Race to put docs in dock
Flesh trade racket bust nets schoolgirls
Careless whispers in civic corridor
The City Diary
Salt Lake cracks whip for clutter-free skyline
Special force for Howrah crime
CPM leader’s wife and child murdered
Cong plans bandh waiver to boost image
Teacher tastes tutor backlash
Joint raid traps Tiger trio

Calcutta, May 31: 
For many, this is their last hope in a battle for justice. A large number of aggrieved families see Wednesday’s judgment, convicting two senior doctors of medical negligence, as a light at the end of what was becoming an “endless tunnel”.

Ever since then, a stream of enquiries and complaints are being received by People for Better Treatment (PBT) and consumer organisations are asking what can be done to bring negligent doctors to book.

The PBT, a forum started by Kunal Saha and brother-in-law Moloy Ganguly, was started last November with the objective of bringing an end to the “fearless practice of inappropriate medical care that leaves numerous innocent patients injured or dead every day”. The forum plans to do this by providing support, information and advocacy services to the victims of medical malpractice.

Once the verdict became public, several families who believe they have suffered due to wrong or inappropriate treatment, want to break their silence. “We have received over a hundred calls, and at least 10 complainants have come in person to the PBT office over the past two days,” said Ganguly, secretary of the forum, on Friday.

“One of the inquiries has been from an executive of a multinational company. He lost his daughter, a Class XII student of Loreto House, after she was treated for typhoid though she had hepatitis. On Thursday, a couple approached me with the medical papers of their 13-year-old son, who they say died due to medical negligence,” Ganguly said.

The PBT office has also received a complaint from the only daughter of a breast cancer patient treated at the Subodh Mitra Cancer Hospital. The doctor concerned had allegedly misled her, leading to inadequate treatment and death of the patient.

Thousands of miles away, Saha, the US-based doctor whose wife Anuradha died four years ago, has also received a large number of e-mails, some expressing congratulations, some seeking his advice. It was the case that he and Ganguly initiated against three senior city doctors that was decided in a packed courtroom two days ago.

Consumer organisations, too, are getting a flood of inquiries about which forum a complainant should approach. “We have seen a court punishing doctors, proving that it is not impossible. We also know that consumer courts can give justice in cases of medical negligence. So which is more appropriate?” asked one caller at the Federation of Consumer Associations, West Bengal.

Federation president Mala Banerjee, however, feels that the judgment has given out wrong signals. “Any case of medical negligence should be taken up at consumer courts, which deal with situations of deficiency in service. Law courts should be resorted to in cases of wilful negligence,” she explained.

PBT plans to hold a meeting of the aggrieved relatives on Sunday, where the merits of each case will be taken up. In an e-mail on Friday, Saha said: “PBT is not against doctors. But they are not above the law. They may not always be able to save a life. But in no way can they take a life due to sheer ignorance or negligence.”


Calcutta, May 31: 
The script was the same as the one that was being played out in the Hudco housing complex, in Ultadanga, a month ago. Only, the place was different — an apartment on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road.

As in the Ultadanga flesh trade racket, this one, off Park Street, was also being run by a woman whose husband had died a few years ago. The girls involved were teenagers and from some of the better-known schools of the city. The recruitment route was similar: lure young girls with the promise of easy “pocket money”.

For the past few months, the officer-in-charge of Park Street police station, Prabir Das, had been receiving complaints from residents of the building that “strange men” were dropping into the apartment at odd hours.

A cursory check by the police revealed nothing, but the complaints did not stop. They kept cropping up at the interactive meetings between the police and residents of the area.

Finally, after keeping a watch on the apartment for the past few days, the police decided to close in on Thursday evening.

Two decoy policemen entered the apartment as “clients” and struck up a conversation with the “manager”, a 30-year-old woman called Moushumi Dey.

The walls of the two-room apartment had been broken to convert it into one massive hall. Thereafter, small cabins with three walls, one side being a heavy curtain, had been created in the hall.

The policemen identified themselves and then dragged out two couples from the cabins. “The girls were teenagers and this is what really shocked us,” said Das. “It was only later, during interrogation, that we came to know they were from reputed schools.”

Of the two clients picked up, one was a senior executive of a well-known firm. Both were released on bail on Friday after being produced at the Bankshal court. Moushumi Dey was remanded in police custody for two days. A search is on for the owner of the apartment, Sarbari Chakraborty.

Das said the girls’ parents would be informed about their involvement in the racket.

Deputy commissioner (South) Kuldip Singh said this was the third instance of a flesh trade racket involving schoolgirls that had been busted in the past month. “This is a relatively new trend and needs to be checked immediately. Even the police commissioner is extremely concerned about this,” Singh said.

Police intend to launch an awareness campaign — both at the locality as well as the school levels — to caution parents and school authorities about such rackets. “Our message shall be: if your see or hear anything suspicious taking place in your locality or building, tell us about it immediately,” Singh said. “Maybe, this is something that should be investigated and stopped immediately.”

Station lights: Howrah police have installed traffic lights at the intersection of the new cabway and the main road leading to the station. Rajesh Kumar, district superintendent of police, said it would help reduce accidents on the stretch. The district administration plans to instal a few more lights at other key intersections for the convenience of drivers.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Trust Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) to go opaque when the world goes transparent. As open-space offices and back-to-back seats become the trend, the CMC — beset with conspiracies and conspiracy-theories — has undertaken a Rs1-crore renovation scheme to build sound-proof offices for members of the mayoral council.The whole point of the exercise is to ensure that the whispered word is not overheard, twisted and transported to the all-important Harish Chatterjee Street address.

The cash-strapped CMC, admit officials, can ill afford to splurge on building walls. But political compulsions have necessitated the scheme, they say, which includes air-conditioning of the offices and converting the first-floor southern balcony into a toilet.

Officials said member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), Mala Roy, had told mayor Subrata Mukherjee that it was becoming difficult to conduct meetings with departmental officials as every word could be heard by those sitting in adjacent rooms.

At present, each corridor between the CMC’s first-floor north and south balconies accommodate two partitions for two mayoral council members. The members in charge of conservancy, slum development, roads and drainage operate from this floor and mayor-in-council members in charge of building, health, markets, water supply and education have offices on the second floor.

The Trinamul Congress board is sharply divided — one group feels that having separate sound-proof rooms is absolutely necessary and the other sees no reason for a change in the set-up.

Member, mayor-in-council (water supply), Sovan Chatterjee, is among the pro-changers. He is keen to have a room on the first floor, where the mayor has his office, and says nothing remains confidential if it is discussed in his office.

Others like Javed Ahmed Khan (in charge of health), Swapan Samaddar (in charge of buildings), Hridayanand Gupta (parks) and Moinul Haque Chaudhury (education), however, maintained that they did not lack privacy.

And, yet again, the Trinamul seems to have provided the Opposition Left Front with ammunition. “I don’t know what kind of confidential meetings they are talking about,” CPM leader Sudhangshu Sil said. “We ran the CMC for 15 years without ruing the lack of privacy.” Congress leader Sailen Dasgupta, too, criticised the plans. “It is a luxury to spend so much money when roads fail to get a fresh coating of tar for lack of funds,” he said.


May 31: 

Chargesheets filed in Khadim’s case

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on Friday submitted a chargesheet against 42 persons accused in the Khadim’s kidnap case. According to inspector-general of police, CID, Partha Bhattacharya, Aftab Ansari and his associates have been charged under Sections 304, 364, 326, 341, 379 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code with murder, kidnapping, theft, causing serious injury and under the Arms Act for possesing explosives. The chargesheet was submitted at the SDJM’s court in Alipore. According to Bhattacharya, 16 of the accused are yet to be arrested. “Eleven of the 16, including Asif Reza Khan’s brother Amir, are absconding. We have information that Amir is in Dubai,” he said. Among the abductors, eight are Pakistani nationals while one is a Bangladeshi, Bhattacharya said. The IG, CID, mentioned that the accused were aided and funded by the ISI of Pakistan for fomenting trouble in India. Bhattacharya said Khadim’s vice-chairman, Parthapratim Roy Burman, had paid Rs 3.75 crore for his release. The balance of Rs 1.25 crore was supposed to have been paid after his release.

Cell to monitor hospitals

The government on Friday set up a two-member cell to monitor whether state-run and private hospitals and nursing homes were following the provisions under the Clinical Establishments Act. The move comes in the wake of the state health department decision not to renew the licence of Ruby General Hospital.

Run over on flyover

A 40-year-old employee of Punjab National Bank was killed when a private bus on route 202 knocked him down near Sealdah on Friday morning. The victim was identified as Prakash Chakroborty. Police said the accident occurred on the northern slope of the Sealdah flyover when Chakroborty was crossing the road. He was rushed to Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. The driver was arrested and the vehicle impounded.

Fish-seller attacked

Lal Bachchan, a fish merchant of Kalighat market, was critically injured when miscreants attacked him with a sharp razor and decamped with Rs 35,000. He was on his way to the Behala fish market. The incident occurred in the wee hours of Friday. Bachchan was rushed to a nearby hospital. Soon after the incident, residents gathered to protest police inaction. Jayanta Das, officer-in-charge of Kalighat police station, said they had received a tip-off and would arrest the culprits soon. Locals alleged that two miscreants, Chhotka and Kelo, were intimidating them and extorting money from them as well as from visitors to the Kali temple.

Girl missing

Shampa Samanta, a 12-year-old girl, has been missing for the past five months from her Paikpara home. Her parents have lodged a complaint with the Cossipore police station, the CID and the detective department of Calcutta Police. Shampa was last seen with a van rickshaw-puller near the Dum Dum police station.

Clinic closure

Police on Friday asked a private nursing home at Dum Dum to stop operations after local residents alleged that a woman was molested by a doctor when she went there for an abortion.    

Calcutta, May 31: 
Matching steps with Calcutta’s civic authorities, Salt Lake municipality has decided for the first time to bring all billboards in the township under the scanner for obscenity and visual pollution.

Though there are few such billboards in the township, municipality chairman Dilip Gupta said steps are being taken to keep the Salt Lake skyline free. “However, we don’t want to lose out on revenue. We will also carry out an audit of the existing billboards to find out whether they have proper licences,” he added.

Debashish Bose, executive officer of Salt Lake municipality, asserted that advertising agencies will not be allowed to put up any obscene advertisements even if they are licensed. “The municipality will always go for revenue but not at the cost of ethical values,” he added.

Earlier, the civic authorities had decided to ask all advertising agencies operating in Salt Lake to send by May 24 a list of signboards put up by them in the township. At another meeting last Tuesday, the date was extended to June 3. “After that date, billboards not included in the list sent by the ad agencies will be considered illegal and painted black,” said an official.

Salt Lake municipality has so far received a list of 100 billboards from advertising agencies. Apart from these, there are another 92, and the authorities are trying to find out whether they are legal. “We are scrutinising the list sent to us. If we find that some of them are unlicensed, we will impose a fine on them,” an official said.

“Also, owners of billboards who claim they had taken permission from various government departments will also have to pay fees to the municipality. A fine equivalent to two years’ licence fee will be slapped on these billboards,” said chairman Gupta. All new billboards will be allowed to be erected on contract basis and no permission will be given to new hoardings if the agencies do not pay advance for these to the authorities, he added.

Anupam Dutta, Trinamul Congress councillor in Salt Lake municipality, said: “We demanded at the meeting that a panel be set up to identify illegal billboards in Salt Lake. The chairman agreed to it. The committee will submit a report shortly.”

However, some local CPM leaders said the tough stand on billboards is a fallout of factionalism in the party. “Most of the illegal signboards are in the wards of a couple of councillors opposed to the official group. So, it may be a step to rein them in,” a senior CPM leader said.


Calcutta, May 31: 
Howrah Police has set up a special task force to crack down on criminals. The force is modelled on the special branch of Calcutta Police, but its job profile will include operations like the special cell of Delhi Police.

The move was prompted by intelligence reports that some high-profile criminals are holed up in the district and a recent spurt in crime in the central business district of Howrah and its adjacent areas, like Belur, Bally, Malipanchghara and other parts.

“The crack team will be centralised in nature and it will be headed by Rajib Mishra, additional superintendent of police (town). Officers from various police stations were chosen by the senior officers after a check of their track record and acumen in handling ‘wanted criminals’. The centralised nature of this team aims at avoiding political pressure and business lobbies,” said Rajesh Kumar, police superintendent, Howrah.

Recently, the district has witnessed a spurt in crime, like the murder of Prabhat Bhattacharya and the case of Palash Sen, accused in the Salt Lake stadium scandal.

“We have definite leads in the Bhattacharya murder but the police is on the lookout for a number of other criminals involved in murder and extortion. The district force has been alerted, as goons often hide in Howrah after committing a crime in Calcutta or adjacent districts,” added Kumar.

Crime along GT Road is also on the rise and intensive patrolling and surprise raids by this special team can only put a check on it. Recently, a number of criminals were released on bail and they pose a serious threat. “Our most wanted criminals include Swapan, Shankar, Raju and others, who have a history of bootlegging and other crimes. Apart from them, a number of gangs from the districts are operating here and we should be able to arrest them soon,” said a district intelligence branch officer.


Salboni (Paschim Midnapore), May 31: 
A group of armed men, allegedly from the People’s War Group, today raided the house of local CPM leader Sristidhar Mahato, killing his wife, daughter and another woman.

Mahato, a member of the CPM’s Madhupur branch committee, escaped with minor wounds but another daughter was in serious condition. The incident occurred at Jamirgote village under Salboni police station.

The gang, which struck a little after midnight, had locked all houses in the village from outside so that no one could come to the rescue of Mahato and his family members.

Both Mahato and his teenage daughter, Binapani, are undergoing treatment at the Midnapore Sadar Hospital.

The CPM has called a 12-hour bandh in Salboni tomorrow in protest against the killings. District party secretary Dipak Sarkar is planning to visit the village with other senior leaders .

The assailants, armed with tangis, pipeguns and swords, broke open the door of Mahato’s two-storeyed house. Mahato’s wife Ichchabati, who was sleeping with their three-year-old daughter Priyanka on the ground floor, was the first to face the brunt. She was stabbed to death.

The miscreants then chopped off Priyanka’s hand before rushing upstairs in search of Mahato.

A 60-year-old woman, Putibala Mahato, believed to be a close relative of the CPM leader, was also killed. Putibala, who lived next door, used to sleep in Mahato’s house.

The assailants then went up to the terrace where farmers store their paddy and spotted Mahato who was hiding there.

They attacked the CPM leader with swords and tangis, but Mahato managed to escape by jumping from a window and fleeing to safety.

Some villagers, meanwhile, broke open their doors and raised an alarm, but the miscreants had left Mahato’s house by then.

The village has no electricity, which made the job of the assailants easier. The operation lasted about one-and-a-half-hours, a senior district police official said.

Mahato said he suspects that three Trinamul Congress supporters masterminded the killings. “They came to kill me. But I don’t know why they killed my wife and daughter. They had nothing to do with politics, though I am a CPM activist,” he said.

Mahato is yet to lodge an FIR with the police as he is still in hospital.

Mahato is the lone CPM activist in Jamirgote, a Trinamul bastion. Dipak Sarkar, party secretary of West Midnapore district, alleged that the Trinamul had used PWG activists to carry out the murders.


May 31: 
It looks like Bengal will be spared the agony of two state-wide bandhs in a span of eight days.

After beating Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee to calling a bandh, the Congress today started working towards embarrassing her a second time in quick succession by initiating a move to call off its June 14 strike. Trinamul has called a bandh on June 7.

A hint of such a decision was evident when state Congress chief Pranab Mukherjee said at Farakka that a formal decision would be taken at a meeting of the executive committee of the state Congress Committee and district unit presidents on Sunday.

The Congress high command has reportedly indicated to the state leaders that the withdrawal of the bandh call would enhance its image and show Mamata in a poor light. The Congress had done well in last week’s municipal elections.

Mukherjee said it was strange that Mamata had to call a bandh on similar issues.

The Trinamul chief, however, said being the main Opposition in Bengal, the party thought it right to call a bandh to highlight popular grievances.

“We are not going to look awkward now that they (Congress) have chosen to withdraw their bandh call…. Our bandh-call was neither abrupt nor an imitation of the Congress which is just a shadow of the ruling CPM,” Mamata said.

Both the Congress and Trinamul have called bandhs on the same issues like increase in electricity charges, distress sale of paddy, delay in teachers’ salaries and the government’s “failure” to bring out an accurate list of people living below the poverty line.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has urged the two Opposition parties to withdraw their bandh calls in the interest of the people.

“I am ready to discuss with them the issues over which they have called the bandhs before June 7. We can also have a discussion on June 7 at the Assembly when it reopens for the monsoon session,” he added.

“Does he admit our charges then?” Mamata asked.

Sources close to the state Congress chief said he was aware that people would not like two bandhs in quick succession.

“Pranabbabu has also been informed of the BA-BSc Part I examinations on that day. A bandh a few days after Mamata’s on similar issues will also show the Congress in a poor light,” a Congress leader said.

The Left Front today decided not to oppose the two bandhs actively by deploying cadre. “We will campaign against the bandhs and urge the people not to participate in it,” Biman Bose, Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member said after the Front’s meeting at Alimuddin Street.

“Let them test their strength through political programmes. University examinations were slated for June 7. But Trinamul had scant regard for the students’ inconvenience,” Bose added.

“If they really want to judge their organisational strengths, they can do so by taking part in elections. In their race for the second spot in state politics, they should not make people suffer by calling wildcat bandhs.”

The Front will meet again on June 6 to take stock of the situation.


Malda, May 31: 
The headmaster of a local school was attacked today by a group of private tutors for robbing them of their only means of livelihood.

Several youths from Mathurapur village raided Ajijur Rahman’s house when they came to know that he was privately coaching students from his school despite the government ban on private tuitions.

Belonging to a local lobby of private tutors, the youths have been issuing warnings to Rahman and other teachers who indulge in private tuitions.

A large number of unemployed youths earn their living by teaching local boys and girls in private. With teachers also giving private coaching, the students opt out of classes held by the unemployed youths.

“We are going to lodge complaints with the school education department if the schoolteachers who are paid high salaries continue to give private tuition, disobeying the government order,” said Rejaul Karim, one of the members of the tutors’ association.

After entering his house, the youths found Rahman teaching a group of at least a dozen students, who said they were students of Class XI in his school.

Rahman, however, denied their charges and said his wife was teaching the students. The youths refused to believe him, saying it was impossible for Rahman’s wife to teach the students as she was not qualified enough.

Teacher arrested

Police arrested a teacher of Ghano High School at Galsi in Burdwan district this afternoon on charges of making an “obscene” proposal to a female student.

Earlier, a group of local residents assaulted the teacher, Swarup Mondal, soon after he entered the school, police said.

Police arrived at the spot and rescued Mondal who had to be admitted to hospital.

Police said Mondal was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by the girl.


May 31: 
Three extremists of the Bengali Tiger Force were arrested last night from Nalbari in Assam after a joint raid by Bengal and Assam police.

Coochbehar superintendent of police Pravin Kumar today said Gouranga Vishya, Vickey and Baku were involved in a number of criminal cases, including looting of weapons and attacks on security forces.

In April last year, BTF activists had attacked two jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) who were on patrol duty near the Sankosh river bridge at Tufanganj in Cooch Behar, police said.

Jawans Raj Bahadur Rai and Shyam Bahadur Thapa were injured in the incident. The extremists snatched a carbine from them which the police later recovered.

Acting on a tip-off, a team of policemen from Cooch Behar left for Nalbari yesterday morning. They raided several places with the help of Assam police and arrested the three BTF activists from their hideout.

They were taken to Cooch Behar yesterday and produced before the court where the extremists were remanded in police custody.

Senior officials from the district police’s intelligence branch interrogated the three and questioned them on their links with other extremist groups.

A police team from Assam is expected to arrive in Cooch Behar soon to interrogate them further.

Raj Bahadur and Shyam Bahadur will be brought to Cooch Behar to identify the arrested extremists.

Gouranga hails from Nalbari, Vicky is a Naogan resident while Baku from Kamakshyaguri in Jalpaiguri district.

“We are trying to find out whether they are involved in other cases and are also verifying how a man from Jalpaiguri developed links with BTF activists in Assam,” the police superintendent said, adding that links with the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation cannot be ruled out.

According to the police, the BTF is active in parts of lower Assam and the Bengal-Assam border.

The extremists escape to Assam after committing a crime and cross over to Bengal if the crime is committed in Assam, police said.


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