Someplace else to park
Crackdown on sex test clinics
Mishra blames it on doctors
Question mark on quality mishti
The City Diary
Spotlight on fresh face of local films
Law school plan for child rights
Walk below a green umbrella
Wrong man, top post
Court nod for tannery effluent plant

 
 
SOMEPLACE ELSE TO PARK 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
Town planners, top cops and now, people’s representatives. Finding the idea of using the space underneath the Gariahat flyover for parking cars “preposterous”, an influential committee of legislators on Tuesday urged the civic authorities to drop their plans and seek alternative parking sites in the area.

Topping the suggestion list for sites are the abandoned Gariahat tram depot and the plot behind the Gariahat market. Sadhan Pande, chairman of the sub-committee on transport set up by the Assembly, said “the tram depot near Ballygunge Phari, spread across 15 bighas”, or “the large vacant site off the market” could be easily developed, instead of adding to the chaos at the Gariahat crossroad with a parking lot for 200 cars under the flyover.

“What he (mayor Subrata Mukherjee) wants to do here is unacceptable,” said Pande. “I am convening a joint meeting of the police, the Corporation, the state transport department, the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners, Senbo and the chief traffic planner to review the mayor’s proposal. He will be asked to look for alternative sites,” added the influential Trinamul Congress leader.

Pande said the government, which owns the tram depot land through the Calcutta Tramways Company, could be persuaded to invite private parties to develop the site on a commercial basis, so that a large parking plaza can be created as part of an office and shopping complex.

A Calcutta Tramways Company spokesperson admitted that the Gariahat tram depot, from which only trams on route nos. 25 and 26 ply now, will be rendered redundant by the flyover. “The depot occupies more than 15 bighas and is less than a kilometre from the Gariahat crossing and the flyover,” he said. It can easily be used as a parking lot, he said.

Another possible parking slot is the Corporation’s own four-bigha plot behind the Gariahat market, now overrun by hawkers and vendors.

Option number three, of course, is a Parkomat, said Pande. “It can be constructed on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis as a joint-venture project of the Corporation and the state transport department,” he added.

A parking lot under the flyover will add to the constant noise-and-air pollution in the area, Pande said. “A Parkomat will be environment-friendly and, therefore, just right for a congested area like Gariahat.”

Kajal Sengupta, chairman and managing director of Senbo, which executed the Gariahat flyover project, reacted positively to the Parkomat idea.

“An underground Parkomat-cum-shopping plaza is a definite possibility at the Ballygunge tram depot or on the plot behind Gariahat,” he said.

Sen, however, clarified that the proposal for converting the space under the flyover into a parking lot was yet to take concrete shape. “The Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners has not directed us to undertake necessary construction work for the proposed parking lot there,” he pointed out.

According to the Senbo chairman, the debate over the location of the parking lot should not undermine the fact that a parking lot is absolutely essential at Gariahat, the most commercial zone of south Calcutta. Four lakh people pass through the area daily, 15 per cent of them in cars, according to Senbo estimates.

Without proper traffic planning — and with a parking lot under it — the Gariahat flyover could well end up like the Burrabazar flyover — a nightmare for motorists and commuters alike. “The flyover’s only boon to north or south-bound traffic will be to give them one signal less,” said Pande.

“But that advantage, too, will be reduced to naught if there is a bottleneck at Gol Park or Ballygunge Phari,” warned the chairman of the Assembly’s sub-committee on transport.

   

 
 
CRACKDOWN ON SEX TEST CLINICS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
In a crackdown on clandestine pre-natal sex determination tests conducted by city-based nursing homes and diagnostic centres, the state health department on Tuesday conducted a series of raids and sealed 13 ultra-sonography (USG) machines. A nursing home belonging to a minister’s son was not spared either.

The Supreme Court had, about a year ago, directed in a landmark judgment that all nursing homes and diagnostic centres must get their USG machines registered with the health department and prominently display a notice declaring that “no sex determination tests” were carried out there.

Earlier this year, the health department received disturbing reports that several nursing homes and diagnostic centres in the heart of the city, fringe areas and the districts were ignoring the court directive and carrying out sex determination tests at a premium rate.

The department then prepared a list of errant nursing homes. The list included nursing homes and diagnostic centres which had not got their machines registered under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Act.

One such raid jointly conducted by the health department and the local police, as claimed by a senior health officer, took the team late on Monday night to a nursing home belonging to a state minister’s son. The officer did not disclose either the identity of the minister or his son. Two USG machines were sealed in Ekbalpore and one in Garden Reach.

   

 
 
MISHRA BLAMES IT ON DOCTORS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
Doctors in Calcutta and elsewhere on Tuesday came under a severe attack from health minister Suryakanta Mishra, who held them responsible for the pathetic state of healthcare across Bengal.

Shunning research and development, doctors were working towards building up private practice, as a result of which the ailing were not getting the attention they were paying for, the health minister said.

“They (doctors) appear to be more interested in clinical practice, rather than research work. The trend, undoubtedly, has affected healthcare in Bengal,” he said at a symposium on tropical diseases, organised by the West Bengal Academy of Science and Technology.

Citing the alarming rise of asymptomatic malaria cases in the state, the minister said only 25-30 per cent of this rare form of the disease was reported in Bengal, against 50 per cent in other states. That is not because doctors here are “better equipped”, but on account of the fact that “cases are either not being reported or they remain undiagnosed,” he stressed.

The Union health ministry had recently pulled up the state government for its failure to enforce a proper guideline and to stipulate ways for recording the exact number of cases of various diseases, including malaria, AIDS and cancer.

The minister appealed to experts who had emigrated to the West to return to the state and help the government solve healthcare problems here.

Commenting on the existing healthcare set-up in the state, Mishra said the government would not allow “private participation at the primary and secondary levels”. But it would do so at the tertiary level.

N.K. Ganguly, director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), admitted that pioneering institutions like the School of Tropical Medicine and the All-India Institute of Public Health and Hygiene have “lost their past glory”.

He felt poor infrastructure and lack of job security had prompted many eminent doctors, who had qualified from Calcutta, to leave the city. “But once a serious effort is made to improve the scenario, these pioneering institutions will regain their glory,” Ganguly added.

   

 
 
QUESTION MARK ON QUALITY MISHTI  
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
Three summers ago, Jadavpur University’s food technology department had issued a warning to Calcuttans: most of the mouth-watering Bengali sweets on sale were unfit for human consumption. The warning fell on deaf ears, as Calcuttans continued to tuck into their favourite mishti.

Now, the university has tied up with the state-controlled Agricultural and Processed Food Export Development Authority, the state commerce and industry department and the state food-processing department to undertake a series of schemes in a bid to force Calcuttans to steer clear of low-quality foodstuff.

The immediate cause of the new project: results of follow-up modules run by the JU food technology department, which revealed how ineffectual its three-year-old warning had turned out to be. Its ultimate aim: to encourage consumers to raise the demand for the production and sale of quality food products.

“Producers will realise the necessity to replace their faulty methods of manufacturing and preservation only if there is a strong demand from the consumers,” said Utpal Raychaudhuri, senior teacher and scientist of the university and a member of the research team. “We are surprised to find a large section of consumers continuing to buy such sweets, in spite of being warned by us that consumption of such food prepared and sold in unhygienic conditions can lead to serious health hazards,” he added.

But a suggestion to stop the use of synthetic colours has been accepted by more than a few mishti makers. The Bhim Nag group, for one. Bibhas Nag, spokesperson for the family, said: “We have started using natural colours prepared from extracts of rose, carrot and beetroot. There have been no complaints from customers.”

Jadavpur University has also decided to introduce a post-graduate diploma course on food quality and safety, covering the methodology of maintaining hygiene at the manufacturing stage, hazard-analysis vis-à-vis the consumer’s health, the importance of the use of natural colours and avoiding the use of other non-permissible raw material. The course is likely to be introduced from the new academic session in July.

The government is considering a move to make it compulsory for all makers of sweets, fast food and snacks to appoint at least one food technologist in each establishment. Camps and workshops for consumers and employees engaged in eateries are also being planned.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

State prod to punish Presidency imposter

The state government on Tuesday directed Presidency College to take disciplinary action against a student of the Hindi department who was found to have presented a forged marksheet to gain admission to the college two years ago. The college authorities on Tuesday held a meeting to discuss the findings of the police inquiry. The inquiry report which was submitted to the college on Monday established that Srishyam Jaiswal had been posing for over two years as Siddharth Shah, whose marksheet he had produced at the time of admission. “It is up to the college to decide what action can be taken against him,” said P.K. Ganguly, director of public instruction of the state.

12 held for gambling

Twelve persons were arrested from a hotel on Hazra Road on Tuesday afternoon. Police said the arrested men were gambling in a room. Police also recovered Rs 40,000 from them. The receptionist of the hotel, who allegedly helped the gamblers rent the room, was also picked up.

Hurt in collision

A 35-year-old man was injured in a collision between a Matador van and an auto rickshaw on Raja Manindra Road on Tuesday. Police said D.K. Chowdhury, the autorickshaw driver, was admitted to RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, where his condition was stated to be critical.

House burgled

Armed dacoits stormed the quarters of Calcutta Port Trust (CPT) early on Tuesday and decamped with cash and ornaments. It was the second incident of dacoity in the CPT quarters in the past one week. Two families were robbed last week when gangsters entered their rooms by cutting open the window nets. The goons, on Tuesday, entered the quarters of Ganga Mandal who stays with her three daughters. No arrest has so far been made.

Heads in Hawai

The CMC will remain ‘headless’ for 10 days from Wednesday as mayor Subrata Mukherjee and municipal commissioner Debasis Som will be in Hawai. Neither has delegated a representative to officiate in his absence.

Body in river

Police recovered the body of Bijan Dutta, 34, a resident of the Muchipara area, from the Hooghly river on Tuesday afternoon. Dutta was missing since Saturday.

Five injured

Five persons were injured when a car overturned on Ambedkar Bridge on the EM Bypass on Monday night. Thumbs Up TO calcutta municipal corporation for disbursing salaries of sweepers in cheques, giving them a chance to escape the clutches of moneylenders    

 
 
SPOTLIGHT ON FRESH FACE OF LOCAL FILMS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
“Studies of, and interest in Bengali cinema, stop with Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen. The past 25 years of regional film are largely ignored,” says Madhuja Mukherjee, lecturer of the department of film studies and mass communication of St Xavier’s College.

To put things in perspective and increase the interest of film students in contemporary Bengali cinema, the department has organised a three-day seminar on ‘Negotiating Current Trends in Bengali Cinema’, from April 2.

The meet will provide film industry professionals and academicians the chance to present their views on various aspects of contemporary Bengali cinema to students of Xavier’s.

The theme for the inaugural day was ‘Addressing the Popular’, with filmmakers Kollol Gangopadhyay and Tuhinava Mozumdar opening the talks, followed by a screening of Prabhat Roy’s Swet Patherer Thala.

In the post-lunch session, Father Gaston Roberge of the St Xavier’s film studies and videography department and Abhijit Roy of the Jadavpur University film studies department spoke on the day’s theme, moderated by filmmaker Ashok Viswanathan. Opening the discussion, Viswanathan commented on how even popular films can use innovation to present oft-repeated concepts with a fresh feel.

Using Beder Meye Jyotsna as an example of successful popular cinema, Father Roberge illustrated how the genre reaches out to the masses, with its roots in reality. “Popular films mean something to the people, even though they might not think about it,” he said.

Abhijit Roy spoke of the changing definitions of ‘popular’, in the contexts of satellite television, with particular reference to “MTV culture” and “news culture”. The day’s proceedings were concluded with a screening of Rituparno Ghosh’s Dahan.

Day Two will feature talks on “Auteur and Alternative Cinema”. Father Roberge’s introductory lecture will be followed by Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Uttara. The director himself is scheduled to take the mike after that, along with scholar Satyajit Chowdhury. A talk by Subha Das Mullick and Madhuja Mukherjee of St Xavier’s, will be moderated by Samik Bandopadhyay. Finally, a screening of Kahini, directed by Moloy Bhattacharya, is on the cards.

Technique and technology are to be the focus of the final day’s agenda. Film critic Subhadeep Roy Chowdhury and Barun Chattopadhyay will hold forth before Arghya Komol Mitra and Shirsho Roy take the stage, with Sunetra Ghatak as moderator.

   

 
 
LAW SCHOOL PLAN FOR CHILD RIGHTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) will develop a comprehensive action plan for implementation of the spirit of the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 in the state. This was announced on Tuesday by NUJS vice-chancellor Professor N.R. Madhava Menon during the valedictory session of a training programme on Juvenile Justice Administration.

“NUJS is keen to promote and protect the rights of children and project West Bengal as a child-friendly state. This programme is a first step to sensitise people about the spirit of the Parliament enactment,” said Menon at the programme attended by police officers, juvenile court magistrates and NGOs. A.K. Mathur, chief justice, Calcutta High Court, assured “full support” from the judiciary.

The three-day programme discussed the problems blocking child-right protection. Lack of data on children was a major impediment in drawing up plans for the protection of their rights, participants said.

   

 
 
WALK BELOW A GREEN UMBRELLA 
 
 
BY SANKAR SRIDHAR
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
Where there’s a cause, there’s an NGO. From sanitation to education, hygiene to environment, there are organisations involved in every aspect of social endeavour. But all in splendid isolation.

“With each working towards its specific goal, there is hardly any co-ordination and the results fall far below potential,” says Dr A.K Banerjee, chairman and trustee, WWF WBSO (World Wide Fund for Nature, West Bengal state office). To address this problem of divide and serve, Banerjee spearheaded a move to unify and integrate the effort.

CEMO, or Co-ordination for Eco-Movement, a brainchild of Banerjee, was formed last year to “take up cudgels and address environmental and related problems in a united manner”.

The umbrella organisation has as many as 200 NGOs, including the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers and Mission for Environment, working in the urban and rural areas and in collaboration with the forest department to find means of sustaining and developing the environment.

Now, having found its feet, CEMO is ready to take to the streets in a big way. On April 7, the umbrella organisation will bring out a rally, traversing various parts of the city and calling on all like-minded Calcuttans.

The focus will be on ‘no spitting, smoking or committing nuisance in public’, issues that have become an integral part of our lives, despite various forums of protest. “The saddest thing is that all of us know it is unlawful to do all this, but yet we don’t seem to care enough,” says Banerjee.

The rally will not just try to ‘educate’. “The emphasis will be on making participants realise the importance of keeping their immediate environment clean and setting an example for future generations,” says Shyamal De of Paribesh Chetana.

CEMO members, however, promise they will not limit their mission to ‘walks and talks’. “Our movement will not be restricted to taking out processions and arranging seminars. We aim to do what it takes to bring about a real difference in attitude and action,” they say.

All issues pertaining to the environment are inter-related and the objective of one NGO invariably coincides with another. According to Arjan Basu Roy of Nature Mates, the unifying role of CEMO has resulted in money and time being divided and the thrust being multiplied.

The CEMO board, comprising two representatives from city NGOs, four from rural areas, one from school-level nature clubs, will screen problems according to priorities with the help of a panel of experts ranging from legal advisers, researchers and academicians and formulate feasible solutions.

“This is for the first time that NGOs have come together in this fashion and we hope to set an example for other states to follow,” says Colonel S. Banerjee, state director, WWF.

The one problem area remains the flow of funds, or rather the lack of it. “We have succeeded in getting nothing more than words of encouragement and many excuses,” admits a disgruntled member of the fund-raising section.

But that has not stopped CEMO members from pooling together their meagre deposits and arranging for the rally, “our first step towards a distant goal,” says S.B. Roy, Mission for Environment.

   

 
 
WRONG MAN, TOP POST 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
An MA guiding Ph.D students? State-run SSKM Hospital holds the dubious distinction of achieving this improbable task.

An MD in general medicine has been appointed head of the state’s only post-doctoral gastro-enterology department, leading senior state health department officials to raise questions about the status of the students passing out of the department.

The official reason for the department taking recourse to the improbable act is the dearth of DMs (doctor of medicine, a post-doctoral degree) in gastro-enterology in Calcutta.

“As soon as we have enough DMs, we will appoint them to the post,” said state director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti.

The doctor in question is also one of the examiners in the DM examination, now being conducted by Calcutta University (CU). Controller of examinations O.S. Adhikari, however, pleaded ignorance about the controversy.

“I have not gone through the official complaint,” he said, but assured Metro that “appropriate action” would be taken after a probe.

All three teachers of the state’s only super-speciality gastro-enterology department — Prabir Banerjee, Abhijit Chaudhuri and G. Dhali — are DMs, say health department officials. “It’s true that this doctor does not possess a post-doctoral qualification in gastro-enterology, a pre-requisite for appointment to even a lecturer’s post, in this discipline,” one of them said.

The department’s official statement — that the doctor underwent two years’ training in the department — also should not stand scrutiny, as the training was undergone before the department came into being.

“The doctor took the training when gastro-enterology was only a separate unit within the department of medicine in SSKM Hospital,” an official said.

Notwithstanding these facts, the doctor in question has, besides becoming head of the department, also become the co-moderator, the paper-setter and the examiner of the DM exam, now being held on the university’s Alipore campus. The examination started on Tuesday and the last theory paper is scheduled for Thursday.

The university applied to the Medical Council of India (MCI) for a separate gastro-enterology department in 1990 and started a full-fledged wing in 1994, with D.N. Guha Majumdar as departmental head.

Interestingly, Guha Majumdar, too, did not have a DM but the MCI, taking into consideration his experience in the field, made an exception. The MCI directive, however, made it clear that it would not make an exception again.

Maiti said the government was constrained to overlook this particular case because of the dearth of DMs. “But more DMs are passing out now and we plan to absorb them into the department,” he added.

   

 
 
COURT NOD FOR TANNERY EFFLUENT PLANT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 2: 
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the West Bengal government the go-ahead to construct the common effluent treatment plant (CETP) for the Calcutta Leather Complex, coming up on the eastern fringes of Calcutta.

However, the court directed the state and the Union ministry of forests and environment to reimburse the cost, pegged at around Rs 8 crore, incurred on constructing the effluent transportation system.

The complex, under development for the past six years, will accommodate over 500 tanneries from the Topsia, Tangra and Tiljala belt. The tanneries were asked to shut down after the apex court’s deadline for relocation expired on February 28 this year.

Advocate-general Balai Roy told the apex court that efforts were on to clear building plans, submitted by tanners who had been allotted land in the complex. Following allegations of extortion and thefts in the area, the judges also directed the state government to set up a police station and a fire station for the complex. The Supreme Court will review the matter on July 24.

Strike call: Earlier, the agitated tanners were planning a rally to protest government apathy. “We have asked state industries minister Nirupam Sen to solve our crisis within seven days. If there is still no response, we will start our movement,” said Babu Dutta, general secretary of Calcutta Leather Tannery Workmen’s Union. The union plans to take part in the nationwide industrial strike on April 16. “About three lakh workers and petty traders of leather and allied industries will participate in the strike,” said Dutta.

   
 

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