Doctors choke on reforms pill
A stick to fight terror strike
Bengali rhyme, dollar reason
JU disbands professor post panels
The City Diary
Free run stumps sleuths
Civic prod for bourse plot
Private thrust to TB drive
Spot check for vernacular scripts
Mamata hits Cong with poacher slur

 
 
DOCTORS CHOKE ON REFORMS PILL 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDER
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
Congested and claustrophobic, dark and dingy, brusque attendants and confused compounders... The doctors’ chamber, as you have known it, may cease to exist if a new set of rules being piloted by the government comes into effect. It has, however, run into resistance from the medical fraternity.

The reforms package includes air-conditioners even in the neighbourhood general physician’s chambers, separate toilets for men and women, and qualified nurses instead of untrained compounders .

But the dose, not surprisingly, is proving a bitter one for doctors to swallow. The Indian Medical Association (Bengal branch) has asked the medical fraternity to “disregard” the new rules brought in by the amendments this January to the Clinical Establishment Rules, 2001. Medical practitioners have been urged to desist from registering themselves with the government till the revamp prescription is discussed in detail.

“The government was finding it impossible to curb the mushrooming of nursing homes and polyclinics,” admitted joint director of health services B.R. Manna. “Our decision to enforce these rules will ensure that everyone, from the smallest general practitioner to the largest nursing home, maintains a minimum standard,” he added.

According to Manna, the makeover will “improve health services and make doctors, by and large, more accountable”.

The IMA (Bengal branch), however, has resisted the “arbitrary” diktat. “A nursing home in Purulia charges much less than one operating on Chowringhee Road. How can they be asked to pay the same fees?” demanded the organisation’s president, Subir Ganguly. He was referring to one of the rules bringing nursing-home licence fees in the rural areas at par with those in Calcutta.

Senior physician and former sheriff Abirlal Mukherjee, who has been a candidate of the ruling party in the Assembly elections, backed Ganguly’s argument. “I think they have brought in the new rules abruptly,” he said on Sunday. “Changes are welcome, but it is unfair to expect physicians like me — who have been treating patients for more than three decades now — to suddenly revamp our chambers.”

The new rules take immediate effect in case of fresh applications, but a two-year time-frame has been provided for practising doctors. Failing that, medical practitioners could face legal action, in the form of cancellation of their licences, monetary penalty and jail terms. The rules are likely to affect more than 1,500 medium to large doctors’ chambers and over 500 big and small nursing homes in Calcutta.

“If the specifications have to be followed, several renowned doctors, who have been practising for decades in small chambers, will have to close down their establishments,” IMA president Ganguly said. “We have received numerous complaints from our members.” The IMA will submit a mass deputation to every district’s chief medical officer of health on April 11.

The trade licence fees for private nursing homes and diagnostic centres have been hiked. Every nursing home must now cough up anything between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,500 as fees for every bed. Diagnostic centres will have to pay Rs 1,000 for every investigation gadget they instal.

“At the end of the day, it will be the patients who will have to pay for the hike,” observed urologist Deepak Mukherjee, owner of Microlap.

   

 
 
A STICK TO FIGHT TERROR STRIKE 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAZUMDAR
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
Four hundred policemen, with dhals and lathis, to protect one man — from the threat of a terror strike and from the enemy within.

A three-tier security ring was in place to ensure safe passage for Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Dueba and his wife at the Science City auditorium on Sunday. But strangely, none of the cops was armed. The reason: Someone in the top-brass of the Intelligence Branch had deemed it “too risky” to allow cops within striking distance of the visiting dignitary to carry arms.

“We are sitting ducks here. If intruders storm the place with AK-47s or other sophisticated weapons, there is nothing we can do to protect the VVIP,’’ said a senior police officer, drafted from Howrah for security duty on Sunday.

Only the South 24-Parganas superintendent of police, D.K. Ganguly, was allowed to carry arms, according to an order issued by the Intelligence Branch. Incidentally, Ganguly does not carry his service revolver. His security guard has one in the holster.

Neither the director of the state Intelligence Branch nor any other senior officer was willing to comment on such absurd security arrangements.

Ironically, after all the hype, Prime Minister Deuba decided to give the Science City function the slip. “The information that the Prime Minister had cancelled his visit came to the special control room at the Parama Investigation Centre around 2.45 pm, 15 minutes before he was scheduled to arrive there. His wife and relatives would be attending the programme, the message added,’’ said a deputy inspector-general of police.

But there was no move to scale down security and the entire drill was carried out, with no policeman being allowed into Science City without his identity card being checked and re-checked at every step. “It seems as if we trust our own force the least,’’ observed an inspector-general of the Intelligence Branch.

This was not the first time during Sunday’s special assignment that the security team was made to look stupid. On a visit to the Kalighat temple in the morning, Prime Minister Dueba even chided a deputy commissioner of police.

Sources said the top cop had asked one of his officers to click him and the Prime Minister, just as the dignitary was about to leave the spot. A melee ensued and the policeman-turned-photographer slipped and fell while trying to jostle for a better freeze frame. This sparked chaos, prompting the Prime Minister to remark: “What is going on here?’’

No answer was forthcoming from an embarrassed force.

Police plea: State director-general of police D.C. Vajpai has urged youths to organise medical camps and social welfare activities with the help of the local police. He was speaking at the inauguration of Jyotsna, a free medical camp, in Behala.

   

 
 
BENGALI RHYME, DOLLAR REASON 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
Ikir-mikir-cham-chikir. Ghum parani mashi-pishi. Traditional Bengali rhymes in the US? If you want to make reason of that, ask Shishu Sahitya Samsad. The publishing agency, which has given every child a rhyme and a reason to smile, is now into selling dreams abroad.

From books that have educated and regaled generations of Bengalis — like Vidyasagar’s Barnaparichay, Jogen Sarkar’s Hasikhushi and Purnachandra Chakraborty’s Chhobite Ramayan — to more serious stuff, like critical essays on Tagore, the Samsad is now discovering that Bengali literature has a market abroad. There were one-off sales earlier, but a man called Nilotpal Bhattacharyya from Illinois changed the way the very-Bengali group looked at exports across the Atlantic, officers admitted.

“He came here to look for some books he had read as a child and, in the course of the conversation, revealed that he was taking back some books for his own and some other Bengali kids back ‘home’,” a Samsad officer said.

That transaction, say officers, opened the agency’s eyes to the demands of a growing market for Bengali children’s literature in the West, particularly in countries with a decent sprinkling of Bengali population.

Orders from Montreal and Toronto in Canada, some areas of the US and, of course, the UK, have come up recently, forcing the Samsad to look at this market differently.

Besides the ‘direct’ exports, ‘indirect’ exports are growing as well, say officers. “We have our agents in Delhi and Chennai and they have corroborated our findings,” they added.

Most of the Bengali children’s literature which goes abroad is headed for informal Bengali-teaching schools set up in large urban centres by first-generation, middle-aged Bengalis settled there, who now want their children to learn Bengali the way they did in their childhood in Calcutta, say Samsad officers.

The more sought-after titles include Chhobite Ramayan and Chhobite Mahabharat, compilations of the Chharaar Chhobi series, Barnaparichay (emerging as the non-resident Bengali’s favourite), abridged versions of the Jatakas and Panchatantra.

Export of serious literature, however, remains confined to libraries in institutes with departments for Oriental studies.

   

 
 
JU DISBANDS PROFESSOR POST PANELS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
Acting on a circular from the University Grants Commission (UGC), asking the government to implement stricter rules for promotion of readers to posts of professors, Jadavpur University (JU) has dissolved the selection committees it set up last year for recruitment of professors.

This has sparked resentment among the university’s teachers, who have demanded immediate withdrawal of the decision. The university decided to disband its selection committees at its executive council meeting last week.

The UGC circular, however, has put the state government in a fix, as teachers’ bodies of various universities have demanded it reject the proposal and continue with the old system of promoting readers to professors.

The teachers fear that the UGC proposal may result in a shortage of professors over the next few years. Very few candidates will be able to qualify for the posts if the proposed rules are implemented.

“The university will find it difficult to fill the vacant posts if the proposed rules are not withdrawn. This will ultimately affect the academic activities, including research work, at the university,” said Tarun Naskar, general secretary, Jadavpur University Teachers’ Association.

Naskar said that his organisation will take up the matter with the state government. It may also launch an agitation if the proposals are implemented.

According to Naskar, a clause in the proposed rule says a reader will qualify for a professorial post only if all three experts in the selection panels signal their approval. In the existing system, the approval of only two is enough.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

No Good Friday for house tax cell

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) tax collection section will remain open on March 25, 29 and 31 to help defaulters clear their dues under the civic body’s tax-waiver scheme, said a CMC press release. The note says the CMC will not extend the facility to tax-payers beyond March 31 under any circumstances.

Easter services for amity

Members of All-India Punjab Thinkers’ Forum will participate in the Easter services at St Paul’s Cathedral on March 31. The move has been initiated to strengthen unity among communities.

Spring festival

India Tourism and Indian Museum will jointly organise the 9th Vasant Utsav, a dance performance, on March 27 at the museum. Renowned dance troupes will perform.

Train timings

Railway Board chairman R.N. Malhotra met senior officers at South Eastern Railway’s Garden Reach headquarters on Sunday to discuss passenger security and punctuality of train services.    

 
 
FREE RUN STUMPS SLEUTHS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
The cops have lost their sleep, now that the crimelords are back. The detective department is concerned that at least 55 criminals, including 36 murderers convicted by the lower courts, are moving around after obtaining bail from the high court.

Citing examples, police said that criminals like Disco Sultan of Jorasanko, Babla Chakraborty of Tollygunge, Debu Ganguly of Park Street and Kala of Burtola were convicted by the lower courts in murder cases and sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven to 10 years. But all of them were released from jail on bail granted by high court.

Debabrata Ganguly, alias Debu, had been arrested by the detective department in 1989 from Park Street on murder charges. He was found guilty by Bankshal court and convicted in 1994. But he moved high court during his imprisonment and was granted bail.

“We know Debu is extorting money from businessmen and promoters in the Park Street and Park Circus areas. We contacted the businessmen, but told us to let them take care of their own safety,” said a detective department official.“No one lodged any complaints.”

The detective department has set up a special team to deal with these criminals. It will move the high court soon, with a plea for faster trial of all pending cases.

Detective department chief Soumen Mitra said: “The chargesheet framed by the homicide wing of the detective department is still believed to be the best among the other law-enforcing agencies. After being satisfied with the charges framed against the 36 murderers, the lower court convicted all of them. And we have enough evidence to prove them guilty before the high court.”

On condition of anonymity, an official of the department said: “People don’t want to understand the legal complications. They want to see the criminals punished.” According to officials of the homicide wing, criminals are moving around freely even after being convicted. That is enough encouragement for others to take to the path of crime.

   

 
 
CIVIC PROD FOR BOURSE PLOT 
 
 
BY ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is exerting pressure on the Calcutta Stock Exchange to start developing its plot off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

The 10-acre plot, close to the Park Circus connector, was given to the Exchange for construction of a financial hub. The bourse paid Rs 8.8 crore for it about seven years ago, but obtained possession of the plot a couple of years ago. The Exchange had to vacate part of the property — there were some illegal occupants living in 32 shanties on the plot — and obtain waiver of an injunction on transfer and registration of the plot.

P.K. Sarkar, executive director of the Exchange, recently met senior officials of the CMC and explained why the bourse has still not been able to develop the plot. “The Exchange has no money now, but we do intend to use the plot. There is no question of returning it,” said Sarkar.

Sources said the Exchange had told the CMC that it would be submitting a concrete development plan within the next 18 months. “The Exchange is worried that it may not be easy erecting and selling a financial hub in this city, but we are confident that something can be worked out,” clarified Sarkar.

The Exchange is upset that the CMC has still not completed mutation of the property. “Inspection for mutation took place just about a month ago,” complained an official.

The bourse had toyed with the idea of developing the plot on the lines of the Bandra-Kurla complex in Mumbai, but a cash crunch upset its grand plans.

“There is no doubt the property is valuable, but given the condition that only a financial hub can be built on it, viability is a question,” said a developer.

   

 
 
PRIVATE THRUST TO TB DRIVE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
More than six years after the revolutionary DOTS treatment for tuberculosis (TB) was introduced in the city, experts on Sunday said only 30 per cent of TB patients had been covered by the WHO-recommended programme.

At a refresher course for doctors, organised by the Bengal Tuberculosis Association and the Indian Medical Association (Calcutta branch) on World TB Day, a call was made to involve and include private practitioners into the programme.

Incentives will have to be provided to the private practitioners in the form of medicine and maintenance of records. A start is being made by CARE, an NGO, which will help bridge the gap between government and private doctors. It will work in two or three wards of the city and will even provide nutrition to some of the patients.

   

 
 
SPOT CHECK FOR VERNACULAR SCRIPTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
In a bid to expedite Madhyamik 2002 results, the board has decided to get the answer scripts of vernacular papers evaluated at a centralised venue in Salt Lake.

The results are due in June. The board’s new move is aimed at avoiding confusion over sending the answerscripts of vernacular papers to individual examiners. “For the first time, nearly 10,000 answer scripts in Urdu, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam would be evaluated by examiners in Salt Lake. This will help us complete the evaluation faster,” said Haraprasad Samaddar, president, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education.

However, the old system will prevail for scripts of English, Bengali, mathematics, history and geography. Examiners will be sent these papers at their homes.

   

 
 
MAMATA HITS CONG WITH POACHER SLUR 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, March 24: 
Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today charged the Congress with trying to “unethically” rope in some of her MLAs to get its nominee Arjun Sengupta elected, with barely 48 hours left for the Rajya Sabha elections.

“Desperate to sail through the Rajya Sabha polls, the state Congress is sending feelers to my MLAs, caring little about political ethics,” Mamata said.

A day after her return to Calcutta from Delhi, Mamata held a marathon meeting with her MLAs over dinner to ensure victory for party nominee Dinesh Trivedi in the elections, slated for Wednesday. But seven Trinamul MLAs were absent from the meeting.

Trinamul sources explained that while Manicktala MLA Paresh Pal was indisposed, six legislators from South 24 Parganas stayed away in view of “political trouble” there. Those who did not attend had informed the leadership in writing.

Before Mamata explained the single preference voting procedure in the Upper House, party MPs Sudip Bandopadhaya and Bikram Sarkar spoke at length on the party’s reservation about the anti-terror Bill.

Earlier, talking to reporters, Mamata dared the Congress to try to woo her MLAs. “I want to make it clear that Trinamul MLAs are not for purchasable commodities. I have faith in my MLAs and not a single one of them will go astray while casting their votes. Our nominee will get votes from all our 60 MLAs and there will be no second preference,” she said.

Mamata apprehends some “disgruntled” MLAs might vote for Congress nominee Arjun Sengupta. “I wonder how a party that does not have the requisite number of MLAs dares to put up a Rajya Sabha nominee. This is indicative of the party’s ‘immoral move’ to cash in on votes of our MLAs,” she alleged.

The Trinamul chief also criticised state Congress president Pranab Mukherjee for releasing the copy of the letter he had written to her, seeking her support for Sengupta.

“I have high regard for Pranabda. But why has he released the letter to the press before getting a reply from me. Did he discuss with me before putting up the nominee?” she asked.

The beleaguered state Congress appears confident of winning the Rajya Sabha polls. “We may not have the requisite number of MLAs, but our nominee, Arjun Sengupta, is a renowned economist and we are banking on conscience votes,” said PCC vice-president Pradip Bhattcharya.

Reacting to Mamata’s charge that the Congress was resorting to “unethical practices”, Bhattcharya said there was nothing wrong “if we appeal to the Trinamul Congress to vote for our nominee. The Trinamul has 60 MLAs and it requires only 49 votes to get its nominee elected. What’s the harm if we cash in on the excess votes from them? Mamata must agree with me that our main political adversary in Bengal is the ruling CPM.”

   
 

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