Tech tool debut in cardiac care
Army drill for cops in terror fight
Phones on blink
Job victory over virus
The City Diary
Voices of young rural Bengal in Kansas
CM’s Bengal ‘oasis of peace’
Board courses with jobs guaranteed
Two policemen, help killed in crash
Soccer blackout

 
 
TECH TOOL DEBUT IN CARDIAC CARE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta June 6: 
Rajiv Pathak, a 40-year-old dental surgeon from Kharagpur, was at the heart of a big leap in cardiac-care technology on Thursday evening at a Calcutta hospital.

Pathak, who had suffered a heart attack two weeks ago and was diagnosed with 99 per cent block in his right coronary artery, was the first recipient in this part of the country of a new-age stent that promises to “revolutionise treatment of coronary blockage”. Stents are scaffolding-like metal stems used in balloon angioplasty procedures to keep the arteries dilated.

“With the conventional stents we have been using till now, patients often suffer restenosis, or fresh cell growth around the implanted stent in the vessel, causing a recurrence of the block. This, in turn, necessitates a repeat of the angioplasty,” said Sunil Lhila, consultant interventional cardiologist. “The new technology will be a boon in small-artery stenting and diabetic patients, where the chances of restenosis are as high as 50 per cent.”

Lhila, along with Aftab Khan, performed the landmark procedure at the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) on Thursday, in the presence of the hospital’s clinical director Ashutosh Raghuvanshi and consultant cardiac surgeon Kunal Sarkar.

Cypher, the revolutionary stent developed and marketed by Cordis (Johnson & Johnson), is coated with a drug called rapamycin, which is “anti-cancerous and stops cell growth”. It is mounted on the stent with the help of a polymer layer and the drug is released locally over a period of 30 days. Earlier, alternative technologies like rotablator and irradiated stents were used to prevent restenosis, without much success.

Cypher, approved by the FDA, was officially launched in Sydney on May 4 this year after prolonged clinical trials, and reached Indian heart hospitals only on Thursday. While RTIICS was the first off the blocks with the procedure in Calcutta, B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre has lined up its maiden Cypher implantation on Friday morning.

“The company claims that the new stent would almost eliminate the chances of restenosis or recurrence (two per cent, against 30 per cent with existing stents). Going by clinical data available over the past two-and-a-half years after it was first used in Sao Paolo, Brazil, by Dr Sousa, the future does seem bright,” confirmed Lhila.

An hour before being wheeled into the cath lab of the EM Bypass hospital, Pathak sounded cheerful: “I am optimistic that this new product will work and this angioplasty will hold.” Later, the team of doctors confirmed that the procedure was fully successful and Pathak was doing fine. “Only time can tell if he will have restenosis, but in this era, when the entire thrust in coronary care is towards minimal invasion, this could well be a major step in the right direction,” said Raghuvanshi.

While each of these hi-tech stents costs Rs 1.4 lakh, the total procedure is packaged at Rs 1.7 lakh in RTIICS, as opposed to Rs 70,000-75,000 for a standard angioplasty using the conventional stent. “The cost is surely on the higher side, but since the chances of recurrence are only two per cent, it seems a step worth taking. It could be a boon for diabetics and for those afraid to go in for an angioplasty for fear of recurrence,” concluded Lhila.

   

 
 
ARMY DRILL FOR COPS IN TERROR FIGHT 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta June 6: 
With the gunshots that shattered a January dawn in front of the American Center still reverberating through the corridors of Lalbazar, the police force has moved into combat mode.

A first batch of 62 cops has just finished an eight-week training module with the army on “counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist operations’’. The training ground: high-security, specialised zones in Fort William.

It was a request from Writers’ Buildings that prompted the armymen to pass on skills in the handling and shooting of sophisticated weapons and in guerrilla warfare to the policemen. Sources in the state police headquarters said this was the first time that the force had taken the help of the army to train its personnel in anti-terrorist operations.

Director-general of police D.C. Vajpai said the move had been prompted by the American Center attack and the spurt in militant activities in north Bengal. “The army has superior training facilities for anti-insurgency operations, handling of sophisticated weapons and gathering of information on terrorist activity… These specially-trained policemen will be deployed in sensitive areas around the city and districts. We have plans to send another batch for training,’’ said Vajpai.

According to the additional director-general of police (armed police) Ranjit Mohanty, the cops sent to Fort William were drawn from “various battalions of the state armed police”.

The chief of staff, Eastern Command, Lt-Gen. J.R. Mukherjee, said army personnel and senior officials specialising in anti-terrorist operations had trained the policemen at Fort William from April 1 to May 24.

In the first week, the policemen were put through ambush, cordon and search, and search and destroy operations, besides patrolling for landmines and raids to smash militant camps.

Counter-insurgency in built-up areas was taken up the following week. Training in specialised patrolling to track down militants in a crowd, house-clearance drills in congested areas, resource control, intelligence collection and simulation of information, working with sources, mobile check-post and spot checks were also part of the gruelling programme.

The last leg of the training involved VVIP protection and training in sophisticated weapons, like the 5056 INSAS (indigenously-made Kalashnikovs) and 7.62 AK-47s.

According to a police internal memo (AP/486/02), army officials had informed the inspector-general of armed police, R.K. Johri, that four of the trainees “had excelled”.

According to information available with the police, Kaushik Deb of the State Armed Police (SAP), Second Battalion, scored highest for tactics; Suresh Sunar of SAP, Sixth Battalion, was found ‘fittest’; Sunil Hemran of SAP, Eighth Battalion, was the sharpest shot and Amrit Lana of SAP, Eighth Battalion, was the best student.

   

 
 
PHONES ON BLINK 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta June 6: 
A few had the dial tone but couldn’t get through; some had their wires crossed with cross-connections; others just went dead. Thousands of telephones in south Calcutta went on the blink for 45 minutes on Thursday morning, as the Kalighat exchange suffered a “rare glitch”. From 10.45 am to 11.30 am, 20,000 lines went dead, while another 70,000 lines were “affected’’, said R.K. Mishra, general manager, marketing and operations of Calcutta Telephones. Complaints — ranging from no dial tone to cross-connections, wrong numbers to the line getting disconnected mid-way — kept ringing in well past noon.

According to Mishra, the root cause of the problem was a common unit card fitted in a computer of each exchange. Known as the marker, it keeps a tab on “the condition of the various components” of telephone calls. On Thursday morning, the marker at the Kalighat exchange crashed “for the first time”.

The Kalighat exchange, catering to the Ballygunge, Hazra, Ashutosh Mukherjee Road and Ballygunge Park Road areas, has a capacity of 20,000 lines. All the lines went dead. Calls coming into the faulty exchange resulted in cross-connections and other complications. So, the malady spread through south Calcutta.

Mishra claimed “all these problems” were sorted out by the afternoon and “it was back to normal by the evening’’. But telephone officials later said “just replacing the marker” should not have taken so long. “The problem should be probed,” they insisted.

   

 
 
JOB VICTORY OVER VIRUS 
 
 
BY ANIEK PAUL
 
Calcutta June 6: 
The first step is, often, the toughest. And State Bank of India (SBI) has decided to take it — by saying ‘no’ to discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. A woman in her early 40s, infected with the virus, has been given a job by the bank on “compassionate grounds”, after the death of her husband, an ex-employee.

Her infection was detected during the mandatory medical examination conducted by the bank. “She was not aware of it till then, and at first she did not realise its implications either,” said a bank official.

“We now have a policy of offering equal opportunity to people infected with HIV,” said SBI chief general manager Kesava Murthy, responsible for operations in Bengal. “In the past, we have refused employment to such people on grounds that they could cost the bank dear, as SBI offers employees handsome medical benefits. But we have reversed our position to offer employment if the person is otherwise fit at the time of joining. We also conceal the fact that they are infected to save them the stigma.”

The woman in question is one among an estimated four million HIV-positive people in India. The bank has already finalised her appointment, but is yet to indicate the date she is to join or the branch where she will be placed. Officials admitted they were apprehensive about how the rest of the employees would react.

The apprehension is shared by the bank’s unions. While supporting the path-breaking step, members said they were afraid of a “negative response” from the staff if her identity is known. “It is impossible to keep it a secret forever. The employees will have to be sensitised to accept her as a colleague, though this may not be an easy task,” said a State Bank of India Staff Association leader.

Vivek Divan of Lawyers Collective, a leading Mumbai-based NGO working for the rights of people infected with AIDS and HIV, welcomed the bold SBI move. “Mumbai High Court, in 1997, had mandated that an employer could not discriminate against an affected person so long as he or she was not a threat to other employees in the office. Medical examination has proved that chances of an infected person spreading the disease in office is as much or as little as that of a car hitting you on the street. But companies still refuse to employ HIV-affected people, and some have even been retrenched. This must change,” he said.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Man kills wife, ends own life on tracks

A 35-year-old man murdered his 29-year-old wife in the Khardah police station area on Thursday and later committed suicide. Avijit Choudhury, a cancer patient, throttled his wife Rina after a quarrel. He then left home and committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a passing train, police said. Investigations revealed that Choudhury was finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Row over HS withdrawal

Trouble erupted at Behala College after the authorities informed applicants that admission to Higher Secondary courses will be stalled following instructions issued by the state education department, banning Higher Secondary classes in colleges. Guardians and students protested the decision, arguing that admission was already underway. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee spoke to state education minister Kanti Biswas after union members of Behala College met him.

Auto accident

A traffic constable was knocked down by an auto-rickshaw at the Beleghata Main Road and Canal West Road crossing around 12 pm on Thursday. The auto operator was held for rash driving and the constable was taken to hospital for treatment.

Bills for Assembly

At least 15 Bills, along with several other private project proposals, will be tabled in the ensuing Assembly session, starting on Friday. Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim said despite the bandh call, the Assembly session will start on time.

Man run over

Chandan Goswami,46, was run over by a speeding bus at Amdanga, near Barrackpore, early on Thursday. Police said Goswami, an employee of a factory in Dankuni, was hit while trying to cross the road. The driver managed to flee with the vehicle.

New aerobridges

Two aerobridges will be opened at Netaji Subhas International Airport on June 20. The cost of the two new aerobridges will be Rs 4.2 crore. While this will be the first aerobridge at the international terminal, airport sources said with the commissioning of another aerobridge in the domestic terminal, the number there will rise to three.

Madarsa toppers

The state government has decided to sponsor the higher education of the two toppers at this year’s madarsa examination. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced that the two students, Rafiul Islam and Rabiya Khatoon, will be enrolled at the Al-Amin Mission in Howrah to pursue further studies.

Film nomination

The Bengali feature film Abaidha —The Demolition Man has been selected for screening at the Cairo International Film Festival. The film, starring Debasree Roy, Chiranjeet and Rajit Kapur, is directed by Gul Bahar Singh. Abaidha has already been selected for the Commonwealth Film Festival and Papua New Guinea International Film Festival.    

 
 
VOICES OF YOUNG RURAL BENGAL IN KANSAS 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta June 6: 
Three unimaginables for Madhumita and Mantu Mandal: A plane ride, a trip abroad, a pair of jeans. But they have only one real fear: whether they will be able to be good representatives for the 7,000 kids from underprivileged rural Bengal who have chosen them as their united voice.

The duo is on its way to Kansas City, USA, to participate in the International Youth Conference from June 10 to 14, organised by donor agency, Children International (CI). Now, they have the chance to meet and mingle with 30 other youth representatives from eight other countries.

Eighteen-year-old Madhumita from Hatar, South 24-Parganas and 15-year-old Mantu from Srirampur, Nadia, are part of the Sahay Youth Council, which brings problems faced by children to the fore, besides working with youth groups under 27 NGOs supported by CI through Sahay in West Bengal.

Both children have been sponsored since they were kids, with money allocated for education, food and healthcare. So Mantu, who along with six brothers and sisters, would otherwise have been supported by his father, a field hand, was brought under the wing of the local NGO Sri Ma Mahila Samity from the age of three. Now he is in Class X at Baran Bedia K.S. Vidyalaya.

“I don’t watch TV, so I am not sure what I will see there. But I have been told about a lot of things, like the kind of food I will get there and the money they use, so I don’t think I will go through any real culture shock,” smiles the youth leader. Mantu has even spearheaded a campaign for a local library, which won a grant from the international youth committee. They purchased 1,500 school books for 300 students in his area who can’t afford them.

Madhumita, whose father is a homoeopathic doctor, has a TV at home and is more accustomed to the sights and sounds she will encounter shortly. “I am just a little scared,” she concedes.

Not only will they take part in discussions and cultural programmes over the five-day conference, the two have been selected to present a paper on challenges and advances in youth health and lifestyle. “Our entry was selected from a whole bunch for the presentation,” beams Madhumita. Pallavi Banerjee, youth programme coordinator with Sahay will accompany them and aid with translation. They also have a mime show and dance routine lined up.

This conference is an “integral part” of Children International’s planning. “With increasing focus on child participation in decision-making, we wanted to speak to the children to find out what kind of projects they want,” explains Ramdas Pai, regional assistant director Asia, CI.

   

 
 
CM’S BENGAL ‘OASIS OF PEACE’ 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta June 6: 
Calcutta is still an oasis of peace, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee reiterated on Thursday.

Bhattacharjee was speaking at the inauguration of three police stations — Maidan, New Market and Girish Park — at Sisir Mancha.

Quoting figures to show that the incidence of crime is “much higher” in Delhi and Mumbai in comparison to Calcutta, Bhattacharjee said the police here are more effective than their counterparts in the rest of the country.

But the chief minister also had a word of caution for the force. “The American Center incident has taught us that terrorists have become active here. They are trying to foment trouble in north Bengal. We have to be on our guard,’’ he said.

Admitting that the city police needed training to handle sophisticated arms, the chief minister announced plans in this regard.

A special force under the command of a deputy commissioner will be posted at the CMC, he added, responding to mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s plea.

   

 
 
BOARD COURSES WITH JOBS GUARANTEED 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta June 6: 
After setting up its first branch office in Calcutta, the Delhi-based Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) is all set to launch another scheme for the benefit of students in Calcutta. The Council, for the first time since its inception in 1952, has decided to start courses in job-oriented subjects, in collaboration with a professional institute in Calcutta. The courses will be introduced from the current academic session.

So far, the Council’s main activity has been conducting the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE, Class X) and the Indian School Certificate (ISC, Class XII) examinations. These two courses are offered by most English-medium schools in the city and in Bengal. On completion of the new courses, diplomas and certificates will be awarded jointly by the council and its partner institute, IIAS School of Management, Salt Lake.

Noticing the sharp rise in the number of English-medium schools in and around Calcutta, the Council had set up its first branch in the city two years ago to ensure better functioning of its affiliated schools in the city, and also to allow students, guardians and teachers of its affiliates in Calcutta to enjoy easy access to the Council without rushing to Delhi.

The Council has more than 200 schools affiliated to it in Calcutta alone, the largest number in any state. It will offer diplomas in hospitality and tourism management, services management, advertising and communication management and mass communication and media management.

Students completing the Plus Two courses from any board, including the Council, West Bengal board and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), will be eligible for taking the courses. “The subjects in which we will impart the courses are in great demand. Those completing the courses will not only get good job opportunities but will also get openings for starting self-employment schemes,” said G.Arathoon, deputy secretary of the Calcutta branch of the council.

The fees structure is likely to vary between Rs 25,000 and Rs 4,000, depending on the duration of the course. Abhijit De, chairman, IIAS, said placement was guaranteed for all students who complete the courses.

Arrangements have been made to accommodate successful students in well-known hotels, resorts, airlines travel agencies and catering companies. Some renowned groups of hotels are willing to recruit candidates from the institute.

   

 
 
TWO POLICEMEN, HELP KILLED IN CRASH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta June 6: 
Two policemen and a youth who worked in a Special Branch establishment as a help were killed when the vehicle in which they were travelling collided with a truck on Ashutosh Mukherjee Road, near Ganja Park, late on Wednesday. The driver, a policeman, was seriously injured and has been admitted to the Police Hospital.

Sub-inspector Pradyut Dey of the Special Branch was on a night round to check vital installations, along with assistant sub-inspector Parbati Dey and Tulsi Mondol, the teenage help. Constable Roop Singh was driving the Tata Sumo in which they were travelling.

Police said they had been moving around south Calcutta areas since 10 pm on Wednesday. Around 2.30 am, they were close to Ganja Park.

“They were tired and Roop Singh was dozing off. So, they decided to have some tea. They parked the vehicle there and looked around for a stall,’’ said an officer of Bhowanipore police station. A man usually sells tea there all night. But Tulsi could not find him. Pradyut decided they would try their luck elsewhere.

The driver was probably tired and failed to notice a lorry parked on the side of Ahsutosh Mukherjee Road.

Deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, quoting the initial probe report, said the driver accelerated while taking a turn and hit the lorry.

Tulsi and Parbati, who occupied the back seat, were sandwiched between the sheets of metal. One-third of the Tata Sumo was entangled with the lorry.

Pradyut suffered severe injuries in his head and shoulders. Roop Singh, too, was injured in the head.

The impact of the collision was so loud that people sleeping on the pavement woke up and rushed towards the accident site. The policemen were trapped in the tangle of metal that the Tata Sumo and the lorry were reduced to.

Locals pulled them out and informed Bhowanipore police station. Police arrived soon afterwards and the injured were taken to Police Hospital.

They were admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital. Mondol, Parbati and Pradyut succumbed to their injuries early on Thursday.

Police said Pradyut was in the IBP section of the Special Branch of city police. The lorry and the Tata Sumo were towed away to Bhowanipore police station.

City police chief Sujoy Chakraborty has ordered an inquiry into the accident. Police said on Thursday evening that Roop Singh’s condition has improved.

DC headquarters Sivaji Ghosh said experts will inspect the vehicle on Friday.

   

 
 
SOCCER BLACKOUT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta June 6: 
Ashokenagar, a semi-urban pocket in North 24-Parganas district, is crazy about soccer, like the people of the rest of the state.

But nobody there has the heart to switch on their television sets after 15-year-old soccer fan Mukunda Dey got electrocuted on Sunday night, when he tried to remove a livewire that he thought was affecting the reception of the World Cup highlights.

The next day, his inconsolable mother set herself on fire. The woman was rescued and admitted to R.G. Kar Hospital, where she is fighting for her life.

So Ashokenagar is in the grips of football-phobia. Nearly 300 families of the area are mourning the boy’s death and are hoping that his mother will recover fast.

Mukunda had stepped out of his house to find out why the TV set was not behaving itself. “He was watching the highlights of Argentina-Nigeria match. Suddenly, the picture started rolling and within a moment, the screen turned blank. So, he went out to find out the cause,” said Biswajit Das, one of Mukunda’s friends.

As Mukunda came out, he saw a wire hanging from the nearby light-post. “He tried to remove the edge of the snapped wire. As soon as Mukunda touched it, he was electrocuted. Local people rushed him to the local health centre, where the boy was declared dead, said an officer of Ashokenagar police station.

After hearing about the death of her only son, Mukunda’s mother, Sikha, became speechless. “She was too shocked even to cry,” said Namita Roy, a neighbour.

When the local youths returned from Keoratala burning ghat early on Monday after cremating the boy, his mother locked herself in the toilet and set herself on fire. Neighbours rescued her by breaking open the door but she was already severely burnt.

Youths of the area have set up a memorial for Mukunda. “Now, we think twice before switching on our TV sets,” said Tanmoy Roy, a youth of the locality. “The World Cup snatched my friend’s life,” said Suman Bhattacharya. So he does not watch it any longer.

   
 

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