Union backlash cripples Peerless Hospital
Crackdown nets armed quartet, drugs
Auto drivers’ clash hits traffic
Civic neglect sparks Howrah water crisis
Scorecard of canine cops
Mystery fever claims three
Slipper assault on headmaster
Divided challengers boost Left chances
5-yr-old rescued

Calcutta, May 25: 
At a time when the state government is trying to initiate reforms in the health sector, the ruling party’s labour union wing again hit where it hurts most.

Work was stalled for the better part of Saturday at Peerless Hospital after the authorities took action against five employees for “gross irregularities”.

Nearly 200 patients, including 14 in the hospital’s intensive care unit, had a trying time on Saturday when members of the Citu-affiliated union struck work and gheraoed the hospital executives for over six hours. They were demanding the reinstatement of five employees who were dismissed on May 13 on charges of “gross violation of rules”.

As the majority of the staff participated in a sit-in to press for their demand, patients were denied of “even the basic services”. “For over six hours, patients remained unattended. This is unthinkable in a hospital,” hospital chairman T.K. Chakra-borty said.

The management would write to health secretary Asim Barman informing him about the ordeal the patients had to face, Chakraborty said.

The gherao was lifted late in the evening at the intervention of senior Citu leaders. It was decided that representatives of the management and key South 24-Parganas CPM functionaries would meet on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

The hospital chairman said the management was ready for a dialogue with the agitating employees but would not budge from its stand on the dismissal of the five employees. He said the issue would not be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting. “After the belligerent association members laid a virtual siege on the hospital premises along with outsiders for over six hours, if we bow to pressure and withdraw the dismissal order, this will send a wrong signal to the entire hospital staff,” Chakraborty observed.

Deputy general manager, personnel, D.P. Dasgupta said all five employees were dismissed for letting a patient out of the hospital without a discharge certificate on March 9. “We have probed the allegation and found that the five employees — Subrata De, Smarajit Biswas, Malay Dutta, Shankar Narayan Dutta and Subhas Mukherjee — had taken out a girl patient without official permission, let alone a discharge certificate,” he said.

Undeterred by charges of causing hardship to patients, a Citu spokesperson said the hospital management had dismissed the five employees “autocratically”. “We will launch an intensive movement if the order is not withdrawn by Tuesday,” he warned.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Four dacoits, including the gang-leader, were rounded up from various hideouts at Ashokenagar, in North 24-Parganas, in a pre-dawn swoop on Saturday.

A huge consignment of arms and a packet of brown sugar were recovered from them. The ammunition contained revolvers, cartridges and a dozen bombs.

Acting on a tip-off, the Ashokenagar police picked up Mir Islam Mandal, allegedly the kingpin of the gang, from his Rajberia residence. “Mandal had been absconding for the past three months. We had information that he would return home on Friday night. A large contingent of policemen surrounded his house and arrested him,” said an official of Ashokenagar police station.

During interrogation, Mandal disclosed the names of three accomplices. Based on his information, police conducted raids in Swarupnagar and netted Fazer Ali, Badru Hassan and Zulfiquar Ali Mollah.

Police had been on the lookout for Hassan for a month-and-a-half for his alleged involvement in a murder. “Several cases of dacoity, snatching and extortion are also pending against him,” said a police officer.

Sources said Mandal and his accomplices had robbed a marriage party some two months ago. “The goons had also misbehaved with some women. However, none of them came forward to identify the miscreants,” said an official.

Mandal and his accomplices operated along the stretch between Naihati and Zirat and would usually rob vehicles, including tourist buses and private cars. Elaborating on the modus operandi of the gang, police said the goons would lay in wait behind roadside shrubs and throw stones as soon as a vehicle came within close range.

Sleuths said some members of the gang were still at large. “Raids will be carried out on Saturday night,” said an official.

Tiger attacks villager

A tiger of a circus bit off the left hand of a villager, Babulal Ali, at Bongaon, in North 24-Parganas, on Friday. Ali was taken to a local hospital. According to police, the incident occurred when the villagers surrounded the tiger’s cage and started disturbing it. The police did not register a case against the circus as the accident did not occur during a show. Forest department officials also gave a clean chit to the circus authorities on Saturday.

Road mishap: A 35-year-old unidentified man died after slipping from the footboard of a private bus on Old Court House Street on Saturday morning. He succumbed on his way to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Trouble broke out at Bansdroni, on Saturday, following a clash between rival auto-rickshaw drivers’ unions, bringing vehicular movement on NSC Bose Road to a halt.

Members of the Citu union, which controls over 700 of the 1,000 auto-rickshaws on the Garia-Tollygunge route, stopped “illegal” autos and pulled commuters out of the vehicles. Passengers had to look for other modes of transport to reach Tollygunge Metro station.

Soon after, a clash ensued with drivers affiliated to the Trinamul Congress union. The Trinamul faction blocked the road around 11 am near Bansdroni. A police picket was posted in the area to thwart further trouble.

Police said over the past few days, regular clashes had been reported from the area after the Citu union stopped around 300 auto-rickshaws from plying on the ground that they did not have permits. The 300-odd auto-rickshaw owners decided to join the Trinamul Congress union, claiming they had the necessary papers to ply on the Tollygunge-Garia route.

“These drivers have procured illegal permits,” said a Citu spokesman. On the other hand, the Trinamul union alleged that around 200 autos belonging to the Citu were unregistered.

The clash occurred at a time when the motor vehicles department and the city police are preparing for a crackdown on unauthorised autos from June 1.

Man stabbed: Sujit Halder, 26, was stabbed on Lock Gate Road, in New Alipore, on Saturday. Halder was admitted to M.R. Bangur Hospital. Police said an altercation had broken out between Halder and a friend.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Nearly 30 of the 50 wards in Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) are in the grip of a severe water crisis. The situation has forced people in Liluah and Belur to buy water at a premium. The worst hit are the added areas — Andul, Mourigram, Dasnagar, Ramrajatala and Tikiapara. In many areas, residents are not getting water for bathing and cleaning utensils.

Samar Singh, leader of the Opposition in the Howrah municipality, said on Saturday that the water crisis is “artificial” as civic authorities had not repaired the tubewells over the years.

The condition of the pumping stations, including the one at Padmapukur, the principal source of water supply to the town, is the worst.

“We had requested the authorities to repair the tubewells before summer but they did nothing,” Singh alleged. According to him, the situation will aggravate in the coming days if tubewells are not repaired on a war-footing. “Slipshod measures will not be of much help. The current board of the HMC has been in power for so long but it has ignored the basic necessities,” added Singh.

Residents alleged that water pressure had become very weak. “We are having to buy water and yet the Corporation is indifferent to our problems. When we complain, they assure us that they will look into our problems but no steps are taken. If the situation continues, we will launch an agitation,” said Indra Chakraborty, a resident of central Howrah.

Expressing concern over the problem, civic officials said the matter had been brought to the notice of the state government. “We need immediate funds to repair the defunct tubewells besides upgrading the age-old pumping station,” said Dilip Sen, deputy mayor, HMC.

Sen, however, pointed out that wastage of water was another reason behind the crisis. “Water overflows from roadside taps,” he said.

HMC commissioner Chanchal Bandopadhyay said: “We have already taken steps to resolve the crisis. The supply time has been extended. Leave of water supply department employees has been cancelled till June 30.”

The increasing number of highrises in the town has escalated the crisis since these draw water directly from the water supply points. “Yet the HMC does not pull them up,” said Somnath De, a resident of Shibpur.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Thumbs up: To Samrat, Alsation of the Latbagan West Bengal Police Dog Squad, who won the silver medal in a nationwide competition in 2000 and died on duty in end-April, 2002, after tracking down a dacoit.

Thumbs down: To Julie, Labrador of the Calcutta Police Dog Squad, who came last at the 1982 edition of the contest in Lucknow. That was the last time the city police sent a sniffer dog to a national competition.

The showings of the two members are representative of the performances of the squads to which they belong. The city police dog squad lags far behind their state police counterparts.

From 1993 to 2002, the state police dogs have notched up gold medals at the All India Police Duty Meet Competition.

Chief coach Satyanarayan Dey, who has been with the Latbagan dog squad since 1974, lists the achievements of his trainees. “Madonna, a Golden Retriever, is the pick of the lot. Her first achievement was the Beauty Queen title in 1993 at the Karnataka meet. She went on to top the championship thrice, in 1994, 1996 and 2000.” No less envious is the record of Sunny, a Golden Retriever, which scored a record 399 out of 400 to strike gold at the Jaipur meet in 2002.

The city police have nothing to show against the scorecard of its state police counterpart. “Sniffer dogs are not for dog-shows,” is all that officer-in-charge Subhas Mondal has to say.

Despite having a better infrastructure, the Calcutta Police stopped participating in the national meet in 1983. Officials of the city dog squad, on condition of anonymity, blame corruption in the department and the laid-back attitude of colleagues for the state of affairs. The dogs are neither well-trained nor cared for, they allege.

“Last year, a six-month-old Labrador fell ill a few days before the training session in Gwalior. But our superiors forced us to send her. The ailing dog was sent back mid-way with its training incomplete,” an official recalled.

While the government allocates Rs 950 every month, only about Rs 500 is actually spent on a dog, he alleged. Although practice sessions in the morning are mandatory to develop sensory perceptions, dogs in the city police are sent on duty right at the beginning of the day. Even their diet chart is not followed.

Another point where the state police score is selection of dogs. The city police buy dogs from private breeders while the state police breed their own dogs ensuring better pedigree.


May 25: 
Three persons have succumbed to a mysterious fever at Chakganesh village of Kharagpur Block II in Paschim Midnapore district over the past few days. At least 17 others have been afflicted and are undergoing treatment at various hospitals.

Kharagpur sub-divisional officer N.N. Dutta today confirmed that the first casualty was Lakshmi Nayek, 33, who suffered a bout of convulsion and collapsed on May 20 at Midnapore district hospital. She had been admitted after contracting a viral infection. Dilip Nayek, 23, and Kinkar Nayek, 26, met a similar end on May 22 and 23 respectively.

At least two others, including five-year-old Shankari Nayek, are undergoing treatment at the district hospital. “We are yet to ascertain the reason for the outbreak of such a viral disease. But efforts are on to identify the killer virus,” Dutta said.

Villagers in the Kharagpur area are jittery as eight more persons were admitted to hospital during the day.

A medical team, including pathologists, is believed to have reached the area to probe the cause of the disease in the tribal belt. District medical chief Manogobinda Mondol said a team of officials, including the additional director of health service, will visit the place tomorrow.

“We are having a tough time as the malarial parasite has undergone mutation in the recent past. We are prescribing medicines for plasmodium falciparum, commonly known as malignant malaria,” he added. But some doctors believe it could be encephalitis.

Amitava Nandi, the head of the department of parasitology in Calcutta’s School of Tropical Medicine, said he was yet to be informed. Queried on the symptoms, Nandi said convulsion is associated with malaria, but clinical tests should be conducted to confirm the disease. He suspects it is either viral encephalitis or malignant malaria.


Nabagram (Murshidabad), May 25: 
An assistant teacher of Mobarakpur Primary School today assaulted the physically-challenged headmaster with slippers in front of 300 students after a row over attendance.

The students’ parents rushed to school, rescued the headmaster and forced the authorities to close the institution. Headmaster Kanti Marjit has lodged a complaint with the Nabagram police station.

Police said Ghairul began to beat Marjit when he refused to mark another teacher, Nur-e-Alam, absent. Eyewitnesses said as Marjit fell down, Alam kicked him, dragged him to a classroom and threatened him.

Gopal, a student, said both teachers often skipped school and forced the headmaster to mark them present. Marjit said in his complaint Ghairul wanted to sign the attendance register without taking classes.


Calcutta, May 25: 
Lack of unity among the mainline Opposition parties has enhanced the prospects of Left Front candidates in tomorrow’s municipal polls in Durgapur, Nalhati, Dhupguri, Coopers Camp and Panskura and byelections in three wards in Dum Dum.

Disunity is also riling the Left Front at some wards in Coopers Camp, Dhupguri and Nalhati, where the CPM is facing a stiff challenge from the RSP, Forward Bloc and the Marxist Forward Bloc candidates.

The Trinamul Congress has forged a poll alliance with the BJP at all the municipalities except Panskura, where it has entered into an unofficial seat adjustment with the Congress. Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee, who undertook a whirlwind poll campaign over the past few days, avoided Panskura as it might send wrong signals to Trinamul and BJP workers working together elsewhere.

At Panskura, Trinamul and the Congress are contesting in 11 and six wards respectively, while the BJP has put up candidates in 11 wards. CPI leader and former minister Omar Ali is the Left Front candidate from ward 16.

The contest at Nalhati, where 50 per cent of voters belong to the minority community, will be mainly confined to the Left Front and the Congress. The Marxist Forward Bloc, a minor Front partner has fielded candidates against the CPM in two wards.

Dhupguri is a Trinamul-BJP stronghold since the allies had won Dhupguri I and II gram panchayats, which were merged to form the municipality. The combine hopes to form the municipal board as the RSP and Forward Bloc have put up nominees against the CPM at some wards. The Kamtapuri People’s Party has also fielded three candidates.

Coopers Camp will witness triangular contests among the Left Front, Congress and the Trinamul-BJP combine. But the main contest will be between the CPM and the Congress.

Local Congress legislator Sankar Singh has been engaged in a simultaneous fight against the Marxists and Trinamul to retain his party’s stronghold. Left Front unity has also been affected in two wards, where the RSP and the CPI have put up candidates against each other.

The Marxists hope to retain Durgapur, which will also witness triangular contests. The Congress has put up nominees in 42 out of 43 wards, both against the Left Front and the Trinamul-BJP combine.

The Dum Dum municipality will have byelections in three wards — 8, 10 and 11. Wards 8 and 11 have gone unrepresented since the death of chairman Sailen Das and vice-chairman Asit Das Sharma.


Burdwan, May 25: 
The Manteswar police today arrested two kidnappers and rescued a minor boy from Kusumgram in Burdwan district.

A gang of four had abducted five-year-old Rahul, son of local trader Golam Rasul Mandal, from Bilbari village under Memari police station on Thursday. The miscreants called Golam yesterday and demanded a ransom of Rs 20,000 to be paid at Kusumgram.

Golam contacted the Memari police after receiving the call. Policemen in mufti accompanied Golam to Dakbungalow More in Kusumgram, the appointed spot for the rendezvous, said Samser Ali, inspector-in-charge of Manteswar police station.

But the kidnappers sensed trouble and did not turn up. Later, police detained Samsul Haque, a resident of Sahajadpur under Manteswar police station. During interrogation he revealed that the boy was being held in Kulut village, 4 km from Kusumgram.

A large police contingent raided the hut in Kulut and rescued the boy. Hanif Mohammad, who was guarding the hut, was arrested.


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