Reform rein on relief racket
Chained to lightpost all day long
Youths handed shovels for jobs by agency
Fright flight: Dinos dress for day out
The City Diary
Facelift for the reigning Queen
A dozen odes, all for Dad
An eye for the cuppa
Buddha balm for IT school
Staff stake claim on campus site

 
 
REFORM REIN ON RELIEF RACKET 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
A lower-back pain took Anupama Bhatia of Ballygunge Place to a physiotherapy centre on Sarat Bose Road. After several weeks of “therapy” — at Rs 150 per sitting, Rs 1,500 for ultrasound and electrical stimulation rays, plus Rs 500 for yoga sessions — Anupama suffered a slipped disc and went rushing to a physical medicine specialist and rehabilitation expert. “When she came to me, she could barely walk. Now she is recuperating,” says Dr Kamal Sinha

Arati Mukherjee of Rishra thought she was on the road to recovery when, under the advice of veteran orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sunil Thakur, she started physiotherapy of her fingers, which she could hardly bend. A few days later, she was back at the former sheriff’s chamber with a bigger problem. “The patient returned to me with fractured fingers. The person who claimed to be a physiotherapist and treated her, has caused her great harm,” says Dr Thakur

Alarmed at the mushrooming of so-called physiotherapy centres around town, the government has decided to amend the Clinical Establishment Rules, 2001. According to the new rules, all practising physiotherapists must have proper training centres, equipped with the latest gadgets and special cubicles. All physiotherapists will have to obtain licences and certificates from government-recognised universities. “There is no other way of shutting the doors on over 1,000 “fake” physio centres in our city and its fringes,” said a senior state health department official. The government has recently announced plans to introduce physiotherapy courses in all medical colleges of the city.

“The very concept of physiotherapy has changed into physical medicine, covering occupational and rehabilitation therapy. I have sadly observed that more then 60 per cent of the city’s so-called physiotherapists have not had any basic training at all,” observes Dr Thakur.

Take the case of Abhijit Chatterjee (name changed on request). When he did not get through the entrance examination for the degree course in physiotherapy at SSKM Hospital two years ago, he went through several yoga books, before opening a “physiotherapy centre” at Ultadanga. A year-and-a-half later, he has opened a training centre for physiotherapy that offers a certificate for a six-month crash course at Rs 1,500 and is now chalking out expansion plans.

There are hundreds like Abhijit doing brisk business on the basis of a few books on massage and yoga. Soma Parui, a masseur from Naihati, doubles as a physiotherapist at Rs 150 per sitting, in many a north Calcutta home. She even carries a small ultrasound gadget to use on her ‘patients’.

The threat posed by the Abhijits and the Somas is not lost on Kakoli Seth, a physiotherapist with SSKM Hospital. “I have treated cases of slipped disc and upper motor neuron disease, where these fake physios have actually caused bodily harm to the patients,” says Seth, blaming the “appropriate authorities” for the mushrooming of such quick-fix physiotherapy centres.

No lure of ‘instant’ relief’ will bring Rita Ganguly back to such a centre again. This 55-year-old woman from Bhowanipore underwent physiotherapy-cum-yoga at an AJC Bose Road clinic this January. A month later, Ganguly suffered a slipped disc and is now being treated by Dr Kamal Sinha. “It’s absolutely essential to check the credentials of a physio,” warns Ganguly.

   

 
 
CHAINED TO LIGHTPOST ALL DAY LONG 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
He smashed a mirror. That was enough for him to be chained to a lamp-post all day.

A 40-year-old mentally deranged man, who had been chained and tied to a roadside lamp-post on Bidhan Sarani all of Monday, was rescued by Burtolla police late in the night.

Instead of arresting the cousin, who had chained Biswanath Singh, and left him with a plate of rice but no drinking water, the police let him off with a warning. They also handed the victim over to him.

Banibrata Basu, deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, said Dilip Singh, a resident of 76/1, Bidhan Sarani, left for work around 10 am. “Dilip and Biswanath live together. As there was no one at home to look after his cousin, Dilip tied his brother to a lamp-post and set off from home. The other end of the chain was tied round Biswanath’s right leg,” Basu said.

Biswanath and Dilip had left home in Bihar five years ago to settle down here. Biswanath’s mental condition started deteriorating in the past two months, after Dilip’s return from Mumbai, where he had been staying for the past three years.

According to neighbours, Dilip would lock up his brother before leaving for work. “But last Saturday, Biswanath smashed a mirror. So on Monday, Dilip chained his cousin on the footpath,” said a local resident.

Neighbours were alerted by Biswanath’s cries for help around noon. “It was so hot... He was struggling to free himself,” said local residents, who contacted Burtolla police station. The officials on duty, however, failed to respond, till a number of neighbours went over and forced the officials to accompany them to the spot. The chain was cut and Biswanath was taken to the police station, where he was handed over to Dilip at night.

DC headquarters Basu said: “We have told Dilip to get his cousin examined and, if necessary, put him into an asylum.”

   

 
 
YOUTHS HANDED SHOVELS FOR JOBS BY AGENCY 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
Park Street police is probing the functioning of a ‘shipping and management consultancy firm’, following allegations of cheating made by two brothers. They were taken to Mumbai for an ‘interview’ conducted on a road, and later to Pipava port, in Gujarat, to dig earth in the dead of night.

The brothers, Subrata and Debabrata Pal, have alleged that the firm took more than Rs 45,000 from them — Rs 39,000 against receipts, copies of which have been given to investigators — for training them and placing them at “ONGC/RIG”.

They received some training in Calcutta, the brothers acknowledged, but in Mumbai, all they got was an ‘informal interview’. And, in Gujarat, it was a night of digging earth at Pipava.

Their demand for a refund has been met with threats, they added.

The firm, which began as Tristar Shipping and Management and worked from a Kalighat office in 2000, is now based in Park Street. Its name is slightly altered — Star Shipping and Management. Its owner, A.K. Das Adhikari, denied the charges. “We arranged for jobs aboard a ship for the brothers in Mumbai after spending much more than we charged for their training in Calcutta,” he said. “They did not have the right attitude for a tough job. So they started making allegations. They received certificates for their ‘courses’. Is it possible to do all this without money?” he asked.

A Park Street police officer said Das Adhikari was asked to produce documents supporting his counter-claims.

The Pal brothers, according to receipts, paid Rs 24,000 in November 2000 “towards STCW courses and other services”. They then paid Rs 6,000 for a three-month welding course, for which they did not have a receipt. But investigators have another receipt, acknowledging payment of Rs 15,000 “for service charge towards placement at ONGC/RIG”, dated November 26, 2001.

They were taken to Mumbai in December last year, and put up in a hotel, before being taken to Pipava in the second week of January. On January 17, they were taken to the port after dark and made to dig earth. “We were told we would be paid Rs 2,000 a month,” they said.

After they protested, they were brought back to Mumbai. There they met about 10 youths, mostly Keralites. They said they had been “similarly duped by similarly-named placement consultants”. After an interview on the road in front of their hotel, the brothers returned to Calcutta on February 5.

   

 
 
FRIGHT FLIGHT: DINOS DRESS FOR DAY OUT 
 
 
BY SANKAR SRIDHAR
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
Science City will soon start exporting ‘terror’. After the “phenomenal success of the dino diorama” at the park on the EM Bypass, the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), the apex body under the ministry of culture, has requested the Science City authorities to despatch their dinosaurs far and wide.

So, come April, replicas of the Jurassic Park models that have emerged as the visitors’ fright favourites in Calcutta will be shipped out to the Regional Science Centres at Lucknow, Bhubaneswar and Tirupati, and the National Science Centre, Mumbai.

Science City had first set up a temporary exhibit of a few prehistoric reptiles in 1995, close on the heels of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, “to generate interest, educate and give visitors a feel of the Palaeolithic age”, recounts T.K. Ganguly, director, Science City.

The models were made at the NSCM work centres in Delhi and Mumbai. In September 2001, an ‘evolution park’, housing 71 models covering 46 species, was unveiled. “The park provides an insight into the process of evolution … People are clearly keen to catch a glimpse of this lost world,” says Dr Jilani, biologist and curator, Science City.

To provide “educative entertainment” to more people around the country, the NSCM has been toying with the idea of setting up similar exhibits elsewhere. Now, a set of 33 models — comprising 11 dinosaurs, 14 feet in height and 40 feet in length on an average, myriad amphibians and mammals — will be westward and southward bound. Made of imported fibre-reinforced plastic, with internal metal supports, the largest of the models will be shipped out in parts, to be assembled once they reach their destination.

“All the models are ‘smaller-to-scale’ replicas of the original beasts that once walked the earth,” says K.S. Murali, curator, Science City. It took months of research and design to come up with the final model list.

All the models have been given shape at Science City this time. The team, led by Ganguly, has been working overtime for the past seven months to meet the April deadline.

“We are hard-pressed for time, as we now have to send out an additional 11 models for the newly-set-up regional centre at Port Blair,” says the director. With 30 museums listed with the NSCM, this is “just the beginning” of the ‘export’ venture.

Though the expenses have crossed “a few million”, Ganguly feels it’s been worth it. “Such projects are enlightening and, at the same time, commercially viable. Also, it’s been quite some time since Calcutta showed the way to the other states… It feels good to break that monotony.”

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

15-kg gold seized from aircraft toilet

Customs officials recovered gold worth around Rs 75 lakh from the toilet of an aircraft at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on Tuesday. According to sources, ornaments weighing 15 kg were hidden inside the toilet of a Bangladesh Biman plane which arrived from Dhaka at 9 am. Two passengers were interrogated in this connection. Officials declined to give the value of the seized gold. Bullion traders, however, pegged it at over Rs 75 lakh. With this seizure, goods worth more than Rs 3.5 crore have been seized from the airport in the past year.

Army officer cremated

Captain Anirban Banerjee, who died fighting militants in the Kupwara sector, in Jammu and Kashmir, on Saturday, was cremated at the Keoratala burning ghat on Tuesday. Banerjee’s body was brought to the city by an Indian Airlines flight and first taken to his Salt Lake residence.

Holi security

Security will be tightened in the city for Doljatra on Thursday. Around 8,000 policemen will be deployed and at least 300 police pickets posted at important intersections. At a meeting held at Lalbazar on Tuesday, officials were asked to keep a close watch on trouble-prone areas.

SSKM protest

Around 250 members of the Special Attendant Joint Action Committee staged a demonstration in front of SSKM Hospital on Tuesday. Traffic was disrupted on Harish Mukherjee Road for over half an hour. No arrest has been made in this connection.

BDO manhandled

Dilip Sen, BDO of Kulpi, in South 24-Parganas, was allegedly manhandled by Trinamul Congress supporters on Tuesday. They also damaged office furniture. Later, a police force from Diamond Harbour intervened and brought the situation under control. “Trouble started after the Trinamul Congress won the no-confidence motion brought against the CPM at Chandi,” said sub-divisional officer of Diamond Harbour, Bharati Ghosh.

Neuro centre

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will sign a memorandum of understanding with UK-based neurologist R.P. Sengupta on Wednesday for the construction of a neuro-sciences centre in the city.

Murder attempt

Four people were arrested in Liluah, in Howrah, on charges of attempting to murder Kartik Panja, 20. The youth was playing with a friend at a local club when the four tried to kill him. Police said gang rivalry might have led to the attack.

Gas leak

Shoppers at New Market panicked on Tuesday when a pungent smell from the gully-pits and manholes in front of the civic headquarters filled the area. A leak was suspected in the gas pipeline. Later, fire brigade personnel and Taltala police officials restricted traffic movement in the area. The underground pipeline was sealed.    

 
 
FACELIFT FOR THE REIGNING QUEEN 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
While the restored panel of the dilapidated Metropolitan Building gathers dust, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), its landlord, is showing tender concern for another valuable property it owns.

This one is strategically positioned on Park Street. Queens Mansion is the first structure one notices on entering the street from Chowringhee. But years of neglect have turned the building into a shabby pile that makes the street look even more forlorn than it actually is.

Hopefully, by the end of 18 months, things will look up for the grand building and its tenants. It is being repaired. This is happening after two long decades and so tenants have reason enough to celebrate.

Scaffolding has been put up along its inner face. Brickwork lies exposed, as plaster has been removed from a good part of the walls. As in the case of the Metropolitan Building pilot project, Caltech India has been entrusted with the task of giving Queens Mansion a facelift.

The budget for renovating it is around Rs 50 lakh, but will that suffice for such a monumental task, though, for now, only the building’s outer face will be taken care of? Façade apart, bricks have dislodged from several sections and these need to be refixed. The plumbing is in a mess and much of this, too, will be replaced by the LIC.

The porch abutting Park Street, opposite Park Hotel, has become structurally weak and chunks of plaster often come loose, crashing down on the pavement, mercifully giving passersby a wide berth in most cases. Over the years, occupants have made extensive alterations in the building’s structure.

Thanks to the numerous restaurants on the ground floor, the sewerage system is perpetually clogged. Water seeps through the floors of bathrooms.

A boundary wall has been erected around the middle of the courtyard, where once there used to be a lawn with flower beds for the exclusive use of the residents. That had become, and still is, a haven for riff-raff. Now, instead of the ground, plants and saplings have struck root on the walls. And all this is happening right under the nose of senior LIC officers, including the zonal and regional managers, who live in that building. Though, in all fairness, it must be mentioned that most tenants pay a pittance and the illegal tenants pay nothing at all.

The famous Armenian merchant and sportsman J.C. Galstaun had constructed the neo-classical mansion at a cost of Rs 65 lakh. In the beginning it was called Galstaun Mansion, but ever since 1952, the year she ascended the British throne, the Queen has held sway. Queens Mansion has been identified as a heritage building, but that hardly entitles it to any special treatment.

The LIC itself had begun the task of giving the building a fresh lease of life. It had started repairing the innumerable balconies. This will facilitate the erection of scaffolding. The roof, too, has been mended.

Since cement mortar is detrimental to an old fabric, lime cement composite mortar is being used. However, if they went by the book, they would have used pure lime mortar. This would have ensured a longer life for the building. If the window shades have to be repaired, will they be replaced by wooden ones with louvres? We only hope so.

And in 18 months’ time she will be the reigning queen of Park Street once again.

   

 
 
A DOZEN ODES, ALL FOR DAD 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
The hills Satyajit Ray loved and the auction houses that reappeared time and again in his work. His old cameraman and his directorial assistant of yore. All of them have now teamed up with the maestro’s son, Sandip Ray, to prepare an ode to the man, who brought them together in an “experience” that could be read, seen, heard and, above all, felt.

Though the ode — a 12-episode serial that takes the name of one of his short stories (Eker Pithe Dui) — is scheduled to be telecast in September, a few months after his 81st birth anniversary, those involved in the project are sure the maestro wouldn’t have objected if he was alive.

“It’s a humble way of remembering him and his contributions to literature and cinema,” said Hirak Sen, the man who clicked Ray over the years and released a snapshot-biography last year on the lawns of Raj Bhavan.

Sandip Ray, busy on Monday on the second floor of a New Alipore building, agreed. “We are trying our best to put together a faithful collection of some of my father’s short stories, which do not involve any cerebral exercises by ace detective Feluda,” he said.

The 12-episode serial, however, does not feature the story Eker Pithe Dui. It has only borrowed its title. “The stories are diverse and part of a random selection, but all of them are excellent,” said the serial’s producer, Swapan Das, of Durga Films. “That’s why the name which, besides being instantly recognisable as a Ray work, somehow seems to suggest a doing away of order,” Das explained.

Sandip’s team comprises, apart from Hirak Sen, Ramesh Sen as assistant director and Ashok Bose as art director, both of whom were associated with many Ray projects.

Like most of Ray’s earlier films, the serial employs outdoor shots to the optimum level. More than 70 per cent of the project has been shot outdoors and Sandip expects to finish the schedule by end-April. Still, a patchwork remains to be done in north Bengal — Siliguri, Darjeeling and Kurseong — besides Bolpur, and viewers can watch out for some more breath-taking shots of the Kanchenjunga. “Some of the shots will feature the Mall in Darjeeling,” Das said.

There will be a fair sprinkling of Calcutta locales as well, say unit members. Besides, Ballygunge Place and New Alipore, a Gariahat jewellery shop, a garments outlet and the Russell Street auction-houses will be prominently shown in the serial, they add.

“Things have already been finalised with Doordarshan, which will telecast the serial,” Das added.

   

 
 
AN EYE FOR THE CUPPA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
A couple of cuppas a day can keep the doctor away, at least the cardiologist, the oncologist and now, the ophthalmic surgeon, too. Recent research findings, published in peer journals, have shown that drinking tea can slow down the onset and progress of eye cataracts.

The most widely consumed beverage after water, tea has several good aspects about it that few people know. Be it made from black or green leaves, Darjeeling, Orange Pekoe or any other variety, tea leaves have flavonoids or antioxidants, which are substances capable of neutralising free radicals in the body that lead to complicated and chronic diseases.

Explaining the new findings, P.R. Krishnaswamy, director of Manipal Hospital in Bangalore, said: “Experiments had been carried out by scientists at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad that provided evidence, confirming that antioxidants in tea, help relieve the oxidative stress in the eye lens.”

The scientists, including D. Balasubramanian, who was recently awarded the Padma Bhushan, have found that the aqueous extracts of green and black tea are able to counteract the “oxidative insult mounted by cigarette smoke.”

Vivo experiments on rats, injected with selenite to induce cataract, had shown that administration of green or black tea extracts had led to the retardation of the progression of lens opacity. The findings were published in Experimental Eye Research last year.

That tea consumption could reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and had a role in cancer prevention as well, had been established earlier, Krishnaswamy pointed out. He was in Calcutta on an exclusive lecture tour to “this tea-drinking city.” He said tea was a perfect supplement for a wholesome and balanced diet.

He, however, added a few words of caution. “It is advisable that tea for those above 45 should have less free sugar and milk. It is also advisable not to drink tea immediately after a vegetarian meal, as it affects the body’s capacity to absorb iron unless taken with a bit of Vitamin C, like lemon.”

Krishnaswamy said tea was not advisable for children below eight, especially if it killed their appetites.

“Tea should not substitute any item of nutrition for children.” Asked whether the caffeine content in tea could be harmful, the doctor said small amounts would balance an adult’s diet. “Anything in excess is bad,” he said.

Tea drinking is also harmful if it induces smoking. “The benefits from a cup of tea are more than negated if a person had a cigarette during or after drinking tea,” Krishnaswamy said.

A lot of people consider drinking tea a bad habit, mainly because of this potential that a cuppa had. “But two to three cups a day of impurity-free packed tea has definitely proved to be a health drink,” he added.

   

 
 
BUDDHA BALM FOR IT SCHOOL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
Tuesday was a big day for students of the Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT). A six-member delegation of the Salt Lake-based tech school, which called on state technical education minister Md Salim to discuss their problems, met chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings.

“He told us not to worry and assured that all our suggestions would be considered before decisions were taken on the future of the institute,” said one of the student representatives.

IIIT ran into problems recently, following a week-long class boycott by students to protest the “poor” state of academic and physical infrastructure at the state-promoted institute.

“But, after today’s meeting, we are convinced that the state government is serious about the institute. The chief minsiter has assured us that the government will try its best for a deemed university status for IIIT Calcutta” said a second-year student.

   

 
 
STAFF STAKE CLAIM ON CAMPUS SITE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, March 26: 
Another controversy is brewing at Calcutta University’s Rajabazar Science College, following a demand from the CPM-controlled employees’ union to set up a new section for maintenance of service-related records at the physics workshop.

The authorities are in a dilemma, as the site has already been claimed by the SFI-controlled students’ union for expansion of its placement cell. The teachers, too, have selected the same workshop for setting up a museum to display instruments used by eminent scientists of the university in the past.

The employees union’s demand follows a decision of the university authorities to set up a new section for monitoring the attendance registers, arrival and departure timings and leave positions from a centralised location on each of the campuses.

A few months ago, the students’ union submitted a proposal to the university to set up a modern conference hall, so that they could practise group discussions and mock interviews.

On the basis of the demand, the authorities had begun preparations for setting up the hall, but the teachers protested the move, since eminent scientists had conducted their research on the same site.

The authorities then dropped the idea of a conference hall and turned their attention towards constructing a museum, as demanded by the teachers.

Now the authorities are once again planning to reconsider the decision on the museum after the latest demand from the employees’ union. “We have not finalised our decision whether the workshop is going to be removed or not. But our decision to have the students’ placement cell at a separate site still stands,” said M.K. Sengupta, secretary of the science and technology faculty, overall in-charge of the campus.

Siddheswar Ghosal, leader of the CPM-controlled employees’ union, however, said the workshop is the best location for setting up the new section.

   
 

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