat was over by 9.15 am. “The firemen deserve kudos. They even refused a token reward.”

   

 
 
NOW, COOL NEW NEW MARKET 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
The 120-year-old New Market is gearing up to give the new plazas on the market block a run for their money. Civic officials overseeing New Market said on Thursday that elaborate plans have been drawn up to give the “shabby market” a cool, new look and feel, by turning its north-western wing into a fully-air-conditioned section before Durga Puja. The multi-storeyed wing, housing 1,200 stalls, popularly known as New New Market, was rebuilt in 1986 after being devastated in a blaze.

“The entire building of the new complex, from its basement to the second floor, will be air-conditioned,” confirmed mayor Subrata Mukherjee. Officials said a private firm has already been selected for the job, to be carried out at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore. “The project will be financed jointly by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the stall-owners,” Mukherjee added.

The possibility of adding an extra floor to the 65-ft-high wing, before converting it into an air-conditioned market, is also being explored.

The civic market department had taken up the project after receiving a “positive response” from 80 per cent of the traders in New Market, said member, mayor-in-council, Samsuzzaman Ansari.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
Calcutta, March 14: 

Centre set deadline in Bleach case

Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted two months to the Centre to clarify its stand with regard to the allegation of Peter Bleach, accused in the Purulia armsdrop case, that he had been discriminated against by the Union of India and its President. Justice Ashok Ganguly asked the Centre to file an affidavit before the court by May 14 and fixed the matter for hearing on May 20. Bleach was brought to court on Thursday by the Presidency jail authorities. He pleaded that he was suffering from tuberculosis and it was impossible for him to make a submission before the court. Bleach, in his petition, sought the intervention of the court to ask the Centre to release him from the jail immediately. All five Latvians, co-accused and co-sentenced in the case, were released in July 2000, following the remission of their sentence by President K.R. Narayanan.

Man dies in club fire

Kalipada Das, 70, was burnt alive at Bhowanipore early on Thursday when a fire broke out on the club premises. Police said Das used to sleep in the club. The fire might have been caused by a short circuit.

Station after Teresa

Metro Railway authorities on Thursday accepted mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s proposal to rename Park Street Metro station after Mother Teresa. Sister Nirmala, superior-general of Missionaries of Charity, in a letter on Thursday congratulated the mayor for the decision.

Zee talks fail

A fresh round of talks between Zee-Turner senior vice-president Siddharth Jain and cable operators on Wednesday, failed to break the deadlock. The cablemen stuck to their demand for a one-year freeze on rate hike, while the broadcaster is ready to give only a six-month assurance. “We hope something positive will happen soon,” said a spokesman for Forum of Cable Operators. Zee-Turner CEO Sunil Khanna is convinced “only a handful” of operators is blocking progress. “We will wait for a couple of days and if they are not ready to sign a fresh agreement, we will start distributing decoders to the 30-odd headends which have approached us,” he said on Thursday, from New Delhi.

More Metro

Metro Railway authorities have decided to run six more trains in the evenings from Monday during the peak hours. From Monday, trains will run every eight minutes in the evening, sources said.

IA flight timings

Indian Airlines has advanced the departure timings of some flights to and from Dum Dum airport from March 15 to 30 due to operational reasons. Flight IC 263 on the Calcutta-Delhi sector will now leave Calcutta at 6.30 am instead of 7 am. The return flight IC 264 will leave Delhi for Calcutta at 5.30 pm and arrive in Calcutta at 7.25 pm. Flight CD-7412 on the Calcutta-Ranchi-Patna-Lucknow-Delhi route will leave Calcutta at 6 am (on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays) instead of 8 am.

Engineer hurt

Canadian engineer John Pylon was injured when he slipped and fell into a 15-foot cavity while working on a weather-control device in the New Secretariat Building. He was admitted to a city nursing home after being rescued by fire brigade personnel.

Traffic disruption

Traffic was disrupted in Esplanade and its adjoining areas on Thursday afternoon by rallies. The Citu brought out a huge procession, bound for Shahid Minar, to protest the Centre’s “anti-labour policy”. Members of the Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association marched from Subodh Mullick Square to Rani Rashmoni Avenue in support of their monetary demands.

Hospital jubilee

The Assembly of God Hospital celebrated its silver jubilee on Thursday. The hospital will be renamed Mission of Mercy by end-2002. “The name change will help us get funds from the US-based Mission of Mercy and allow us to upgrade our facilities at the neo-natal intensive care and cardio-thoracic units,” said Z.P. Dadina, executive director of the hospital.

Road mishap

Five persons, including a woman, were killed and 10 others injured in separate accidents at Falta and Diamond Harbour on Thursday. In Falta three persons were hit by a truck. At Diamond Harbour, Mangal Bari, 40, was killed and 10 persons were injured when a Matador van overturned.    

 
 
LESSONS FROM MISTAKE ON THE LAKE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
Cleveland joined hands with Calcutta from faraway Ohio on Wednesday evening to offer its Indian counterpart “lessons” in urban renewal from its fairytale turnaround, and provide the city’s planners and bureaucrats vital clues in fighting the corrosive effects of urban decay.

A live video conference between the two cities arranged by American Center and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce gave Calcutta’s civic and business captains a rare insight into the Cleveland turnaround that has provided the world a benchmarking opportunity for how business leaders can help meet the challenge of renewing cities.

Principal secretary, commerce and industry, Jawhar Sircar, principal secretary, urban development, R.S. Bandopadhyay, municipal commissioner Debashis Som and Haldia Petrochemicals MD Richard Saldanha, representing Calcutta, shed light on some of the city’s endemic urban problems and sought viable solutions from the Cleveland model, which has found its way into the Harvard University curriculum. US consul-general in Calcutta Christopher Sandrolini was the moderator of the lively interactive session.

Cleveland, which was caught in the downward spiral afflicting the American Midwest’s heavy-industry rust belt since the 1960s, saw its Cuyahoga river catch fire from saturation of industrial pollutants, became the first city since the Great Depression to go bankrupt and came to be ridiculed nationally as the “mistake on the lake”.

The city’s business, government and civic organisations joined hands to author the amazing turnaround, rescuing the city from the wreckage of bankruptcy, riots, political conflict and economic decay. Now, the Partnership City has “more Fortune 500 headquarters than any other US metropolis”. And on the lakefront sits a brand new Science Center and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The lead was taken by Cleveland Tomorrow, an organisation of business CEOs, which has played a major role in the city’s revitalisation for nearly two decades, explained Terence Uhl, executive director, Cleveland Today.

Sircar, lamenting the fact that Calcutta has lost pole position in industry over the years, wanted to learn how the Cleveland CEOs could devote so much time for public work and “convert heat to light”.

“It all boils down to leadership and resolution, which can solve problems and create wealth. The renaissance of Cleveland was not orchestrated in vested interest. The CEOs had immense personal motivation and knew how to use the city’s inherent strengths to its advantage,” said Richard Pogue, chairman, Greater Cleveland Growth Association.

Pogue went on to add that Calcutta shares a “common strength” with Cleveland, that of strong cultural heritage, and can “use that as one of the vehicles to turn things around through an organised marketing partnership with the business community”. From housing to sewer water, railroads to bridges, everything had public participation in the Cleveland model, Charles Webb, vice-president, economic development, Greater Cleveland Growth Association, told the audience. “The best practices of the region can be transferred to Calcutta by enthusing the business fraternity with the right signals and sops,” Webb added.

“But how long could you keep politics out of development?” Som asked the architects of the Cleveland resurrection. “We realised the importance of parking the right ideology at the door and not letting politics be your primary concern,” smiled Pogue.

   

 
 
STRONG CASE FOR PATHOLOGICAL POST-MORTEM 
 
 
BY TARAK NATH DE
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
While there could be nothing unusual about a 60-year-old man dying recently, following multiple-organ failure, what has shed light on the case is the lack of provision to conduct a pathological post-mortem.

If the kin of the deceased are to be believed, they were provided with all investigation reports and have no complaints against doctors, but they are baffled about the actual cause of death.

In a bid to promote research and advancement of the medical science, city doctors have called for immediate introduction of the pathological post-mortem in all medical colleges and hospitals across the state. According to senior physicians, the system is prevalent abroad and has enhanced medical efficiency. In India, pathological post-mortem is conducted only at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), in Delhi, and the Post-Graduate Institute, Chandigarh.

“The introduction of pathological post-mortem will go a long way in helping research and development of medical science. Our case studies prove that many patients die in spite of proper care and diagnosis reports. However, pathological post-mortem will help us find out which specific organ was responsible for the death,” say the principals of two Calcutta-based premier medical colleges.

Sudipta Roy, president of Indian Medical Association, justifies the need for pathological post-mortem, as it will help doctors serve the patients better. “Such reports help in preventing future lapses and are educative for junior doctors,” he added.

Senior doctors have also requested the state government to introduce a Bill in the legislature and overcome the ‘legal glitches’ that may crop up.

“Such post-mortem facilities will also be able to convince family members of the doctor’s efforts to save a patient,” they said.

According to S. Mandal, cardio-thoracic surgeon from London: “Sometimes, a patient’s family alleges that the doctors’ negligence had resulted in the patient’s death and proper investigations were not conducted. If we can show them the findings of ‘conclusive diagnosis’, they will realise which particular organ had caused the death.”

Unlike the forensic post-mortem, the pathological post-mortem can be conducted at a morgue attached to the pathological department. Within hours, the body can be then handed over to the patient’s family and will erase any confusion arising out of controversial deaths.

Lines cut: Mayor Subrata Mukherjee has directed municipal commissioner Debashis Som to disconnect water and drainage lines to the offices and quarters of Calcutta Port Trust, as it had failed to clear property tax dues to the tune of Rs 30 crore.

   

 
 
APRIL DATE TO ‘FREE’ GT ROAD 
 
 
BY A CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
Concerned over the increasing congestion on Grand Trunk (GT) Road, the Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) has decided to carry out a drive against encroachers early next month.

Sources said the drive would be conducted in collaboration with the state government.

“The original GT Road was around 150 ft wide. It has now been reduced to 50 ft due to rampant encroachment,” said Basudeb Mukherjee, chief architect, HMC, on Wednesday.

“We feel flyovers at important intersections are the only option left to get rid of traffic snarls,” he added.

Mayor Gopal Mukherjee said he would ask the government to expedite the eviction drive.

According to the chief architect, over the years, racketeers have tampered with the records and bought land and houses illegally at throwaway prices.

The land map at HMC shows that 27 per cent of its total 52 sq km area has been earmarked for transportation.

“Unfortunately, the actual road space being used by vehicular traffic is only 3 per cent,” he said. Even that percentage remains unused due to illegal parking by auto-rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and other vehicles, the mayor pointed out.

The problem is compounded by faulty town planning. “The entire stretch from GT Road to Foreshore Road bears the stamp of British planning. This part can be compared to cities like Chandigarh. But, as you move inward from central Howrah, you will find areas like Shibpur, Fazirbazar, Sandhyabazar and Salkia, with architecture of medieval times,” Mukherjee added.

He suggested that all vehicles coming into Calcutta via Howrah should be diverted through Foreshore Road and the Kona Expressway.

Officials cite zig-zag roads, narrow lanes and open drains to indicate the faulty town planning in these areas. “The situation is aggravated by the road level, as the difference is around 10 feet,” said one of the officials.

Waterlogging will continue to dog the residents, particularly those who live between GT Road and central Howrah, as the slope is westward, the officials say. Houses along the Hooghly will be spared, as the road incline faces the river, and the standing water can flow into it.

   

 
 
WIFE PASSES ON LIFE-TAKING DISEASE 
 
 
BY A CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
In a reversal of roles in HIV infection, a marine engineer caught the virus through his wife. The result: he wants to desert her, fearing that their only child will be affected too.

Till a year ago, Suprakash (name changed) did not know that his wife, Madhurima (name changed), would be the cause of such pain and helplessness. He has now shifted from his Jorasanko residence, along with his son, leaving the wife to her own travails.

Sources said Madhurima had admitted during counselling sessions that she had physical relationships with other men while her husband was away at sea. After one such encounter, she started feeling unwell and consulted a doctor. Which is when the truth was out. However, the only glimmer of hope is that the couple’s child tested negative in the serological test.

“It has been a lucky escape for the child. We had conducted an Elisa test on him and the results were negative. Then the father requested the doctors to go for a Western Blot test, despite assurances from the physicians. The result confirmed that the child was not carrying the virus and he is healthy,” said a doctor, preferring anonymity.

Though Madhurima has begged for forgiveness, her husband is adamant about breaking off ties. “She betrayed my love and is to be blamed for my present condition,” he said. “I am on medication, but I know very well that death is at hand,” adds Suprakash. But he wonders who will look after the son in future. Suprakash’s parents are dead and he does not want to send his son to his in-laws.

“One ray of hope is that the prices of drugs have come down in the Budget and my friend in the UK tells me that scientists are close to finding a suitable drug to combat AIDS,” added the marine engineer.

Songs for life

Alarmed over the increase in HIV patients across the state, particularly in Calcutta, the State Aids Control Society, in collaboration with Sonata Foundation, will launch a music album to create an awareness on the disease.

The album will feature eight numbers, titled Songs for Life, sung by Manna Dey, Alka Yagnik, Abhijeet and others. Sources said the singers had shown keen interest in the project, following a request from the West Bengal AIDS Control Society.

The society has decided to distribute 200,000 cassettes across the state and at least 40,000 in and around Calcutta.

The authorities are also toying with the idea of coaching beggars to sing songs on AIDS inside train compartments. Traditional folk songs, such as Bhadu, Tusu, Baul, Bihu, Jhumur and others, will be given a re-dressing to help underline the awareness campaign. Singers like Suren Sarkar and Arjun Khyapa have been entrusted with the responsibility of teaching the beggars the songs at Swabhumi, off Salt Lake stadium.

   

 
 
NEW MINT NOTCHES UP GOLD 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 14: 
A shehnai recital will mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the Government Mint at Alipore, beginning March 19.

“The present building on the Alipore campus was inaugurated in 1952, after the Mint shifted from Strand Road,” said general manager L.R. Prasad Rao. The Strand Road Mint became operational in August 1829. Just before World War II, the government closed it down and decided to construct a new Mint at Alipore, on a Calcutta Port Trust plot of 78 bighas.

The Mint produces the highest defence and civilian awards, like the Paramvir Chakra, Sourya Chakra, Bharat Ratna, Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, besides currency of various denominations.

Rao, chief patron of the golden jubilee celebration committee, said commemorative medals of fine silver, plated with gold, will be distributed to all the 2,500 employees, including 32 officers.

On March 20, Union minister of state for finance Balasaheb V.K. Patil will release a souvenir to mark the celebrations.

Rao said the Mint has taken up modernisation programmes to produce 850 million coins every year. “In the late 1990s, the Mint would produce around 400 million coins. Now, we have decided to raise production,” he added.

   
 

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