Walk of woe, tale of trauma
Teen actor’s star trek ends with jail trip
May Day chemist strike
Twinkle toes take wing with Waheeda
The City Diary
Health check before disease strike
Twin pay draws campus sack
Mishra softens on docs with a cause
Fair guide to unfair practices
Fake job racket

Calcutta, April 10: 
Her walk began in a middle-class neighbourhood of Ahmedabad on December 17 last year. She is still walking alone, but in a corner of a cell in Presidency jail.

Meet Asha Sandhwani. A walk by herself — to come to terms with the death of her father, Gandhibhai Sandhwani — at the Krishnagar Society of Ahmedabad, has landed her in the Calcutta jail for “loitering on the streets and causing public disturbance”. In between, she took a train to Howrah, a detour by bus to Sealdah and then a short train journey to Khardah.

But there’s a ray of hope streaking in through the prison bars. Asha has been spotted by representatives of a city-based voluntary organisation, Keertika, and is now awaiting the arrival of her relatives from Gujarat to plead with the court for her release.

Asha’s ordeal dates back to December 17, 2001. According to Keertika’s lawyer Vikram Singh, she had “accidentally boarded the Ahmedabad Express” after leaving her residence.

“She told us that she was lost in a world of her own, with thoughts only of her father,” Singh said.

At Howrah station, Asha was lost and boarded a bus that took her to Sealdah. Hungry and tired, she bought some food with the money she was carrying in a purse before boarding a train that took her to Khardah.

She spent a night on Khardah railway platform. On December 20, residents of the area alerted the local police about a woman “who could neither speak Bengali nor Hindi, trying to find her home”.

An officer at Khardah police station said: “We picked her up from a house where she was seeking shelter.”

She was produced in the Barrackpore court the same evening and remanded in Barrackpore sub-jail, from where she was transferred to Presidency jail.

Three months later, Singh chanced upon her and started probing the case. He found from police and jail records that Asha was being held under Section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code for “aimlessly loitering and causing public disturbance”.

According to Shubhaneel Chatterjee of Keertika, the organisation got in touch with Bhushan Ojha, its representative in Gujarat, and managed to ascertain that Asha lived at the Krishnagar Society. Ojha contacted her family members and informed them about her predicament.

Keertika has now decided to petition Barrackpore court, seeking Asha’s release. Her brother will be arriving on Thursday and — if all ends well — take Asha back home.


Calcutta, April 10: 
It promised to be a kidnap drama starring a “national gang.” But it fizzled out as the teen actor, who had allegedly been abducted, was only doing a Jugal Hansraj, child star of Masoom fame and his idol.

Pradeep Sarkar, father of Pritam, 14, had on April 2 registered a complaint with the police to the effect that his son had been kidnapped. Actually, Pritam had landed up in Bilaspur railway police lock-up. Nine days later, on Wednesday morning, he was back in his modest East Jadavpur residence.

Pradeep tried his best to shield his son from the media. “We are happy that he is back,’’ was his standard reply to all queries.

Who kidnapped him? Where and how did they take him?

“I don’t know. Please… leave us alone,’’ said Pradeep Sarkar.

According to his complaint, Pritam was missing from April 2 evening. The Sarkars insisted that the boy had been kidnapped and that a “national gang” was behind it.

The Sarkar residence falls in chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Assembly constituency. A local youth was arrested on charges of being involved in the “kidnapping.”

But on Saturday, East Jadavpur police got a message from Bilaspur railway police to the effect that Pritam had been arrested on Mumbai Mail on charges of travelling ticketless.

He was kept overnight in custody and released. Bilaspur police said Pritam was with four friends and they had left for Calcutta. A police constable had left him at the home of his maternal uncle, Partha Mullick, at Dilda, in Maharashtra. Pritam told Bilaspur police: “I wanted to do a Jugal Hansraj.’’

Pritam’s maternal uncle called up the Sarkars and confirmed that the boy was with them.

On Wednesday, Pritam said: “I was taken in a car to Howrah. After that, I can’t recollect anything. I woke up in my maternal uncle’s house.” His father intervened the moment any attempt was made to grill him.

According to the additional superintendent of police, Rajesh Singh, Pritam, along with four friends, had planned a Mumbai trip on April 2. He was the only one without a ticket. The railway police caught them at Bilaspur railway station. Pritam was in custody. He was released the next morning as he was a minor.

Pritam’s friends returned to Calcutta on April 4. He left for his maternal uncle’s residence at Dilda after his release on April 4. He stayed with his uncle for a few days, before his father was informed, Singh said.


Calcutta, April 10: 
Medicine shops in Calcutta and the districts will remain closed for two days from May 1. Wholesalers, too, will down their shutters on those days.

The two-day strike marks the second phase of an agitation by chemists and druggists against the imposition of a turnover tax and a 10 per cent surcharge on sales tax in this year’s state budget.

In the first phase, the Bengal Chemists and Druggists Association had observed a strike on April 1, despite finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s request to call it off.

President of the association Bipin Mehta said on Wednesday that as during the earlier strike, arrangements will be made to ensure that a few shops near city and district hospitals remain open for emergencies on May 1 and May 2.

This is the first time of late that medicine shops will go on strike twice in quick succession. There are about 2,000 medicine shops in the city and 16,000 others elsewhere in the state.

“If our demand for rolling back the turnover tax and the sales tax surcharge in the medicine sector is not met, we will launch an indefinite agitation after the two-day strike,” warned Mehta.

Even though arrangements will be made for a handful of shops to remain open near major hospitals, it is uncertain if medicines will be available, as many wholesalers have stopped picking up stocks from manufacturers to avoid paying the turnover tax, said Mehta, himself a stockist.

“I doubt if the shops near hospitals will remain open. What is the use of keeping a shop open if there is no medicine?” said Mehta.

Association members feel that Asim Dasgupta was not giving due importance to their demand. “At the last meeting with Asimbabu on March 31, he assured us he would look into our problem. Since then, we have tried several times to seek an audience with him. But we were always told that he is busy,” claimed Mehta.

Mehta denied that owners of medicine shops had observed the strike on April 1, ignoring the finance minister’s request. “Actually, the request was made on the eve of the strike and it was not possible for us to inform our members in the far-flung areas about it. So we had no other alternative,” he explained.


Calcutta, April 10: 
For Garia girl Shilpi Baruri, Bharatanatyam has been her “oxygen” ever since she was put through the paces by Guru Thankamani Kutty and Kalamandalam Venkitt, at the age of three. She has performed far and wide ever since. Now, in her mid-20s, she is suddenly, “breathless with anticipation” about a “special function” this summer. And why wouldn’t she be? For, Shilpi will be sharing the spotlight with Waheeda Rehman, no less, at Sadler’ Wells, London, on July 6.

Till the arclights beckoned and Pyaasa and Guide happened, Waheeda was all set to conquer the stage with her Bharatanatyam moves. And now, the Hyderabadi girl, who blazed Bollywood before settling down in Bangalore, will be back on a Bharatanatyam stage — to introduce Shilpi and set the tone for the show. “I am keen to attend the function, since dancing remains my first love and Bharatanatyam still excites me,” Waheeda said over telephone on Wednesday.

While admitting that she knew little about Shilpi, the former screen queen, who won the prestigious Lachu Maharaj award for artistic contribution last year, said she was “happy to encourage young talent”. For Shilpi, who had shifted base to Chennai, where Padmashree Chitra Viswesaran trained her in the Thanjavur and Vazhuvur styles, the function under the aegis of The Academy of Performing Arts, organised by London-based impresario Iftikhar Ahmed, will be her biggest night.

“Waheedaji is a skilled danseuse. It will be an honour to be introduced by her and to perform before her,” said the dancer, who has been to Spain, Italy, Martinique Island, Barbados and Bangladesh.

For Waheeda, there is something more than the dance to look forward to — the screening of Abhijaan, Reshma aur Shera and Guide the same night. “All these films have dance sequences,” says Waheeda, who will interact with the London audience after the screening.



Two goons held for promoter murder

Two persons were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the murder of Mahesh Agarwal, a promoter. The accused, Dulal Hazra and Raja Dutta, were picked up by the city police from a hideout in the Thakurpukur area. Police said the youths were associates of Jishu, a Behala-based criminal. Agarwal was shot from point-blank range in his New Alipore office on Sunday. He succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday afternoon. Soumen Mitra, DC,DD, said it is still not clear whether the arrested persons were among the three assailants who opened fire on Agarwal. “But Dulal and Raja definitely played a role in Agarwal’s murder,” he added.

Metro suicide bid foiled

Passengers foiled a suicide bid by a 45-year-old woman by stopping her just as she was about to jump in front of a Tollygunge-bound train at Belgachhia Metro rail station on Wednesday. According to sources, Krishna Mitra, a resident of Shyampukur, boarded the train from Sovabazar and got off at Belgachhia. She waited for the next train and went close to the tracks when the train was pulling in. This roused the suspicion of other passengers who caught her when she tried to jump in front of the train. Her family members later were alerted and they took her back home.

Shanties gutted

Around 50 shanties were gutted in Baranagar, in north Calcutta, early on Wednesday. The fire broke out in the shanties on PWD Road and was brought under control after several hours. Eight fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the flames. The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained.

Fake shoes

Huge stocks of fake Bata shoes were recovered from four shops in B.C. Roy Market during a raid conducted by the enforcement department and Bata officials recently. Fake shoes, carrying Bata labels and priced much lower than the original ones, have flooded several city markets. For instance, shoes with Bata’s ‘Power’ logo are available for Rs 150, while the price of an original pair is Rs 500.

Santhali in syllabus

The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education will introduce Santhali as first language for tribal students from the next academic session. Board president Haraprasad Samaddar said on Wednesday that from now on they will not be required to take up Bengali as their first language.

Eurail booking

TCI, a travel and tour organisation, has appointed NCS Travels & Tours as its agent in West Bengal and Assam. NCS will provide a range of TCI products, including the issuing of Rail Europe (Eurail) passes and tickets. It will also book hotels worldwide through TCI’s Resotel System.

Body found

The body of a youth was found floating in a pond at Chatterjeehat in Howrah on Wednesday afternoon. Police said Biswajit Palla went missing since Tuesday afternoon. The body has been sent for post-mortem.    

Calcutta, April 10: 
A healthy body is the guest chamber for the soul, a sick body is a prison – Bacon.

Powered by the belief that prevention is better than cure, the Apollo Hospitals Group, which had “pioneered preventive healthcare” in the country years back, has now brought its customised health-check packages to Calcutta.

“We believe in touching people’s lives through positive health programmes, sophisticated treatment techniques, state-of-the-art technology and improved realms of service standards,” says Dr Prathap C. Reddy, chairman of the group.

AMRI Apollo Cliniq, the swank new one-stop diagnostic centre on Southern Avenue, which opened about a month back, is offering the “trusted Apollo brand” of medical investigation schemes in six tailor-made packages to “suit every profile”. These are the general health check, executive health check, heart check, whole body check, child health check and well woman check.

“People all over the world are realising the significance of preventive healthcare. In a developing country like ours, preventive medicare is particularly relevant, keeping in mind the high cost of curative medicine. So at the AMRI Apollo Cliniq, we have focused mainly on diagnostics,” says Jose Verghese, CEO, AMRI Apollo Hospitals.

The hospital has also shifted its ENT, ophthalmic and dental departments to the Southern Avenue centre. “With the space constraint we had in the main building in Dhakuria, it was virtually impossible to upgrade facilities at any of these departments. Now, a major thrust has been given to upgrade the eye and ENT departments,” says the CEO.

The centre is also equipped with an operation theatre with a four-bed day-care unit to carry out routine ENT and ophthalmic procedures. “At a later date, we are looking at doing minor gynaecological and orthopaedic surgeries too,” according to Verghese.

Outpatient consultation is also provided in general medicine, general surgery, gynaecology, paediatrics and endocrinology. The management is encouraging telephonic appointments “to avoid delay” and plans to keep medical records of each patient who registers for consultation or tests.

“The Cliniq will act like an annexe to the main hospital. We have the back-up of beds for critical patients and can also do referral cases in other areas,” feels Verghese. The centre intends to upload all diagnostic reports on the Internet in future.

The upgraded ENT department has nasal endoscopy with video monitoring, video fibre-optic laryngoscopy, an audio vestibular lab, OP microscopy and a free-field audio room, “the first of its kind in eastern India”. The sound-proof free-field room looks like a play arena for infants and is designed to check hearing impairment in kids in a set-up where they can “be themselves” and won’t feel intimidated.

The ENT unit also has brainstem-evoked response audiometry (Bera), the means to detect nerve deafness, tympanometry and a vertigo clinic with a balancing section. It can also carry out biopsies from nose, ear and throat without anaesthesia.

The ophthalmic clinic, besides routine eye-care, offers a set-up for glaucoma (diagnosis, screening, surgery and follow-up), phaco-surgeries, extra-capsular cataract surgery, surface-reconstruction surgeries, retinal detachment surgeries and other day-care procedures.

AMRI Apollo Cliniq is also introducing laser photo-coagulation using the Visulas 532S, “another first in eastern India”.


Calcutta, April 10: 
The Calcutta University (CU) Syndicate has suspended a senior assistant in its accounts department for reportedly drawing a salary from a cooperative society on Park Street, despite being on the university payroll.

The Syndicate, which met on March 19, suspended Rabin Rudra after being informed that he had been drawing salaries from both places. I.G. Ahmed, dean of the law faculty, has been asked to inquire into the incident and submit his report to the Syndicate at the earliest.

Vice-chancellor Ashis Kumar Banerjee said on Tuesday that the CU Act does not allow any employee of the university to draw a salary from other organisations as long as he is being paid by the university.

Sources said Rudra joined the university in 1977 as a junior assistant. He was posted at Ballygunge Science College and later transferred to the College Street campus.

“We heard that he had been hoodwinking the university for the past 18 years, but it was only recently that the authorities got hold of proof of his ‘double’ employment and initiated steps against him,” the sources added.

The university pointed out that Rudra had been drawing a salary on voucher to avoid detection. Sources added that the authorities were checking out on other employees as well.

The university had recently introduced a set of attendance rules, asking every employee to sign the register twice a day — at arrival and on departure.

Rudra’s case was detected after the implementation of the new rules. Senior university officials added that Rudra had influenced some employees, who helped him in signing proxy attendance.

Some other employees tipped off the university authorities.

Sources, however, said the incident is nothing new, since as many as five employees of the university were sacked in 1985 on similar charges.

Then vice-chancellor Santosh Bhattacharjee had terminated the services of the five on June 10, 1985, by using his special powers, under the Clause 9/6 of the Calcutta University Act.

The CPM-controlled employees’ union of the university had all but forced Bhattacharjee out of his office on the College Street campus, as all the five employees had been active members of the union.


Calcutta, April 10: 
Toning down his tirade against doctors indulging in private practice, state minister Suryakanta Mishra said the government would spare those with “a sense of social responsibility”.

“Though we have identified doctors who indulge in private practice for monetary gains, there are others who have a sense of responsibility and attend on poor patients. We must encourage such doctors,” Mishra said. He was inaugurating the out-patients department of neuro-surgery at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, in association with the Neuro Sciences Foundation of Bengal, on Wednesday. Finance minister Asim Dasgupta was also present.

Mishra said such units, in collaboration with the private sector, would come up in North Bengal Medical College, Bankura Sammilani Medical College and NRS Medical College.

According to Dasgupta, land will be offered to the Neuro Sciences Foundation, Bengal, at the Park Street-AJC Bose Road intersection. Allaying fears that the state had begun to privatise government hospitals, he said: “We are not going to privatise any government hospital. What we are doing is to invite private institutions to introduce modern facilities in these hospitals. To provide medicare to the poor, we need help from doctors with a sense of social responsibility,” he added.


Calcutta, April 10: 
Want to buy anything — from a television set, costing Rs 15,000, to a bottle of soft drink, priced at Rs 8, without worrying about being duped? Or would you prefer to see the stage set for a giant football that is all set to roll into the Guinness Book of World Records?

In case you are interested, there will be a common address — the portion of the Maidan opposite Birla Planetarium, where the state consumer affairs department is organising a Consumer Mela from April 12 to April 28.

The fair, say department officials, will have several first-time features for Calcuttans. But for the oft-duped tribe of buyers in the city, the fair will help them detect the lies underlining the seller’s assurances, officials add.

“We will show Calcuttans how they end up getting less petrol even when the meter gives them a correct reading,” said controller of legal meteorology A.K. Ray.

“We will also show them how they end up getting as little as 1.5 kg of rice, even when they are sure they have bought 2 kg,” he added.

The exhibition, he said, will tell consumers about the tricks of the trade of “magicians”, who dot the city in the guise of shopkeepers.

“Consumers will get to know how to spot at least those deficiencies which can be detected after easy verification,” consumer affairs department joint secretary Nesar Waris told Metro.

The sellers, who have lined up to get a stall at the fair to tell the consumer more about their products, include several heavyweights. From soft-drink manufacturers like Coke and Pepsi to electronic goods-manufacturers like Philips, from shoe-makers like Bata to audio companies like Universal Music, from dairy product-providers like Mother Dairy to infrastructure developers like Larsen & Toubro, there will be at least 150 stalls on the Maidan.

One of the biggest attractions is likely to be the Philips stall, where a 50-ft-diameter football, lit up at a cost of Rs 6 lakh, is vying for an entry into the Guinness as the biggest football ever made.


Asansol, April 10: 
CBI officials arrested Canada-based Firoz Khan from this colliery town last night on charges of being involved in a fake employment racket.

A CBI team, accompanied by district police officials, raided Khan’s house at Islampur under Asansol (south) police station area and arrested him. Khan had been residing in this house for the past few months.

CBI sources said Firoz, a greencard-holder in Canada, had a well-furnished office in a posh Delhi locality from where he used to operate his business.

“Firoz Khan has been arrested from Asansol for committing a cyber crime from which he amassed a few lakhs through his dealings over the Net. He was posing himself on the Internet as a representative of a German company and offering jobs in lieu of handsome amounts,” a CBI spokesman said.

Khan said Firoz, who was taken to Delhi today, would be produced before the court where the agency would demand for taking him in their custody for further interrogation.

“We think names and whereabouts of the other members of the racket will be found after interrogating Firoz,’’ he added.


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