Blazing sun, still fans, dry taps
Hospitals on heat alert
Second term for Jadavpur varsity head
Doctors cleared in death case
The City Diary
State move on building rules revamp
Bullets fell crime crusader
Starve not that sweet tooth
Mayor road repair diktat
Teacher thrashed over tuition declaration

 
 
BLAZING SUN, STILL FANS, DRY TAPS 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, May 20: 

No rain clouds on Met office radar

A heat wave not experienced in the past two decades, power cuts that didn’t spare even the Calcutta Police and Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) headquarters, water taps that stayed dry. It was as bad as it could get for Calcutta on Monday.

And the going does not seem to be getting any better, at least for the next 48 hours. The weather office failed to catch any sign of rain clouds that would bring some respite to the scorched city.

With the mercury touching the 43-degree mark and taps running dry, the CMC tankers worked overtime. The CMC, which supplies around 250 tankers of water to areas like Golf Green, Southern Avenue, Tangra, Topsia, Kidderpore and Beleghata, had to despatch 350 trucks on Sunday.

“On Monday, we sent out 400 tankers, which can carry up to 1,200 litres of water,” member, mayor-in-council (water), Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, said.

Another service provider to the city, the CESC, and the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB), added to the Calcuttan’s woes. Even Lalbazar and the CMC headquarters on S.N. Banerjee Road had to go without lights — and, more importantly, fans and air-conditioners — for some time during the day.

Parts of Lalbazar suffered a two-hour power cut and the CMC headquarters had to go without power for three 15-minute stretches.

The central business district, BBD Bag and its adjoining areas suffered prolonged power cuts on Monday afternoon after a CESC transformer on Hare Street developed a snag around 2 pm. The transformer was repaired by 6 pm.

There were power cuts on Monday evening again, as the shortfall shot up to 40 mw. A CESC spokesman said fluctuation in the frequency and a shortfall in supply by the DVC led to the power cuts.

A fall-out of the power shortage was an agitation by residents of the CMC quarters on Judges’ Court Road. Denied power for 14 hours at a stretch — and water too, as the pumps wouldn’t work — residents hit the streets and demonstrated.

Calcuttans who could afford to stay indoors did. Central Avenue and other thoroughfares were deserted and, towards the afternoon, the traffic wore a Sunday look.

Policemen, especially the 4,000-odd on traffic duty, bore the brunt of the heat. Twenty-one constables at various busy intersections fell ill, said officials of the Lalbazar control room. They complained of nausea, following prolonged exposure to the sun.

A constable at Ballygunge Phari, on duty since 11 am, collapsed after four hours. “The doctor told me I was suffering from dehydration,” he later said.

The incident rang alarm bells at Lalbazar and forced deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh to consult a few physicians and form a guideline for his constables. “I have asked my department to send an instruction out to every traffic guard to ensure that policemen manning the streets drink a lot of water mixed with salt and sugar,” he said. “I have also asked them to stay inside the traffic booths, as far as possible, to avoid the direct rays of the sun,’’ he added.

Among Calcuttans who shelved travel plans due to the heat wave was author Mahasveta Devi. “I had to cancel a trip to Burdwan because I did not want to venture out... I have heard that a young boy died of heat stroke in Baruipur on Sunday. And I’m not sure how the people of Purulia, where I work, are coping.”

   

 
 
HOSPITALS ON HEAT ALERT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
With the mercury soaring in the city and its peripheries like never before in the past 22 years, many Calcuttans fell ill on Monday and had to be hospitalised.

Seventy-three people from the city and adjoining districts were admitted to Beleghata’s Infectious Diseases Hospital on Monday — most falling victim to acute dehydration and heat stroke. A hospital spokesman said many of them were responding to medication, but with the heat wave likely to continue for some more days, they were getting ready to accommodate more patients. “Many people could not withstand the unbearable heat. Some simply collapsed on the road,” he said.

Other hospitals, like NRS and Calcutta Medical College, too, were admitting heat stroke patients. “Unlike other days, when we get only accident cases in the emergency wing, today and yesterday, there were at least a dozen cases where people fell ill due to the scorching heat,” said a doctor attending on patients at NRS Hospital.

The situation at SSKM Hospital was the same, with the authorities advising people to keep Oral Rehydration Solution at hand. Doctors advised outdoor patients on ways to keep the heat at bay. “We are asking them to take extra precautions, like keeping their faces covered while venturing out in the sun,” said a doctor at the hospital.

The intense heat over the past week has caused a severe water scarcity in several areas of Calcutta. “Enteric diseases have struck wherever water is scarce. The worst hit are children and the aged, who are being treated at several hospitals,” said minister of state for health Pratyush Mukherjee at Writers’ Buildings on Monday.

The government has identified seven wards in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation areas hit by enteric diseases caused by acute scarcity of drinking water.

“Enteric diseases are on the rise in wards 71, 72 and 73 in the south, and wards 31, 32, 33 and 34 in the north of the city,” the minister said. The heat has caused an acute water scarcity and contamination in areas like Jadavpur, Topsia, Dhakuria, Bowbazar and Sealdah. This was confirmed by the minister. He added that the state health department and the CMC were working in tandem to control the situation.

“We are continuously coordinating our efforts to work out an immediate solution to the problem,” the minister added.

   

 
 
SECOND TERM FOR JADAVPUR VARSITY HEAD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
Ashok Nath Basu is set to become vice-chancellor of Jadavpur University (JU) for the second consecutive four-year term. Basu, head of the department of physics, took over as vice-chancellor on June 29, 1998, replacing Subodh Som.

Officials said on Monday that the university court had sent a panel of three names — Ashok Nath Basu, Manoj Mitra, dean of faculty of engineering and technology, JU, and Ajit Banik, chairman of West Bengal College Service Commission — to Governor Viren J. Shah, chancellor of the university, for approval.

Higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty said Shah was likely to take up the matter “after his return from Darjeeling” later this month.

That Basu may be retained as vice-chancellor became evident after he polled the highest number of votes when varsity court members met on May 14. According to sources, 56 of the 68 court members were present for the secret ballot to choose three candidates from Basu, Banik, Mitra and Nitrindranath Som, former dean of the engineering faculty. “The election was unavoidable, as only three names could be sent to the chancellor,” said registrar Rajat Banerjee.

Tarun Naskar, secretary of the JU Teachers’ Association, said Basu polled 22 votes, Banik 12, Mitra 12 and Som only seven. Naskar alleged that some court members had tried to pressure Som to withdraw from the fray before the election process started on May 14. Naskar said he will write to the chancellor about the “gross irregularities” in the election to the vice-chancellor’s post.

   

 
 
DOCTORS CLEARED IN DEATH CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
After a hearing spread over 10 sittings, the West Bengal Medical Council on Monday acquitted consultant in medicine Sukumar Mukherjee and two other specialists in the Anuradha Saha death case. The final hearing was held ex-parte, as Kunal Saha, who filed charges in 1999 against Mukherjee, consultant in medicine Abani Roy Chowdhury and consultant dermatologist Baidyanath Haldar, had to return to the US after a five-month stay in the city. His legal representative, Pijush Dutta, could not attend after falling ill around noon.

Both Saha and Dutta had sought deferment of Monday’s hearings, but the council did not accept this. The majority of the members of the council felt the charges levied against the doctors “could not be substantiated”. The delay in holding the hearings and arriving at a ruling had prompted Saha to move Calcutta High Court, which had directed the council to complete the proceedings by June.

Speaking from the US over telephone, Saha said he would move the high court in an appeal against Monday’s ruling. He said he was “surprised” that the two other doctors had also been acquitted without any hearings conducted in which they were present. “All the hearings have been in connection with the charges against Mukherjee. At no point did I know that the charges against Roy Chowdhury and Haldar were being dealt with at the same time. We had no chance to cross-examine them.”

Anuradha had fallen ill during a visit to Calcutta in May 1998. She had been treated by Mukherjee, who advised her admission to AMRI Hospital when her condition deteriorated. Mukherjee had to leave the country and asked Roy Chowdhury and Haldar to examine the patient. With no improvement taking place, Saha decided to shift his wife to Mumbai’s Breach Candy Hospital. Anuradha died there on May 28, 1998.

The NRI doctor then filed a complaint with the WB Medical Council, alleging that negligence on the part of Mukherjee, Roy Chowdhury and Haldar had led to her death. A little under four years later, the council ruled that all three doctors were innocent.

The US-based doctor had also filed a case at the sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s court at Alipore. After several hearings and cross-examination of witnesses between January and April, the judgment is scheduled to be announced on May 22.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

CalTel rings in new payment schemes

Calcutta Telephones has streamlined its billing system. Consolidated telephone bills will be offered to customers with more than one telephone connection, chief general manager S.P. Chakravarty said on Monday. Telecom department sources said there are eight lakh such customers among the Calcutta Telephones’ total subscription base of 13 lakh. Telecom officials have urged subscribers to avail of the electronic bill clearing system. “The response to the scheme has been very poor,’’ the chief general manager said. Telecom authorities have also introduced the facility of receiving and paying telephone bills on the Net. “A subscriber can log on to our site www.calcuttatelephones.com and check his or her bill. Payment can be made on-line through billjunction.com,’’ Chakravarty added.

Govt fined in armsdrop case

Justice A.K. Ganguly of Calcutta High Court on Monday awarded a cost of Rs 1,700 to the Union government for not submitting an affidavit in time in the Purulia armsdrop case. The Union government will have to pay the amount to the Legal Aid Committee of the high court. The court, however, permitted the Union government to submit the affidavit within June 6, stating its stand in regard to the allegation of Peter Bleach, an accused in the case. Bleach had alleged that the Centre had discriminated against him by not allowing his mercy petition while releasing the five Latvians who were convicted and sentenced to life by the trial court with him. Bleach was brought to the court from jail amid tight security, on Monday. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed an affidavit before the court contending that the court should not hear the matter as the President had already disallowed Bleach’s mercy petition.

Tourism package

A tourism package tour, lasting 11 days and 10 nights, from Howrah to Hardwar, is being organised by Eastern Railway and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. A special coach will be attached to Upasana Express leaving Howrah on May 21 for this purpose. The coach will return from Hardwar on May 30. The places to be covered on the trip include Kedarnath, Badrinath, Mussourie and Rishikesh.

AIDS roadshow

The Kidderpore docks will play host to a roadshow on Tuesday to spread the message of safe sex. Population Services International (PSI), an NGO, has tied up with a city-based agency, Banglanatak.com, to target the area which is vulnerable to AIDS. A part of PSI’s programme targeting 12 ports around the country, the roadshow in Calcutta will be on till Friday, before moving on to the port township of Haldia. Skits will be staged to create awareness, Ranjan Sen of Banglanatak.com said.

Run over

A woman died and a boy was injured in separate accidents on Monday. An unidentified middle-aged woman was knocked down by a jeep on CGR Road, in the South Port police station area, on Monday. Police said the incident occurred when the victim was crossing the road. She succumbed to her injuries on way to SSKM Hospital. The driver was arrested and the vehicle impounded. A five-year-old boy, Mohammad Amin, was injured when he was hit by a private bus at the intersection of Mahatma Gandhi Road and Nil Madhab Street on Monday morning. The boy was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital where his condition was stated to be critical. The driver managed to flee with the vehicle.

Agartala flights

Alliance Air will operate additional flights on the Calcutta-Agartala route every Tuesday and Saturday, from May 21 to June 29. Flight CD-8241 will leave Calcutta at 3.15 pm and reach Agartala at 4.05 pm. The return flight CD-8242 will depart from Agartala at 4.35 pm to reach Calcutta at 5.25 pm.

Dacoits caught

Nine dacoits were arrested in Kamarhati early on Monday. Police said the miscreants were heading towards Calcutta in a Tata Sumo. The police caught them after a 10-minute chase along BT Road. Four revolvers and several rounds of ammunition were recovered from them.

Correction

The name of actor-director Dwijen Bandopadhyay was wrongly printed as Dwijen Mukhopadhyay in a picture caption in Monday’s Metro. The error is regretted.    

 
 
STATE MOVE ON BUILDING RULES REVAMP 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
The state government has decided to vacate an injunction on amendment of city building rules, imposing heavy restrictions in promoting “unsafe” buildings in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) area.

Due to the injunction, the CMC has to follow the old rules in sanctioning plans for construction of buildings. The state government, especially after Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee became chief minister, began to think it necessary to get a seal of approval by the high court in giving effect to the modification of the rules to stop “promoting unsafe buildings” in the city.

Advocate-general Balai Ray, standing counsel Indrajit Sengupta and additional government pleader (I) Tarun Roy have been engaged to fight the case. While the standing counsel will appear on behalf of the government, the advocate-general will clarify the need for a rule revamp.

On Monday, almost two years later, the matter came up for hearing before Justice Barin Ghosh. The court fixed May 21 for the next hearing. After the collapse of Shivalik apartment, on Lansdowne Road, in 1996, the state government had decided to impose curbs on construction of buildings in the city. A panel was formed to amend the building rules. As per its recommendations, the government changed certain rules and a gazette notification was made. Foreign experts also expressed their views on changing the rules.

   

 
 
BULLETS FELL CRIME CRUSADER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
A 25-year-old supporter of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) was shot dead at New Barrackpore, near Barasat, on Sunday for protesting an extortion racket by local miscreants.

The incident is similar to the one last Tuesday, in which the hand of a local youth was hacked off at Naihati because he had protested against “anti-social activities” in the area.

Sunday’s victim, Biswajit Das, was shot at point-blank range while he was on his way to a local club. Police detained a youth, Montu, with whom Das had reportedly left home.

The local CPM held a rally in the area on Monday to protest the killing and demanded immediate arrest of the culprits. They alleged that miscreants backed by the local Trinamul Congress had murdered Das.

Preliminary investigation by Ghola police station revealed that Das had picked a quarrel with local hoodlums, who were extorting money from shopkeepers at a newly-constructed market complex in the Paschim Masunda area.

Police said Das had left home on Sunday around 10 pm with Montu. “As they approached Kshudiram Sangha, two unidentified miscreants shot Das from behind. The bullets went through his skull,” said the police.

Sources said Montu ran from the spot and informed club members of the incident. The assailants, however, escaped before the police reached the spot.

Residents alleged that gangs of local goons had recently started harassing traders, who had opened shops in the nearby market complex. Over the past few weeks, Das had been protesting the harassment of the traders. He had even told the traders to unitedly fight the goons.

On Monday, residents blamed the police for the killing. “New Barrackpore has been a trouble-torn area for the past couple of years. We had submitted a memorandum to the police, but no action has been taken,” alleged a resident.

Montu was interrogated throughout Monday. “We have got specific leads that cannot be disclosed for the sake of investigation. We are expecting a breakthrough soon,” said an officer.

   

 
 
STARVE NOT THAT SWEET TOOTH 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
At an interactive session, organised by the Sunny Park Diabetic and Endocrine Centre a few months ago, a majority of the diabetics voiced a common wish — being able to eat “normally.”

“Once we are detected with Type II diabetes mellitus, we have to follow several restrictions in dietary habits,” complained one of the patients. “We have to watch our calorie intake, and if we eat in excess during one indulgent moment, we have to double the restrictions for the rest of the week. Why doesn’t someone come up with sugar-free chocolates or ice-creams, like they have abroad?”

The diabetic Bengali, however, needs lament no longer. For a section of the 30-million-strong tribe in the country, some companies are coming forward with a solution. Amul has already released its low-calorie ice-cream and, by the end of the year, a slimming centre chain will hit metros, including Calcutta, with its healthier reply to McDonalds. “We hope to introduce a low-calorie food chain by the year-end,” said Rachna, clinic manager, Vandana Luthra’s Slimming and Beauty Centre, in the city. “Our fare will include popular food items that people with high sugar levels crave but cannot have. There will be sweets, chocolates, ice-cream and an array of delicious items, all of which will have one thing in common —low calories.”

The clinic already provides a variety of snacks that its staff makes for its clients, including chaats, sandwiches, and even cakes and rosomalai. “All these items have low calories,” Rachna added.

The centre, which began operations in the city in 1999, has till today helped about 25,000 people lose weight, the clinic manager, says. “Besides obesity, a lot of people have realised the need to cut fat just to stay healthy,” she said. Samiya, an 18-year-old girl from Bangladesh, created a record at the centre recently when she lost 65 kg in 14 months. This is the greatest slim-down in the centre’s history. “When she joined, she weighed around 140 kg. During two spells of treatment, she lost 65 kg and plans to lose more,” said her mother.

The slimming chain plans to open two more clinics in the city in September, one at Alipore and the other at Kankurgachhi. It already has 40 centres in 23 cities. “The low-calorie food chain, in that aspect, should not be difficult to establish,” Rachna said.

With the diabetic population likely to touch the 57 million mark in 2020, such low-calorie food will become an essential part of life, feel experts.

   

 
 
MAYOR ROAD REPAIR DIKTAT 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
In view of the impending monsoon, mayor Subrata Mukherjee has decided to ask the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) and Reliance either to expedite restoration of the roads and pavements or stop work.

The two agencies are digging up roads in different parts of the city to construct flyovers and lay optical-fibre cables, respectively. While the agencies are trying to reason with the mayor, saying they will lose precious time if they are forced to stop work, member, mayor-in-council, roads, Anup Chatterjee, said the pavements and roads are likely to remain in a sorry state this monsoon. “I do not think it is possible to repair the roads by June 16,” he said.

Chatterjee held the mayor’s economic blockade on the roads department responsible for the sorry state of the pavements and roads. According to him, the agencies had damaged at least 100 km of roads and pavements in the city, for which they have promised to carry out the repairs as early as possible.

HRBC is presently carrying out contructions on AJC Bose Road, Park Street and Lockgate Road. “We will complete restoration by the first week of June,” said a spokesperson for the Reliance group on Sunday. He said Reliance had excavated about 80 km of footpaths to lay optical-fibre cables.

The next phase will be taken up before the Pujas. “We are carrying out the restoration as per Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) specifications. In the first phase, work has already started at Circus Avenue,” said HRBC vice-chairman Anil Krishna Pal.

“I know about the deplorable condition of the roads, but I am helpless. The mayor is interested with only build-operate-transfer (BOT) or turnkey projects of heavy investment. What can I do?” asked Chatterjee.

According to him, it was surprising that the mayor, who had announced that he had managed a fund of Rs 130 crore for water supply, could not cough up Rs 2 crore for road repairs. “The reason is not far to seek,” said Chatterjee. With about 400 km of roads needing immediate repairs, CMC’s two hot-mix plants at Palmer Bazaar and Goragachha — where road-repairing material like bitumen, stone and sand are mixed — are idle for the past two months because raw material is scarce.

Roads that require immediate attention are Strand Road, Strand Bank Road, Chittaranjan Avenue, James Long Sarani, S.N. Roy Road, Beleghata Main Raod, Narkeldanga Main Road, Belgachhia Road, Raja Subodh Mullick Road, BT Road and about a hundred peripheral roads, Chatterjee said.

   

 
 
TEACHER THRASHED OVER TUITION DECLARATION 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, May 20: 
The government’s move to get its teachers to sign a declaration that they would refrain from coaching students privately appears to have prompted the manhandling of a a high school teacher in Basirhat.

Jayanta Haldar, who teaches English at Bhabla High School, was thrashed by alleged activists of the CPM’s youth wing, the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), in Barasat last night. His fault: refusing to give a written submission, declaring that he was not engaged in private tuitions.

Officials said Haldar was treated for injuries at Barasat Hospital. He was accosted near Haritala More in Barasat, where he had shifted residence recently. Haldar used to live in Hasnabad before that. He was a member of the BJP-controlled panchayat there.

DYFI state secretary Tanmoy Bhattacharjee confirmed the incident but denied the involvement of any of its members in the attack on Haldar. Many teachers are yet to furnish such undertakings but no one had been beaten up on this count, Bhattacharjee said.

“He has been assaulted, but one cannot say that it was by our supporters and on the issue of private tuitions. One must not forget that Haldar is a political person and someone actively associated with the BJP. His partymates may have been involved in the assault…. Teachers elsewhere in the state are not being beaten up for not tendering undertakings,” the federation leader argued.

“Haldar could have been assaulted by local youths belonging to various parties for some reason other than private tuition. I was told that even Trinamul Congress activists were present when the teacher was assaulted,” he added.

The president of the DYFI’s North 24-Parganas unit, Pulak Kar, saved Haldar from the youths and escorted him to his residence, Bhattacharjee said.

Students’ Federation of India’s state leader Tarun Banerjee, too, washed his hands off the incident. No SFI activist was involved in the assault, he said.

Asked whether the students’ organisations had any plans to demonstrate in front of the house of those teachers who continued to coach students in private, Banerjee said: “No, I don’t think this is the proper time to organise such demonstrations. We feel this is not necessary at the moment. But we support the state government in it’s move to stop private tuitions.”

Reacting sharply to last night’s incident, Ratan Laskar, general secretary of the Secondary Teachers’ and Employees’ Association, said tonight that schools would remain closed in the Basirhat area to protest the “physical assault” on Halder.

The association members also submitted a memorandum to the district inspector of schools, demanding action against those involved.

Echoing Laskar, Kartic Saha, general secretary of the Bengal Primary Teachers’ Association, said CPM politburo member Biman Bose’s recent remarks about the teachers must have prompted the youths to assault the teacher.

Bose had recently said that several teachers were becoming members of clubs as they were financially well-off and that they did not need to teach in private for extra income.

   
 

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