Role model mantle for China
Colleges get health umbrella
25 years in suspension
Burglary in Jadavpur
The City Diary
Entry tests scrapped at health institute
Salt Lake bus routes to be realigned
Teachers resent premium favour
PMO salve for Mamata settlers
Absence cloud on medical officers

Calcutta, May 5: 
An Assembly sub-committee, headed by a senior Opposition MLA, will ask the Left Front government to examine the possibility of replicating the Chinese model of urban development in the Calcutta context.

The panel, led by Atish Sinha, met last Friday and got a detailed report on the impressions recorded by another member and CPM legislator, Sudhansu Sil, during his eight-day visit to China, ending last week.

Sil, back from the trip that covered four commercial hot-spots of the politically-rigid but economically-flexible country, told senior government officers, including municipal affairs secretary R.K. Bandyopadhyay, the chief executive officers of the Calcutta Improvement Trust and the Howrah Improvement Trust and officers of the Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority, about his China experience.

“I will soon submit a detailed and written report on the features that have changed the face of some of China’s urban centres,” Sil said.

Simultaneously, Sil has been asked to submit a detailed report to state CPM secretary Anil Biswas. Another CPM MLA Rabin Deb, too, had visited China some years ago, but Sil’s visit has assumed much more importance at a time when the ‘New Left’ is trying to bring back urban centres within the government’s focus.

Sil’s visit took him to, besides Hongkong, Shenzhen, Gounzhau and Dongzong. The Chinese prescription, he admitted, will be difficult to follow here. “But why can’t we start thinking on similar lines and see which areas can be replicated?” he stressed.

The focus of the sub-committee’s upcoming report will be largely on four areas: communication infrastructure (roads), housing, new development and environment.

For roads, the sub-committee said it would highlight the heavy toll system in operation in all major highways. This helped remove the Chinese administration’s financial worries.

Next on the sub-committee’s wish-list will be certain factors which come into the picture whenever a development project starts taking shape. “If a four-lane road is being widened, every building — even five-storeyed ones — that comes in the way will be demolished,” it said.

Housing will be another sector where Calcutta would do well to replicate the Chinese formula, the Assembly sub-committee member on urban development said. “They concentrate on the aesthetics of construction, instead of squeezing out maximum space,” he said.

China’s management of its urban environment was another feature that caught the Jorabagan CPM MLA’s eye. The issues, Sil said, will be discussed threadbare in Left Front and CPM fora before being implemented.


Calcutta, May 5: 
A health university will be set up in the city soon as part of the government initiative to standardise assessment of medical students in Calcutta universities and those elsewhere in the state.

C.R. Maity, director of medical education, said on Sunday that the West Bengal Health University (WBHU) would govern all medical colleges and directly oversee the application of various forms of medicine, including homoeopathy, ayurveda and yunani.

“This is a unique concept and the basic idea of forming the new university is to bring all forms of medicine and the universities under a common umbrella. This will not only bring about uniformity in the system, but will also improve the quality of doctors passing the MBBS exams every year,” he said.

The new university will include paramedics like nursing and pharmacy. The proposed West Bengal Health University Bill will be placed in the Assembly next month.

The decision to set up a separate university was taken by the government after surveys conducted by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the state health department revealed that the quality of teaching and that of MBBS pass-outs varied from one university to another, despite being monitored by the Medical Council of India.

There are over 900 MBBS seats in medical colleges all over the state — under Calcutta University, Burdwan University and North Bengal University. Every year, around 750 MBBS students pass out of these universities and try their luck in various hospitals.

“Although they follow the Medical Council of India guidelines, the syllabus at these universities is a little different and so is the quality of teaching and the level of students. Therefore, a common umbrella is absolutely essential,” Maity added.

Officials of IMA’s Bengal branch, which first proposed the move to set up such a university a few years ago, feel it will lessen the workload of the universities to a large extent.

“Even the Bankura Medical College, which is so far away, is under the control of Calcutta University. It is very difficult for CU to monitor what’s happening in Bankura all the time,” said IMA Bengal branch president Subir Ganguly. The state health department is working overtime on the details of the Bill and the proposed umbrella university.

“We will take over some departments of the existing medical colleges and bring them under the new university. The employees will be automatically absorbed in the new university,” a state health department official said.


Calcutta, May 5: 
Thanks to an inquiry that has dragged till the time of his retirement and is yet to conclude, constable Sreenibash Das has remained under suspension for the past 25 years on a charge of stealing Rs 213.35 from a colleague.

Successive commandants of his battalion have failed to dispose of the case and submit the final report. Das will retire on June 30, 2002. The government cut Das’ salary by half and he was not considered for promotion during this period as he was “under suspension.’’ He did not even have to go to his second battalion office. Then, commandant B.K. Singh had asked him not to report for duty till the “disposal of the case.’’

According to additional director-general, armed police, Ranjit Mohanty, Das (constable number 553), of the second battalion of the state armed police at Barrackpore, had stolen the money from constable Mohan Singh of B-Coy on May 5, 1975, by breaking open Singh’s suitcase while he was dining in the battalion mess.

Singh later complained to then commandant P.K. Mukherjee, who ordered an inquiry. Senior officers of the second battalion found Das guilty of stealing money from Singh.

“But the inquiring officers could not gather enough evidence to prove that Das had stolen the money. Das had allegedly confessed to the officers that he had taken the money,’’ Mohanty said.

The officer conducting the probe recommended to the commandant that Das be let off with a warning. But Mukherjee, citing police rules and regulations, wrote in the notesheet that in departmental proceedings, “proof beyond doubt is not necessary.’’ He recommended on November 17, 1976, that officers submit a “final report and Das be dismissed from service.’’

Subsequently, Mukherjee was transferred and Das moved the high court against the order. The court passed an order in January 1978, directing the authorities not to take any action against Das till the final disposal of the case. Das was placed under suspension till then. Eleven successive commandants merely urged their subordinates to “expedite the probe and submit the final report,’’ till the current incumbent, M.A. Alam, took over.

The matter came to light while the DIG was making a routine inspection of battalion records in the middle of April. Mohanty said he has directed Alam to complete the probe and submit a final report. He has asked Alam to meet the advocate-general and seek his opinion.


Calcutta, May 5: 
Four armed men escaped with Rs 1.20 lakh from a house at Arabinda Nagar, in Jadavpur, on Saturday night. One person has been detained for the dacoity, in the Assembly constituency of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Around 8.30 pm on Saturday, the youths arrived in a taxi. They parked the vehicle a few metres away, and pressed the calling bell on the front door. As soon as the maid opened the door, they strode in and headed for the master bedroom.

House-owner Swapna Biswas, a car dealer, was threatened with revolvers and asked to open the almirah. The youths scooped out the cash and fled in the taxi before Biswas could raise an alarm.

Salil Bhattacharjee, officer-in-charge of Jadavpur police station, said it was a case of burglary and Biswas’ driver had been detained. The driver knew Biswas had withdrawn the money from a bank in the morning. He is being interrogated.



Imposter in net for meter fine demand

Mriganka Maity, a middle-aged man from Bagnan, in Howrah district, was arrested on Sunday evening in a cheating case. Maity would pose as a CESC inspector and visit those residences in the city where the owner of the electrical meter was dead. He would then ask the house-owners to cough up a ‘fine’ of Rs 2,660 or threaten them with disconnection of the power lines.

On Sunday, Maity turned up at a house in Mandeville Gardens and demanded a similar amount from Sunanda Dasgupta. Dasgupta, however, kept him waiting and called up CESC officials, who told her that the man was an imposter. A police team arrived soon and arrested Maity.

3 held, booty recovered

Three persons were arrested from South 24-Parganas and ornaments worth Rs 4 lakh were recovered from them. Officer-in-charge of Ballygunge police station Ashok Banerjee said a month ago, the men had stolen the ornaments from a businessman’s house on Ronald Row, where the three used to live.

Assessment team

Calcutta Khilafat Committee will send a fact-finding team to Telenipara, in the Chandernagore-Bhadreswar area, on May 11 to assess the situation following last month’s disturbance in the locality. Working president of the committee Javed Ahmed Khan said the team would also meet the Hooghly district administration officials.

Tagore CD

For the first time, Visva-Bharati will release a CD of orchestral interpretations of Rabindrasangeet, Visva-Veena, on May 9, on Rabindranath Tagore’s 141st birth anniversary, at Kala Mandir, said Prof S. Mandal, director, Visva-Bharati.

Eviction blockade

Residents of Bishnupur, on the city’s southern fringes, blocked roads on Sunday while an eviction drive was underway. Police said the eviction sought to make space for laying pipes for providing arsenic-free water to Baruipur. The blockade was lifted after police intervened.    

Calcutta, May 5: 
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in a bid to end corruption and infighting at the city-based National Institute of the Orthopaedically Handicapped (NIOH), has decided to scrap the yearly entrance tests to the Calcutta University-affiliated degree courses the institute offers.

The ministry has decided to hold the examinations with four other institutes — the National Institutes for Mentally Handicapped, Visually Impaired, Hearing Handicapped and Physically Handicapped — all based outside the city. Institute director Dr Ratnesh Kumar says the decision was taken to provide more opportunities to candidates of the Calcutta centre.

A candidate for a test in Calcutta will now be able to opt for a mentally-handicapped or hearing-impaired course if he fails to get through at NIOH. More than 3,500 students from 13 centres across the country, including Calcutta, will take the examination for courses in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and prosthetic and orthotics (engineering) at NIOH.

However, with allegations of candidates being enrolled by dubious means, along with serious charges against director Ratnesh Kumar in the last CAG report, it was learnt that Calcutta University is contemplating withdrawal of affiliation to the institute. Investigations revealed that it had failed to expand as it had promised while taking the affiliation in 1990.

The institute has also left several posts vacant (around 47). “These are ploys by the director to shift the headquarters from Calcutta to Lucknow, his home state. He has been charged with misusing funds in the last CAG report and is still continuing to do so,” alleged NIOH staff association general secretary Chitrabhanu Chakraborty.

The situation has come to such a pass that most patients are turned back. From 250 outdoor patients even a couple of years ago, the number has dwindled to only 45-50 a day. The original plan of providing training to doctors and school teachers has not taken off either.

A high-level probe is underway to find how Rs 1.8 lakh, from the Rehabilitation Council of India, was misused. The CAG report said the director had misused funds and forged travel bills.

Director Kumar, however, brushed aside the allegations. “There are people who do not work or allow others to. All personal allegations against me and the institute are false,” he said.


Calcutta, May 5: 
Flooded with complaints from some residents regarding uneven distribution of bus routes, the CPM-controlled Bidhannagar Municipality is working out a proposal on the realignment of bus routes in Salt Lake.

Officers said on Sunday that copies of the proposal will be submitted to bus syndicates. “A meeting of the transport sub-committee of Bidhannagar Municpality will be held next month, at which the proposal regarding the realignment of bus routes tops the agenda,” said Ashim Guha, chairman of the sub-committee.

Copies of the proposal will be sent to the Regional Transport Authority, CSTC, CTC and other private bus syndicates, Guha said. “If necessary, we will discuss the issue with state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty,” he added.

The proposal will be based on the existing survey data on the number of people who live along the routes.

There are approximately 48 bus routes originating from Bidhannagar. Most buses ply on the First Avenue, from Ultadanga to Tank number eight, via Kwality and Baisakhi. Some residents complain about the non-availability of buses for BBD Bag or Esplanade from Salt Lake.

Ashit Mukherjee, secretary of the FD Block Residents Association, said no BBD Bag or Esplanade-bound buses touch the block, creating a serious problem for commuters.

“There are about eight bus routes which touch the Fourth Avenue (the road from Karunamoyee down Central Park to Laboni, through FD Block), but none of them reach officepara,” Mukherjee said. There are not even enough taxis there to help commuters.

The authorities said though efforts were made in the past to divert some existing bus routes, a number of problems cropped up forcing them to drop the plan. “We held meetings with the managing director of CSTC and the chief operating manager of CTC,” Ashim Guha said.

“Each bus makes three trips every day. But if the routes are diverted, then they will have to cover about 12 km extra. This will reduce the number of trips. Simultaneously, their incentive will reduce, too. So a clash between the unions of government and CTC buses and the management became inevitable,” Guha said.

In the case of private buses, the problem is a bit different. “If they find a particular route not profitable enough, they will not be willing to operate buses on these,” he said. Now, the authorities are making another attempt at solving the problem.


Calcutta, May 5: 
Scenario I: A cash-strapped university asks all its departments not to spend more than 60 per cent of their budgetary allocations

Scenario II: The same university decides to pay Rs 500 to every employee’s group medical insurance policy, thereby becoming the first university in the state to pay a part of its employees’ insurance premium, without bothering to check whether the benefactors would like the largesse

Jadavpur University (JU), forced by its employees’ habit of drawing more from their Mediclaim policies than they pay as premium, has managed to bring together two apparently disparate circumstances and landed itself in the midst of a controversy that few in the executive council expected when they approved the never-before step.

Senior university officials who manage its finances say the insurance firm that covers JU employees’ medicare risks has hiked its premium by 2.3 times. They, however, do not blame the firm for doing so.

“To be fair to the firm, it had no choice,” one of the officials said. The 1,500-plus JU employees under the insurance umbrella paid over Rs 28 lakh as premium in the past two financial years but drew around Rs 42 lakh, according to the documents in possession of the university.

“It (the insurance firm), therefore, asked for a hike in the premium,” the official said. But there was no explanation forthcoming about the reason that led the university to pay a part of its employees’ insurance premium.

Officials only admitted that they got an “informal request” from the CPM-backed Jadavpur University Karmachari Samsad to bear a portion of the hefty hike in premium but added the university stand was not influenced by the Samsad’s pleas.

The university decision, however, has drawn fire from teachers. “The university finances are in such a sorry state that it has been forced to hike tuition fees,” an arts faculty teacher said. “But that has not stopped it from splurging Rs 8 lakh on an unexpected largesse,” she added. Though teachers have not yet been officially intimated of the university largesse, those who have come to know of the decision say they are going to oppose it.

“I have students who come from poor families, for whom even paying the tuition fees is a burden. How will I face them when they come to know that they are paying a part of my insurance premium?” one of her colleagues asked, explaining why he would ask the university to take back its largesse.

Other teachers say the university move is “highly unethical... We would not like the government to spend on our insurance policies at a time when it is apparently struggling to meet both ends of the higher education budget.”


Calcutta, May 5: 
PMO salve for Mamata settlers Minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, Vijay Goel, assured Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee that a rehabilitation package would be worked out for settlers, a day after they blocked eviction from along railway tracks at Ballygunge, Dhakuria and Gobindpur.

The Union minister, who discussed the issue with Mamata and Trinamul legislator Saugata Roy, said the problem should be solved by formulating a rehabilitation package worked out in consultation with the railway ministry and the state government.

“It should be seen whether there is a possibility of rehabilitating the poor people. Their problem should be solved by the railway ministry and the state government together,” said Goel, who met Mamata at her south Calcutta residence.

The minister, however, did not give any definite assurance that the PMO would intervene in the matter. Goel said he had visited the Trinamul leader’s house as a “matter of courtesy”, as he had come to the city to attend a programme.

“Mamata is an important member of the NDA and we also discussed how to make the coalition stronger,” he added.

Mamata said she briefed Goel about the railway and the state government’s move to evict settlers from the railway tracks along Ballygunge, Dhakuria and Lake Gardens. During her tenure as railway minister, she had organised rehabilitation of settlers evicted from along train tracks in Maharashtra and Delhi, she added.

The Trinamul leader charged the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led government with making her constituency a target.

“The eviction of nearly 30,000 settlers is part of the ruling party’s game-plan to upset my vote bank,” she said.

That the settlers who escaped eviction are grateful to Mamata was evident when a procession of a few hundred supporters, including women, marched to her house at 30B Harish Chatterjee Street chanting slogans in her favour.

Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Pankaj Banerjee said the settlers would not yield an inch without rehabilitation. “We are not against development, but we demand rehabilitation. Many of the settlers have been living there for the past 50 years and possess ration cards, voter identity cards and legitimate electricity connections,” he added.


Chinsurah, May 5: 
District magistrate Subrata Biswas has filed a written complaint with the state health department against the district’s chief medical officer of health and the Chinsurah Imambara hospital superintendent for attending work from Calcutta and not staying in the quarters allotted to them.

Residents of the area complain about the duo’s absence from the district during an emergency, Biswas said today. Doctors and other employees of district hospitals complain that they have to face wrath from patients’ relations because the two key health officials are not available, the district magistrate claimed.

“People are repeatedly complaining against these two officers. Though chief medical officer of health Abdul Mannan has been allotted a nice quarter at Chinsurah circuit house, he does not stay there. Mannan is supposed to stay here as the district chief medical officer,” Biswas observed.

The district magistrate also took strong exception to Chinsurah Imambara hospital superintendent Siddhartha Neogi not using his spacious quarters in the district. Like Mannan, he is also attending office from Calcutta despite several requests from patients, doctors and nurses of the Imambara hospital to use the quarters allotted to him in the hospital campus.

Mannan reaches office around 12 noon everyday from Calcutta by car and leaves around 4 pm, according to staff at his office. He also stays in Calcutta every weekend.


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