Doctors take appeal to people’s court
Special cell for heart attacks
Job card forgery ring busted, one arrest
Report cards for panchayat monitors
Road discontent in Sunderbans
Bandh challenged
Terrorism on top of Almaty agenda
India toehold in Central Asia
Nuclear India plays responsible
Filmi bhais turn funny

 
 
DOCTORS TAKE APPEAL TO PEOPLE’S COURT 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, June 3: 
City doctors today vowed to mobilise public opinion in support of the two convicted physicians in the Anuradha Saha case while resolving to publish a white paper on the treatment provided to the patient by Sukumar Mukherjee and Baidyanath Haldar.

The two doctors were sentenced last week to three months’ rigorous imprisonment by the chief judicial magistrate of Alipore court for “rash and negligent” treatment of Anuradha Saha, leading to her death.

About 600 doctors, who attended the convention at Calcutta Medical College, also decided to approach the government to have the white paper scrutinised by a team of specialists.

“If the state government ignores us, we will set up our own panel of experts to examine the white paper. We will also distribute the white paper and the experts’ findings to the people,” said Sudipto Roy, outgoing president of the Calcutta branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA). The IMA’s city branch will hold another convention on June 15 where editors of print and audio-visual media will be invited.

Mukherjee and Haldar were the star attractions at the convention held in the packed General Lecture Theatre of the medical college and were also given a standing ovation.

The convicted doctors, however, did not give speeches due to “legal reasons.” “I am grateful that you have come by my side. But I can’t say anything,” said Haldar.

Reacting sharply to the IMA’s decision to publish a white paper, Kunal Saha said over phone from the US that all papers relating to the death of his wife were presented before the court and that the judge went through them before coming to a conclusion. “Why wasn’t the entire thing thrashed out during the trial? Bringing out a white paper now is absolutely useless.”

Doctors present at the convention hoped that the sentence handed down by the Alipore court would be revised and that the two doctors would be let off by the high court.

However, Subir Ganguly, head of the radiotherapy department of Calcutta Medical College, said as an Indian citizen, a person was bound to accept the court verdict.

“We are, however, more concerned about the implications. Many doctors are resorting to defensive treatment. Many doctors are already scared. I had referred a patient with a tumour to a surgeon who did not carry out the operation for fear that there was a slight chance of being unsuccessful,” said Ganguly, who is also the president of the IMA’s West Bengal branch.

A number of doctors who spoke on the occasion also felt that the Anuradha Saha case was bringing about a growing mistrust between the doctors and the patients.

“Patients losing faith in us will be another major fallout of this case. We doctors have to stand united and convince the patients,” said Urmila Khanna. Veteran physician Shyamal Sen and a teacher of Sukumar Mukherjee also called for a campaign to restore the credibility of physicians in the state.

Many doctors like Ganguly, Sitesh Dasgupta, Tarun Adhikary and Nirmal Maji emphasised that as a fall out of the Anuradha Saha case, treatment would become costlier.

“A doctor will now prescribe a CT scan to someone who can’t afford two square meals a day. There are, however, delinquents in the medical profession like in all other professions. But doctors, too, are human and not from Mars. Let us not send a wrong signal and create a never-ending friction with the common people,” said Ganguly.

   

 
 
SPECIAL CELL FOR HEART ATTACKS 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, June 3: 
Alarmed at the growing incidence of heart attacks among people of different age groups, the government is planning to introduce “stroke management (prevention and cure)”, a specialised community healthcare service.

According to state health department officials, about 15,000 to 20,000 people die of heart attacks every year. A patient who suffers a massive attack either dies without revealing any prior symptoms of stroke or is paralysed if he survives. The proposed healthcare service is expected to reduce the toll by at least 50 per cent.

A “central stroke unit” manned by a core team will be set up at Calcutta Medical College. The team will be led by Dipesh Mondal, head of the neurology department in Calcutta Medical College. The other team members will include a general physician, a senior nurse, a physiotherapist, a speech therapist, a public health nurse and representatives from welfare organisations.

There will be two units — an “acute stroke unit” to treat patients who have survived heart attacks and a “rehabilitation stroke unit” for those who have been paralysed.

Besides, an awareness campaign on preventing the ailment will be launched.

The two stroke units will be set up in district, sub-divisional and block hospitals. Doctors, nurses and health workers will be trained to treat and rehabilitate the patients.

The central core team will provide training to key persons like senior doctors in district hospitals having a degree in medicine, senior nurses, veteran social/health workers as well as members of the public health committee and Bigyan Mancha.

The key persons in turn will train workers at the grassroots level.

Committees will be formed in the districts with sub-committees at sub-divisional and block levels. In the district, the committee will be led by the chief medical officer of health with NGO representatives, retired doctors and panchayat functionaries.

The key persons will be trained at Calcutta Medical College and the others at the district and block hospitals.

A team will be formed to launch a door-to-door awareness campaign about the disease. It will train the people to prevent the ailment as well as teach emergency measures to tackle the disease.

“Stroke and allied neuro problems are the second-most common cause of deaths in the country. Though stroke patients in the city and some major towns get an opportunity to be treated in hospitals, rural people are often denied the facility since there is neither the infrastructure nor trained doctors in rural hospitals and health centres. Besides, rural people do not have any idea about steps to prevent heart attacks,” said Mondal.

   

 
 
JOB CARD FORGERY RING BUSTED, ONE ARREST 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Burdwan, June 3: 
A racket involving fake employment exchange cards has been busted and one person arrested in this connection.

It is suspected that the masterminds behind the racket in collusion with some officials of the local employment exchange cheated a large number of job-seekers by forging the signature and the seal of the director of the state employment exchange.

The racket was discovered in the first week of May when officials of the local employment exchange found that the cards of some candidates called for an interview were forged.

Some of the duped candidates included Sk. Md. Salim of Ukrid, Sumanta Sarkar of Kaligram in Memari, Amirunnesa of Nischintapur in Khondaghosh, Gouranga Baral of Jamalpur, Prabhat Mallick of Raina as well as Supriya Pal, Babu Bag, Molla Anwar, Anisur Rahaman and Dipak Kirtania of Burdwan. The exchange officials found that their original cards had lapsed seven years ago.

Dipak Kirtania was the first to complain when he suspected that something was amiss. “The officials at the employment exchange had told me that the card could not be renewed and that it had to be sent to Calcutta. I came to know Md. Safiq who said the card could be renewed by Md. Isha in Calcutta and asked for Rs 7,000. All this made me suspicious,” he said.

District employment exchange in-charge K. Chowdhury has lodged a complaint with the Burdwan police station.

While Safiq was arrested on Sunday, the kingpin of the racket, Isha, is absconding. Investigating officer Amit Mitra said all persons named in the FIR would be interrogated.

“The vigilance department will be asked to begin investigations as soon as we get the reports,” said district magistrate Manoj Agarwal. He admitted that the gang had cheated a large number of youths.

Mitra said employment exchange cards need to be renewed every year. But if it is not done within a stipulated period, the card has to be reactivated by taking permission from the director in Calcutta.

A candidate needs to submit his card when he receives a call for an interview. If found invalid, the interview call is cancelled. However, touts in collusion with officials of the employment exchange usually agree to forge the cards for Rs 10,000 to 15,000.

Describing the modus operandi, Mitra said: “After receiving the call letters, the candidates used to give their cards to Safiq for renewal from the exchange office. Instead of taking the cards to the exchange, Safiq used to go to Isha, who forged signatures and seals to revalidate the cards. As soon as Isha came to know that the police were looking for him, he absconded.”

   

 
 
REPORT CARDS FOR PANCHAYAT MONITORS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Tamluk, June 3: 
The Purba Midnapore district administration has introduced daily report cards and tour diaries for officers on field duty to set the panchayats in order.

“Our move is aimed at improving panchayat activities and speeding up the implementation of different development projects. Though the manpower here is not sufficient, we want to fully utilise the manpower we have. Officers, including sub-divisional officers and block development officers, will ensure the proper functioning of rural bodies,’’ said district magistrate Anil Verma.

According to the plan, an SDO must visit at least three blocks every month while a BDO should call on three gram panchayats. They will verify the fund position, account books, status of on-going projects, future programmes and whether the rural bodies are functioning according to rules.

After inspection, the SDOs and the BDOs will submit a report to the district magistrate, who will take action accordingly.

The officers will be provided with a tour diary which they will have to submit along with a monthly report. The diary will mention details of places visited and projects inspected, number of meetings held and measures taken to overcome hurdles and speed up implementation of projects.

Besides, district officials said a special team from the district magistrate’s office and the zilla parishad along with engineers will visit project sites to verify their implementation.

“We often get complaints from villagers that many projects are not up to the mark and that completion certificates are submitted where no project was taken up at all. We want to verify and make sure that all projects have been done as per norms while maintaining quality,” Verma said. He added that the SDOs and the BDOs have been asked to attend the gram samsad meetings.

   

 
 
ROAD DISCONTENT IN SUNDERBANS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Gosaba, June 3: 
About 50 lakh villagers in the Sunderbans have no proper means of communication, thanks to the government’s indifference to developing the area.

The villagers, who mostly live off agriculture and pisciulture, find it difficult to sell their products, particularly perishable items.

Officials said though several projects were in progress, none had been completed so far. “We are taking all possible measures to expedite the projects but cannot maintain the deadlines due to shortage of funds,” said an official of the public works department.

Trinamul Congress MLA from Sagar Island Bankim Hazra alleged that several reminders to the district administration to carry out repair of major roads had fallen on deaf ears. “The condition of roads is so deplorable that it takes several hours to reach Calcutta,” he said.

Hazra, who won the Sagar Assembly seat defeating CPM veteran Pravanjan Mondal, said the government had announced several projects for Sunderbans but few had come to fruition.

According to Hazra, no one knew when the work on Petkul Chand bridge would be completed. The proposed bridge will link the Sunderbans to Kaikhali in North 24-Parganas.

Moreover, though the construction of Bhagabatpur bridge over Thakuran river had begun long ago, little progress had been made.

Nabard had sanctioned Rs 8 crore to construct a road connecting the South 24-Parganas’ last post, Patharpratima, to the city. Officials said the road would help people to reach areas under Project Tiger without travelling by boats or ferries.

Visitors also find it difficult to reach Bakkhali since a 27-km road from Namkhana to the tourist spot is yet to be completed.

Besides, the 80-km road from Canning to Kumrakhali is also incomplete. Officials said work was affected as the Sunderbans Development Council did not release funds for the project.

District magistrate Alapan Bandopadhyay said he would soon hold a meeting with officials of the public works department and development agencies to assess ongoing projects. He added that the district administration was leaving no stone unturned to implement the projects quickly.

According to officials of the district administration, projects are delayed due to shortage of funds and disagreements with the local people.

The zilla parishad of South 24-Parganas has asked officials of various departments to hold discussions with implementing agencies to overcome hurdles and complete projects.

Sunderbans development minister Kanti Ganguly said though many development projects had been implemented, there was still a lot more to be done.

   

 
 
BANDH CHALLENGED 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, June 3: 
Calcutta High Court today admitted a public interest litigation, challenging the bandh called by the Trinamul Congress on June 7.

Moving the petition, Mir Abdur Rehman, general secretary of the Indian Sufi Samaj, said his organisation was opposed to bandhs as they infringed on fundamental rights and that the strikes were “illegal and unconstitutional.”

Rehman’s counsel Idris Ali argued that the June 7 bandh fell on Friday, which is Jumma day for the Muslims. “The community will face problems if the bandh is observed on that day.”

The next hearing is expected to take place on Wednesday.

   

 
 
TERRORISM ON TOP OF ALMATY AGENDA 
 
 
FROM SEEMA GUHA
 
New Delhi, June 3: 

Hot and cold on Kashmir for Delhi

India is pleased with the findings of the MORI survey that indicated a preference among the people of Kashmir to seek a solution to the problem of militancy through the democratic process of elections.

The Vajpayee government believes the results of the survey broadly echo its own assessment of the mood. But there is a flip side to it. Kashmir is growing bigger on the international radar and the rest of the world is getting seriously concerned about finding a solution to this dispute, which has the potential of turning into a nuclear flashpoint.

India’s long-standing policy of keeping the outside world away from Kashmir could soon be a thing of the past as the US and other powers work towards ensuring peace in South Asia. Overseas Kashmiri groups, which operate from both the US and the UK, are keen to exploit the current focus on the subcontinent and Kashmir to extract some concessions for the long-suffering people of the state.

Lord Eric Reginald Avebury, closely associated with the Kashmiri cause, has said he would want both the US and Britain to take a careful look at the MORI survey, which he had commissioned. He believes India and Pakistan should be pushed into extending more concessions to the people of Kashmir.

India believs Kashmiris are tired of the nearly two-decade-old civil strife. It also knows unless some degree of autonomy is granted, it will not be possible to win the people of the Valley. The MORI survey clearly indicated that Kashmiris were keen on more autonomy for Kashmir from both India and Pakistan.

During his recent visit to Kashmir, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself re-opened the autonomy debate by saying the government was willing to talk to all sections of political opinion on the issue.

But autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir does not go with the ruling BJP’s views that no state should be singled out for special treatment.

Lord Avebury hoped US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, scheduled to visit India and Pakistan, would carefully consider the contents of the MORI survey.

US secretary of state Colin Powell has said his government’s first priority is to take a step-by-step approach to end the current standoff between India and Pakistan.

Once this is achieved and infiltration is stopped, India and Pakistan can be made to take action on Kashmir and resolve their other differences.

Perhaps without intending, New Delhi’s international campaign against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf might eventually result in more meddling by the US and others nations in India’s Kashmir policy.

Guerilla killed

Indian border guards today shot dead a guerilla commander belonging to a banned Pakistan-based rebel group in a gunbattle in Kashmir, the Border Security Force said.

The BSF said in a statement its troops laid seige to Panju, a remote hamlet in Pulwama district in Srinagar.

   

 
 
INDIA TOEHOLD IN CENTRAL ASIA 
 
 
FROM BHARAT BHUSHAN
 
Almaty, June 3: 
India has managed to push combating terrorism as a high-profile issue on the agenda of the Conference and Interactions on Confidence Building Measures in Central Asia by announcing the setting up of a joint working group on terrorism with Kazakhstan on the eve of the conference.

The summit, hosted by Kazakhstan, is also expected to adopt a declaration on curbing terrorism tomorrow. And Pakistan as a member of the conference is expected to sign the declaration and adhere to it.

New Delhi’s bid to acquire increased political and economic leverage in Central Asia also received a boost today with Kazakhstan encouraging it to make direct investment in its oil and gas sector and to upgrade economic co-operation in other areas. Given its vast reserves, Kazakhstan has the potential of emerging as an alternative to the Gulf region for India’s crude oil needs.

India’s increased political leverage in the region is likely to be the result of a two-pronged strategy being followed by it. At one level, New Delhi is emphasising the commonality of global and regional perspectives between it and the largely secular Central Asian Republics — especially in relation to the present tensions in South Asia and in combating terrorism as well as religious extremism.

Simultaneously, it is strengthening economic links with the region.

It was to emphasise their shared political perspective that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan today announced the setting up of a joint working group for co-operation on terrorism.

This is expected to allow intelligence-sharing on terrorism, religious extremism and drug trafficking.

President Nazarbaev in fact declared that he supported India’s stand on cross-border terrorism, all other kinds of extremism and drug-trafficking. This development formalises the commitment of the two nations to combat terrorism.

However, it is also aimed at giving a higher profile to the issue of terrorism at the summit tomorrow when a resolution condemning the menace would be adopted. Pakistan signing the declaration would then be one more way of binding it to a commitment to stop sponsoring terrorist activities.

India knows that it cannot establish a strong presence in Central Asia unless it forges economic links with the region. Last year, India invested $1.7 billion in Russia’s Sakhalin oil fields and is looking for similar investment in oil and gas fields in Kazakhstan.

The proven oil reserves of Kazakhstan stand at seven billion tonnes (20 billion tonnes of predicted estimates) at present and its gas reserves are estimated to be three to six trillion cubic metres.

At the bilateral meetings between the two countries today, therefore, India showed keen interest in investing and becoming a part of the Kazakh-Russian consortium exploring the Kurmangazi oil block in the Caspian Sea basin as well as in the Darkhan oil exploration block.

India also wants to invest in the two Kazakh gas fields at Alibekmola and Kozhasai.

The investments are sought to be made through ONGC Videsh and the signs are that they would come through.

The investment in the Kazakh oil sector would provide India, the fourth largest consumer of oil in the world, one more source of supply to meet its ever increasing energy needs.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld will leave on Tuesday for a trip that will include visits to India and Pakistan, Europe for Nato meetings and the Gulf, US defence officials said today.

Rumsfeld is to start his trip in Europe with the first stop in London, followed by a stop in Brussels for Nato meetings. The dates of his visit to India and Pakistan had not yet been set, officials said.

   

 
 
NUCLEAR INDIA PLAYS RESPONSIBLE 
 
 
FROM SUJAN DUTTA
 
New Delhi, June 3: 
Fears that the world community led by the US will increasingly brand India a nation incapable of handling its nuclear status, has forced the Centre to not only come out with repeated clarifications but also state that it assumed Pakistan, too, is responsible on this score.

“Government makes it clear that India does not believe in the use of nuclear weapons. Neither does it visualise that it will be used by any other country,” said a statement issued by the Union defence ministry today.

Defence minister George Fernandes, in an interview to the International Herald Tribune, said: “I don’t agree with the idea that India and Pakistan are so imprudent and excitable that they’ll forget what nuclear weapons can do.”

“I think it should be accepted that in south Asia there are responsible leaders. They may be belligerent and not fulfil their promises. But on nuclear matters, the subcontinent is alive to the implications... if the western powers and China know how to keep their nuclear capabilities under control, the same holds good for India, Pakistan,” he said.

But Pakistan’s frequent brandishing of nuclear capable missiles and repeated threats from its establishment to use the nuclear option can gradually redefine the Indian military doctrine of a “limited, conventional war”.

Highly-placed official sources said in their talks with India at difference levels, US officials had repeatedly asked for Delhi’s perception of Islamabad’s nuclear threshold and whether a war can actually be fought under the nuclear shadow.

Since the 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan raised serious fears of a nuclear holocaust in the subcontinent, both Islamabad and New Delhi have consistently maintained that their command and control structures are in responsible hands.

Fernandes expounded in a seminar at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis in New Delhi early last year that despite the nuclear shadow, a “limited, conventional war” was actually possible. The doctrine came to be adopted by the security establishment in India and was further buttressed by the Kargil operations. Operation Vijay in 1999 was a war made possible despite both countries going nuclear. But the fundamental difference between the Kargil war and a possible military conflict now is that India was evicting intruders from within its own territory and had firmly decided not to cross the Line of Control.

This time, though, the very threat of striking at militant bases and the unprecedented military deployment has made Pakistan raise the nuclear threat. Though General Pervez Musharraf has not talked about it, associates close to him in the government and even Pakistan’s new ambassador to the UN have talked of using the nuclear option in the event of an Indian strike. This has raised fears so high that US think-tanks are now regularly putting out information on what the cost of a nuclear conflagration in the subcontinent might be. In repeated interactions with Indian officials, US officials have also tried to determine New Delhi’s perception on what Islamabad’s nuclear threshold — meaning, the point at which Pakistan might use a nuclear weapon if a conflict breaks out — might be.

Sources in the security establishment say that in the current military standoff, Pakistan has deployed its nuclear-capable missiles. But whether its nuclear warheads have been “coupled” with the missiles is a matter of conjecture. “We take the question of Pakistan’s nuclear threshold seriously,” one top official said.

In different wargamed scenarios, Pakistan — which rejects the policy of “no first strike” — can be projected to use a tactical (small) nuclear weapon on attacking troops if it is afraid of losing crucial ground, or on narrow tracts to sever large chunks of territory from the mainland.

Indian military officials and security leaders refuse to speculate aloud on nuclear scenarios, and say the very airing of such views in public is a sign of irresponsibility.

In January this year, even after army chief General S. Padmanabhan made clear the Indian policy to only retaliate, Fernandes thought it fit to issue a clarification only to drive home the point more forcefully.

India is expected to set up its strategic (read nuclear) forces command by end-June.

   

 
 
FILMI BHAIS TURN FUNNY 
 
 
FROM CHANDRIMA BHATTACHARYA
 
Mumbai, June 3: 
He is a don with an inferiority complex. He is madly in love, too.

Bollywood is taking a break from the hard-nosed, no-nonsense bhais who have taken over Hindi films of late. In the David Dhawan-directed Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, released last week, starring Amitabh Bachhan, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai, Sanjay is a don who has got nothing to declare but his love for Aishwarya. Though he wears enough gold to pay off the country’s national debts, his chances are slim because Aishwarya is in love with Ajay.

In the recent Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega, Johny Lever plays Aslambhai. He is properly set up with his “Dubai ka chashma, Chin ki chaddhi aur Irani chai”.

But the bhai turning funny may have more to it than only a director’s whim.

“It may be because at the moment the threats from the underworld are fewer. Perhaps that’s why films can take a look at the funny side of the underworld dons,” says Anurag Kashyap, who co-scripted Satya, a film that went on to establish the bhai firmly in the Bollywood pantheon. “These are easier times,” he adds.

Afzal Khan, producer of Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, denies that his film has anything to do with the underworld. “It is a comedy,” he says as the last word, also denying that the film is an adaptation of the Hollywood hit Analyse This.

But Kashyap says that the advent of the bhai and the many faces that he is acquiring, is a sign of the times.

“People draw inspiration from real life. That is why the bhai came to replace the older kind of villain,” says Taran Adarsh, a film trade analyst.

“The genre of serious underworld movies started when the underworld became more visible during the eighties and the nineties. Then people started to form an idea of what the bhais really looked like,” says Kashyap.

“Their arrival in films marked the transition from fairytale to reality. The genre flourished particularly after the bomb blasts here. But the first landmark film was Parinda (1989) by Vidhu Vinod Chopra,” he says.

In Parinda, Nana Patekar played Anna, a psychotic bhai tormented by his past, but still ruthless. Then came Satya, Vaastav and now Company.

In the new genre, an effort was made to show the bhais as “real” human beings. They bore passing resemblance to Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel or Abu Salem, and did not look like poor imitations of James Bond villains, like the older villains did. The new dons were also shown to have families — something the older villains like the roles played by Ajit seemed not to have even heard of.

The word “bhai” also came into Bollywood repertoire. Previously they were referred to as “don”, as the Amitabh-starer of that name proves.

But the audience may have had too much of grimness, too much blood and too much “reality” as permitted within the underworld genre. So despite what the bhais continue to do in real life, on screen they are ready to develop a funny bone.

   
 

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