Doctor duo sentenced to imprisonment for death due to negligence
Straw tests response waters
Chilling message in chain blasts
Pervez throws military history at enemy might
Heat on big-borrower Bengal
BJP to gauge allies’ mood for President bout
Hepatitis B shots to be made mandatory
Weekend kickoff for postal rate hike
Goa stage set for first ballot battle on Gujarat
Calcutta Weather

Calcutta, May 29: 
A man’s battle for justice for his wife’s untimely death neared its end today when two doctors were sentenced to three months’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 3,000 each for negligence.

The leading Calcutta doctors, senior consultant in medicine Sukumar Mukherjee and senior consultant dermatologist Baidyanath Haldar, were held guilty of “negligent and inappropriate treatment” by the chief judicial magistrate of Alipore court, Ananda Raha.

A third, senior consultant in medicine Abani Roy Chowdhury, was acquitted for lack of evidence proving his involvement in the treatment of the patient, Anuradha Saha.

The doctors’ representatives said they would appeal the verdict. The two were granted bail of Rs 5,000 each.

The 148-page judgment comes four years and a day after Anuradha died at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after treatment at the AMRI hospital in Calcutta. In November 1998, her husband, Ohio-based doctor Kunal Saha, and his brother-in-law Moloy Ganguly initiated a criminal case, beginning a legal battle that shuttled from the lower court to the Supreme Court and back.

Saha said from the US that justice had prevailed for victims of medical malpractice. He would “move the higher court against Roy Chowdhury’s acquittal and the inadequate sentence” of the other two.

Reading out excerpts from the ruling to a packed courtroom, Raha said Mukherjee and Haldar had “prescribed long-acting corticosteroids (Depomedrol and Prednisolone) without studying thoroughly their probable effects and without following the treatment protocol of supportive therapy for the disease Anuradha was suffering from.

“These prescriptions and administration of the drugs by the two accused eventually caused Anuradha’s death. Such acts on their part are rash and negligent, which is punishable by up to two years in prison or fine or both under Section 304A IPC.

“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case and regard being had to the evidence produced by the parties… this court holds the accused responsible for causing the death of Anuradha Saha by their rash and negligent act of inappropriate treatment and lack of supportive therapy, not amounting to culpable homicide. Accordingly, they are found guilty.”

Keeping in mind the repercussions his ruling might have, the magistrate observed: “The tremendous fallout of a judgment of conviction on the two accused is sure to send a wrong signal to the medical fraternity. Its impact in all probability is likely to jolt it to its bone marrow. The present court is conscious of such an eventuality.”

Considering this, their age, experience and status, but also keeping in mind that a life had been lost, the magistrate sentenced the two doctors to “suffer rigorous imprisonment for three months and a fine of Rs 3,000, in default of which a further 20 days’ imprisonment”. The fine would be given as compensation to the Saha family.

“Today was not just a day of justice for Anuradha, it was so for millions of innocent victims of malpractice,” Saha said.

“I hope today is also the day of rethinking by doctors in India. It should mark the end of their rampant use of wrong medicine under the protection of the medical councils. Today is a day of celebration for so many who have come to People for Better Treatment (an organisation he has formed for victims of doctors’ negligence).”


New Delhi, May 29: 
British foreign secretary Jack Straw is understood to have conveyed to India that President Pervez Musharraf is serious about stopping infiltration and cross-border terrorism. If credible evidence of his doing what he has been saying emerges, Britain thinks India must make a gesture in reciprocation.

External affairs minister Jaswant Singh had said yesterday that if Pakistan acted on the assurances given, India would reciprocate the gesture. However, just one step — of stopping infiltration — may not be enough for India to respond.

Pakistan, New Delhi believes, would need to take a number of steps to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism it has built to pursue its Kashmir policy. More important, these steps would have to be permanent before India makes any gesture to Pakistan.

“We have to see a series of steps in the right direction and we have to see irreversibility,” a government official said. However, no thought has been given yet to how precisely India would respond if Pakistan indeed stopped infiltration.

But there are indications that even if Pakistan fell in line, an immediate demobilisation of the forces on the border is unlikely to take place. India has told Straw that it has been duped by Pakistan on several occasions in the past. It has, therefore, suggested that a credible verification of Musharraf’s assurances would be necessary.

Straw apparently agreed with the Indian desire for examining the evidence on the ground before responding.

However, unlike India’s lack of response to the Pakistan President’s January 12 speech, this time there is pressure from the Western countries for India to reciprocate in some manner after the first step taken by Pakistan. This, they suggest, would help lock Pakistan into a process.

India might, however, prefer to either wait till it sees “irreversibility” in the path Pakistan has embarked upon or make its response conditional on Pakistan taking further steps to abjure terrorism as a means of pushing its case on Kashmir.

Straw’s visit has made it amply clear that a firm line is emerging against terrorism internationally and that the basic message of the world to Pakistan is that terrorism is not acceptable in any form. It is also apparent that the UK, the US and India have the same agenda on terrorism. India believes that the general international impression today is that it is Pakistan which has caused the present crisis because it has not come clean on terrorism.

Indian officials see the firm line against terrorism in Straw saying: “UK stands four square with civilian governments all over the world, particularly India, on the subject of terrorism. There is only one definition of terrorism laid down by international law and by Resolution 1373 and it includes cross-border terrorism and this so-called freedom-fighting terrorism.”

Britain apparently has told Islamabad that it continues to be the focus of attention of the world community and that if it does not take a firm stand against terrorism, the helpful attitude of the West towards it after September 11 would have to be re-assessed. There is ample hint here, Indian officials believe, that Pakistan may have to forego the kind of economic assistance it got if it persisted in its involvement with terrorism.


Ahmedabad, May 29: 
Four crude bombs exploded in buses today, injuring 12 people, as Ahmedabad was settling down to life without violence.

But behind the innocuous numbers in a city that has seen a thousand deaths in two-and-a-half months of bloodshed lies a story that is causing jitters in the local administration with implications for New Delhi, too.

All four bombs went off simultaneously, in buses and in rush hour, around 10 am. There were eight more — stick bombs with timer devices — that were defused after being recovered, two from under the seats of buses at Kalupur terminus and six from public places in the same area around the railway station. And all were in nondescript tiffin boxes.

The explosions occurred in two buses in Vasna, one in Gokul and one on Geeta Mandir Road, all predominantly majority community areas.

“It appears that the bombs... are crudely made bombs and intended to create panic,” a police officer said. Such bombs had been used during the riots here.

No one has claimed responsibility for the blasts that shattered the 10-day-old peace in Ahmedabad. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the minority community blamed each other for the blasts.

Police suspect the explosions were planned. “Prima facie there seems that there is some planning to it,” K.K. Ojha, deputy commissioner of police, said.

Police commissioner K.R. Kaushik blamed “mischievous elements” for the blasts that he said were aimed at derailing the return to normality.

“Today’s incidents were not communal in nature. They were aimed at spreading panic. That was the conspiracy,” he said.

Kaushik said it was too early to talk about “conjectures” like “whether the blasts were part of a retaliatory move or carried out with external support”.

In the context of the riots against the minority community, fears have been expressed by the BJP government here and even by Central ministers that Pakistani intelligence agency ISI could instigate attacks.

Chief minister Narendra Modi’s administration, not as restrained with words as the police chief, described the explosions as “acts of terrorism”.

The blasts were “part of an anti-national conspiracy which had its origin in the inflammatory address of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Monday”, agriculture minister Purshottam Rupala and urban development minister I.K. Jadeja said after a Cabinet meeting.

Musharraf had blamed “Hindu terrorists” for carrying out “atrocities” in Gujarat and Kashmir.

The two ministers added that the blasts were a part of Pakistan’s “war of terrorism”. A task force is being set up with home and police department officials to investigate the blasts.

Kaushik said Bangalore police had warned that public places could be attacked “even with the involvement of the underworld”, a throwback to the Mumbai serial blasts.

In the Gurukul area, which has till now been unaffected by the violence, at least three persons, including a woman, were injured in the blast. In the explosion near the Vasna bus depot, the driver and two women were hurt while six passengers were wounded on Geeta Mandir Road.

Eyewitnesses at Gurukul were reluctant to talk about the incident. “Thank god, I have survived. I have nothing more to say,” Dineshbhai Shah, who was on the bus, said.

Shopkeepers in the area also held their silence. Some of them rushed to telephone booths to tell their family members and friends not to travel on buses or visit the affected areas.

“Gujarat has created history in the last three months with its violence. The reaction to this history was always coming,” Tanubhai Shah, a state government employee, said. “There could be more things like this.”

Given the tension with Pakistan and the fiery exchange of rhetoric, an incident like this could snap Delhi’s “patience”. Defence minister George Fernandes indicated today that another Kaluchak-like attack would provoke immediate action.

“We don’t have inexhaustible patience... If another Kaluchak takes place, there won’t be any time. We have already reached more or less the end of the road,” he said on a television programme.


Main PAF Operating Base, May 29: 
Pervez Musharraf today raised Pakistan’s stake in the war of words, saying that “if war is thrust on us, it will be fought in the enemy’s territory”.

Addressing officers and airmen at the Minhas base, Musharraf said the Pakistan Air Force will play a leading role in the defence of the motherland in case of war.

“The PAF is small but a potent and hard-hitting airforce with the ability to strike and surprise the enemy in such a manner that she will repent the decision to opt for war,” the President said.

Military history is full of examples where numerically inferior forces humbled larger numbers and, in Pakistan’s history, PAF has displayed outstanding performances against the Indian Air Force, a much bigger airforce, Musharraf said.

“Seeing the glimmer in the eyes of all pilots and airmen I met, I am fully confident that, Inshallah, PAF will give a befitting response to any adventurism by India and create yet another chapter full of glory and valour in their history. I am extremely proud and motivated after seeing the highest state of preparedness and morale being maintained by PAF,” the President said.

He commended the airforce personnel’s efforts to attain the required deterrence level through indegenisation despite heavy odds. PAF has achieved the highest degree of operational readiness in the shortest possible time under the able leadership of chief of air staff Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, Musharraf praised.

Referring to the Jammu incident, where suicide bombers attacked an army camp and killed innocent women and children, he said the enemy has been trying to create a dangerous situation in the region by posing such scenes.

“(The) defence forces of the country are fully prepared and ready to respond in a befitting manner in case of any aggression from across the borders. And if the war is thrust on us, it will be fought in the enemy’s territory,” he said.

On arrival at Minhas, Musharraf was briefed on the operational preparedness of PAF and the wartime role of the base. He inspected the fleet of frontline fighter aircraft and witnessed the operations aimed at meeting any threat.

Playing to rows of defence personnel, he said the people of Pakistan have always had faith in the ability of the armed forces to inflict unbearable damage on the enemy.

The armed forces and the people of Pakistan will shed the last drop of their blood in defence of their motherland and the enemy will be taught a lesson that it will never forget. He said the spirit to sacrifice for the defence of the motherland has always made the difference in past conflicts, and the same will be demonstrated in the future as well.

Envoys around the world

Musharraf is sending five special envoys to the US, Europe and several Muslim countries to explain Pakistan’s stand on tensions with India.

Former President Farooq Ahmed Leghari has been asked to visit Russia and Germany to explain his country’s position on the Kashmir issue and steps taken by Islamabad to de-escalate tensions with India, sources in Leghari’s Millat party said.

The envoys, who met Musharraf for a briefing late yesterday, will carry the President’s message that Pakistan does not want war with India and is ready to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue, they said.

The diplomatic offensive follows Musharraf’s nationwide broadcast on Monday in which he blamed India for the military stand-off and vowed that Pakistan would not initiate war.

Officials said other special emissaries include former senate chairman Wasim Sajjad, former foreign secretary Najmuddin Sheikh, ex-ambassador to India Ashraf Jehangir Qazi and former army chief general Jehangir Karamat.


New Delhi, May 29: 
Is West Bengal on the brink of bankruptcy? That’s the question many in New Delhi’s Planning Commission were asking soon after a meeting with a team from the state led by finance minister Asim Dasgupta.

Planning Commission members said that despite the rosy picture Dasgupta painted at the meeting to fix the state’s annual plan, West Bengal’s expenditure on three heads — salaries, pensions and interest payments on past loans — alone amounted to nearly 110 per cent of its total revenue in this fiscal year!

This means the state government will be borrowing not only to fund any development work it plans to carry out but also to pay its wage and pension bills.

The state will pay out nearly Rs 7,500 crore as interest this year, which would imply it has already run up a debt of about Rs 70,000 crore.

Its salary payments would amount to nearly Rs 2,100 crore and its pension bill just about 10 per cent less than the wage bill.

“To make matters worse, the Bengal government plans to borrow another Rs 9,400 crore during this year, Rs 6,750 crore against small savings and the rest from the market,” a commission member said. Bengal intends to borrow a total of Rs 45,594 crore during the Tenth Plan period, which could take its total debt to over Rs 1,10,000 crore by 2007.

With its balance from current revenues or the difference between revenue receipts and revenue expenses running into negative figures worth several thousand crores of rupees every year (it will stand at a negative Rs 5,805 crore this fiscal), Planning Commission members said they failed to see how the state would ever pay back its loans “or for that matter, even the huge interest it would have to pay out every year”.

Commission members said the only way Bengal could get out of this mess was by adopting a multi-pronged strategy.

The members suggested that Bengal severely cut its debt to a more manageable level to avoid a debt trap; increase revenues by hiking user charges for services, reduce transmission and distribution losses of the state electricity board; turn around its loss-making undertakings or sell them; and keep pension pay-outs within the limits of the state government’s pension fund corpus.

Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant, who is considered one of the few Bengal, pro-CPM officials in the NDA administration, took the state to task at the meeting.

He reportedly pointed out that the state’s own resource mobilisation was coming down sharply and its utilisation of Central assistance was also deteriorating.

The state government used only Rs 8,506 crore of the Rs 12,395 crore offered as Central assistance during the just-concluded Ninth Plan period, or about two-thirds of the largesse on offer.

Officials who voted in favour of giving Bengal a Rs 6,307-crore plan this year said the poor utilisation was going to affect the sanctioning amount for the Tenth Plan period of 2002-2007.


New Delhi, May 29: 
Taken aback by the alacrity with which Sonia Gandhi announced the candidature of President K.R. Narayanan for a second term, the BJP leadership has begun an exercise to firm up support within the National Democratic Alliance before challenging the incumbent.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will start negotiations with NDA allies and Opposition leaders on June 5 when he returns from Kazakhstan. Highly-placed sources in the BJP said Vajpayee had an “open mind” about who should move into Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Prime Minister is scheduled to meet Narayanan sometime tomorrow.

The BJP leadership, however, expressed disappointment that Sonia chose to name Narayanan before holding formal negotiations with Vajpayee.

“She has politicised (the) presidential polls,” a senior minister said, admitting that the prospects of working out a consensus had receded.

Amid the war of nerves between the government and the Opposition, a section of the BJP said Vajpayee should look to a candidate other than Narayanan and P.C. Alexander, who is widely seen as the NDA’s first choice.

In this context, BJP leaders want Vajpayee to go for a “trade-off” with the Opposition — insist on the BJP’s chosen leader moving into Rashtrapati Bhavan and accept an Opposition nominee as the Vice-President.

If this group has its way, former Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat may emerge as the dark horse, with one among Manmohan Singh, Najma Heptullah, Arjun Singh and Pranab Mukherjee coming out as the consensus vice-presidential nominee.

The Vice-President’s election is scheduled to be held a month after the presidential polls in July.

BJP spokesman Sunil Shastri chose to keep his cards close to his chest. “The NDA has authorised Vajpayeeji to have consultations with other political parties before making a final decision on the matter,” he said.

Asked if the BJP would favour another term for Narayanan since the Congress and the Left were already supporting him, a guarded Shastri said: “This issue has not been brought up for consideration in the BJP. It is still premature.”

It is an open secret that a section of the BJP leadership is not in favour of a second term for Narayanan on the ground that it is against the convention. Asked to comment on that, Shastri said: “At the moment nothing can be said on who is the candidate.”

Shastri, however, said the party was exploring the possibility of reaching a consensus on the presidential election.

On the Telugu Desam Party’s move to support the candidature of Vice-President Krishan Kant, Shastri said: “Every party has the right and freedom to go in for any name. But when it comes to a final decision, it would be a collective one by the NDA.”

Shastri said he was confident that the NDA candidate would be elected as the President.

“The majority of the electoral college, formed by MPs from both Houses of Parliament and MLAs of Assemblies, is in the NDA’s favour,” he added.

The Election Commission is likely to notify the presidential polls on June 9. Narayanan’s term expires on July 24.


New Delhi, May 29: 
The Centre will introduce a national policy next month to ensure mandatory vaccination for Hepatitis B. So far, this vaccination was administered through private initiative, mostly by paediatricians and drug companies.

“This is the first time that the government is clubbing the vaccination with the mandatory DPT shots. This will be given free to infants,” said a health ministry official. The pilot project, to be launched on June 10 by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will cover 15 cities — particularly the slums — and 32 districts. Like the DPT vaccination, there will be three rounds of immunisation shots.

There are around 40 million unsuspecting carriers of Hepatitis B. Doctors say the infection is one of the major causes of liver cancer. “Almost 80 per cent of liver cancers stem from Hepatitis B,” said a doctor. The roots of Hepatitis B, he explained, are similar to that of HIV infection — it is passed on mostly through sexual intercourse or blood transfusion. “But it is 30 times more infectious than HIV,” he added.

The districts have been chosen on the basis of their record for implementing existing immunisation programmes. Only those with an 80 per cent success rate in vaccination programmes have been picked for the pilot project. As expected, southern states have fared much better in comparison to the rest of the country. But some districts of Uttar Pradesh, a backward Bimaru state, and Jammu and Kashmir have managed to figure on the list because of their good performance.

The drive will use for the first time “auto-disable” syringes — syringes that automatically become defunct after one shot. “This is a new technique that we are going to use for other vaccinations as well. So far, vaccinations are carried out with disposable syringes, but experience has shown that it is not difficult to recycle them,” said a ministry official.

The government’s immunisation programme, officials claimed, has picked up over the years with an increase in awareness. But vaccinations administered through the pulse mode like polio are running into difficulties. There are states where people resent the fact that the public health officers and volunteers are there only for a pulse programme and are nowhere to be found at the time of the regular vaccination shots.

Since the public health service is in a shambles, the government is relying more on NGOs for running the immunisation programmes. In the Hindi heartland, the drive has been bogged down by caste and religious prejudices. Instances of high-caste villagers refusing to be vaccinated by low-caste doctors or volunteers are common. In many pockets dominated by Muslims, religious taboo, coupled with superstitions, is hindering the immunisation programme. Added to this are rumours which claim that vaccination causes impotence.


New Delhi, May 29: 
The price of the poor man’s postcard has been doubled, so has been that of the popular competition postcards from Saturday.

The printed postcards will now cost Rs 6 as against Rs 3 while the competition postcards will be available for Rs 10. Consumers will have to pay more for other postal services, too, like letters.

The price of letters has been raised to Rs 5 for weight up to 20 gm as against the existing price of Rs 4. From June 1, for every additional weight of 20 gm or fractions thereof, the tariff will be Rs 5.

The rate of letter cards, too, has been increased and will cost 50 paise more at Rs 2.50. The rates for books, pattern and sample postcards have been raised to Rs 4 from Rs 3 earlier for the first 50 gm or fraction thereof.

However, in the same category, every additional 50 gm or fraction thereof would now attract a charge of Rs 3 against the existing rate of Rs 4.

For the first 500 gm or fraction thereof, the rate has been increased from Rs 16 to Rs 19, and for every additional 500 gm or fraction thereof, the rate has been set to Rs 16.

The government rolled back the proposed hike on book packets containing periodicals proposed during the passage of the Finance Bill, and it will remain at Rs 2 for the first 100 gm and Rs 3 for every additional 100 gm.

The rate for periodicals valued from Re 1 to Rs 20 has been increased to Rs 2 for the first 100 gm and Rs 3 for every additional 100 gm.

Periodicals valued between Rs 21 and Rs 50 will attract the postal rate of Rs 4 for the first 100 gm and Rs 5 for every additional 100 gm. From Saturday, the rate for periodicals valued over Rs 51 will be charged at Rs 8 for the first 100 gm and Rs 9 for every additional 100 gm.


Panaji, May 29: 
Goa’s Assembly polls tomorrow promises to be a showdown between the two heavyweights of national politics — the ruling BJP and the resurgent Congress.

Both the parties have a big stake in the 40-seat Goa Assembly that has been plagued by instability and has seen over a dozen chief ministers in as many years. But regional fringe parties pose a serious threat of cutting into traditional vote banks, leading many observers here to predict a hung Assembly.

While the BJP struggles to keep a firm grasp on power, the Congress, which won the state elections in 1980, 1984, 1989, 1994 and 1999, seems to have an edge. Primarily because this is the first poll after the Gujarat carnage. It was in Goa that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had delivered the controversial speech about the minority community.

It presents a platform for the party to leverage on the outrage and shock of the minorities, who form 30 to 33 per cent of Goa’s population. But the Congress move to dole out tickets to controversial candidates could backfire.

For the BJP, which has never won an election in the state but came to power 19 months ago by encouraging defections largely from the Congress, a victory would boost its battered image elsewhere in the country.

In the event of the two not scoring a clear majority, many feel that the BJP could gain an upper hand in government formation with the help of the Centre and the Governor. Governors in the past have played a key role in deciding who comes to power.

Among the minor players is Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party.

The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, which ruled Goa for a decade-and-half in the 1960s and 1970s, has joined hands with the United Goans Democratic Party and enjoy pockets of support in the Christian areas of south Goa.

Ironically, for much of its stint in power, the MGP had fought the United Goans. The two have now united against the financial and political clout of the Congress and the BJP.

Goa has a little over nine lakh voters. The Assembly was hurriedly dissolved by Governor M. Fazal, a former BJP member, on the request of chief minister Manohar Parrikar, whose government faced revolt from party colleagues.

Parrikar had then said a “clear mandate” for the BJP would help the party offer good governance. As of now, few see any chances of that happening.


May 29: 


Maximum: 33.0°C (-2)
Minimum: 27.3°C (0)


0.7 mm

Relative Humidity

Max: 90%
Min: 64%

Sunrise: 4.55 am

Sunset: 6.13 pm


Generally cloudy sky, with possibility of rain, accompanied by thunder, in some parts

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