Rollback ring in clinic code
Fire risk singes snack chain
‘Suicide’ run trips Metro
Stoneman shadow in homicide
The City Diary
Masala chai and machher jhol
Goof-up over CU scripts
Report stymies study revamp
Cops want road humps removed
Naxalite held in forest raid

Calcutta, June 7: 
Bowing to pressure from the medical practitioners’ lobby, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government on Friday showed signs of an imminent rollback of some of the newly-framed rules of the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Act,1950, that have put doctors on a course of collision with the administration.

Health minister Suryakanta Mishra indicated that the government was considering a re-examination of the new rules, on realising that many of them were difficult to implement under the present socio-economic conditions.

“We have asked them (doctors) to give us a proposal for amendments to new rules,” Mishra said. “Once we get the proposal, we will try to find out how far we can accommodate them.”

The re-examination — and the planned rollback — will be effected to provide individual medical practitioners some breathing space as the new rules, in their present form, appeared to be hard on them, said health department officials now working to this end.

Framed in 2001 under the provisions of the 1950 Act, the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Rules require clinical establishments, including individual doctors’ chambers, to be air-conditioned, to contain a modern reception counter, to have airproof and waterproof record rooms, airy waiting rooms, trained nurses, attendants and separate toilets for male and female patients.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest lobby, has argued that the new rules were unacceptable as they will require an individual doctor to pay a fortune for at least 650 square feet to set up their chambers along prescribed lines. In reality, tiny cabins or cubicles are all that doctors invest in, the IMA said.

In the course of a meeting last week with Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mishra, the IMA’s doctor-representatives observed that the new rules were “impractical and impossible to follow”, because a doctor would stand to lose his licence if the stipulations under the new rules were not met.

IMA representatives, including Sudipto Roy, outgoing president of city branch of IMA, stressed that struggling young doctors cannot afford chambers as specified by the new rules.

“It will not be possible to keep individual medical practitioners totally out of the new set of rules. But we realise we will have to bring about some amendments to make things a little easier for them, keeping in view the practical aspects,” said C.R. Maity, director of medical education (DME), on Friday.

The doctors got a hint of the change in the government’s attitude on Tuesday when the chief minister’s secretariat wrote to the IMA to assure it of Bhattacharjee’s concern and ask the doctors to carry on as they did earlier.

Almost at the same time, Mishra’s department contacted the IMA and asked it “not to panic.”

Assured of the government’s intentions, the IMA furnished a comprehensive set of proposals for amendment of the new rules.

“After receiving the letter, we informed the doctors in the districts not to despair over the size of their chambers and the accompanying facilities,” said a senior IMA official.

The DME said in the changed situation a doctor would not be forced to instal an air-conditioner if he could arrange for enough ceiling fans.

“In rural Bengal, if the windows are large enough, there will be enough air circulation,” he said, adding that a doctor may not be asked to employ a separate nurse or attendant in his or her chamber.

“Let four doctors sharing a chamber have one attendant working for them. Our objective is not to create obstacles for the doctors. But, the doctors should also keep in mind the rising number of cases against them by human rights and consumer protection lobbies,” Maity added.

President of IMA’s Bengal branch Subir Ganguly said: “The government should set a minimum standard to be followed by individual medical practitioners and try to enforce something which is reasonable and practical,” he added.


Calcutta, June 7: 
The fire services department has turned the heat on Haldiram Bhujiawala. The kitchens of the popular snacks-and-savouries chain’s two landmark stores on Chowringhee and VIP Road were ordered shut on Friday. Both these units can, however, continue to sell their stuff.

“These two units have been operating without valid fire licences and stocking large number of LPG cylinders,” said minister of state for fire services Pratim Chatterjee.

According to Chatterjee, Haldiram Bhujiawala had approached the high court when the fire services department had sealed the kitchen of Pratik Food Products on Chowringhee, using the Haldiram’s logo, on May 14. “But the court has ruled that fire licences are a must and so, I have given instructions that these kitchens should not function in densely-populated areas,” said Chatterjee.

Till late on Friday, Prabhushankar Agarwal, owner of Haldiram’s Pure Food plaza on VIP Road, was yet to be served a notice. “I will approach the fire services for a permit. After all, one should operate with proper permission,” said Agarwal, when told of the government decision.

Chatterjee said the VIP food plaza ran a 32-KV diesel generator. “While they had permission to store diesel, they did not have the required fire clearance… People living near the unit have also complained of noise pollution,” he pointed out. Complaints have, apparently, poured in from a housing complex adjacent to Haldiram’s.

The Chowringhee unit, allegedly, has 30 gas stoves on the rooftop. “This cannot be allowed, as it is a densely-populated area and an accident can occur any moment,” said the minister.

Haldiram’s had earlier been hauled up by the state pollution control board (PCB). “Some time ago, at the PCB’s instance, Haldiram’s had switched to LPG instead of diesel-fired stoves,” said PCB’s senior law officer Biswajit Mukherjee. The Chowringhee unit, he added, had sought a grace period of three months for the switchover. This was granted against a bank guarantee of Rs 50,000.

The VIP Road outlet had also run into trouble over its waste-generating and waste-water discharge facilities. “There have been several complaints against the VIP unit and they also have some unresolved matter with the Rajarhat municipality,” added Mukherjee.

The fire services minister, meanwhile, has directed “about 258 businesses in the city to apply for fire safety clearances, instal fire-fighting equipment and check the electrical wiring on their premises”.


Calcutta, June 7: 
A Trinamul Congress “suicide squad” derailed Metro Rail services on Friday by taking the tunnelled route from Esplanade to Netaji Bhavan — on foot.

The madness in Metro began at around 10 am, when 50-odd Trinamul activists invaded the Park Street and Esplanade stations. Before any of the officials could react, they jumped off the platforms, took to the tracks and started running southwards.

“Please don’t do this. Don’t run on the tracks. It is very dangerous,” shouted a Metro official, in vain. The demonstrators had disappeared into the dark tunnel. The Metro control room immediately switched off power and alerted the police.

Trinamul supporters, meanwhile, took over several Metro stations and turned away passengers, saying that the services had been suspended because of the bandh.

An hour later, a large possé, including six officers-in-charge, Metro Railway police officials and station masters gathered to track down the Trinamul supporters and flush them out.

A search party was organised to scan the stations and the tracks. But by then, it was too late. The bandh backers were long gone. They had, actually, run about five kilometres along the Metro tracks till Rabindra Sadan and Netaji Bhavan. These were the two stations at which they finally surfaced and slipped out.

After about an hour, the police called off the search. “The Trinamul suicide squad took an unprecedented step to make the bandh a grand success,” party leader Madan Mitra announced later in the day.


Calcutta, June 7: 
Is this the return of the Stoneman? Or has someone just adopted the same brutal method to send a shiver down Calcutta’s spine?

These are the questions doing the rounds following the discovery of a taxi-driver, his face battered with a 15-kg stone slab. In a chilling throwback to the nightmare of the 90s, the blood-splattered murder weapon was found beside Bikash Sarkar, off the Circular Railway tracks in the North Port police station area, early on Friday. The 35-year-old taxi-driver was a resident of Rabindra Sarani.

“Today’s incident does remind us of the mysterious Stoneman, who had spread terror in the early ‘90s, killing pavement-dwellers with a heavy stone. The style of operation was the same and the assassin even left the stone slab at the murder site,” said an official of the Dum Dum Government Railway Police (GRP), probing the case. H. N. Mandal, additional officer-in-charge of North Port police station, said the body on the riverbank was noticed by residents of the area. “We rushed to the spot and found the body. The huge slab of stone, that was used to kill the man, was lying a few feet away… The right portion of his skull was smashed. There were also some deep gashes on his head,” added Mandal.

Going through his pockets, the police found a recent challan from the traffic department. “After examining the papers, we came to know that the victim was a taxi-driver. We traced his residential address from the papers and informed his family,” said Mandal. “We then alerted the Dum Dum GRP, as the place where the body was discovered falls under their jurisdiction,” he added.

The probe conducted by the GRP has hit a stonewall. “This does remind us of those traumatic days of 1990-91… We have brought the bloodstained stone slab to our office for examination,” said a GRP official. “We are also questioning the victim’s family for any possible leads.”

Officials investigating the case are yet to decide whether they should contact the city police to reopen the Stoneman file. “If necessary, we will have to make a detailed study on all the murders committed by the Stoneman. None of the murders was solved and the identity of the Stoneman remains a mystery.”

The taxi unions were quick to express concern over the number of taxi-drivers being murdered in the past few years. Madan Mitra, president of the Progressive Taximen’s Union, said: “Altogether, 185 taxi-drivers have been killed in the past three-and-a-half-years, but the police refuse to take any action.”



Seat-belt penalty off till August 15

Calcutta Police will not prosecute motorists without seat belts till August 15. This was announced by deputy commissioner, traffic, M.K. Singh on Friday. The police have been flooded with complaints that traffic policemen were prosecuting motorists for not fastening their seat belts while driving.

Polytechnic exam results

The results of the Joint Entrance Examination to State Polytechnics (JEXPO) will be declared on Saturday. The exam was held on March 24. The merit list will be displayed on Tuesday. Students will be able to check their scores by looking up two websites ( and from 8 pm on Saturday.

Anti-drug campaign

The detective department (special branch) will soon launch an anti-drug campaign in the city. DC, DD, special, Piyush Pandey has taken the initiative to organise awareness campaigns, anti-drug plays and the screening of films.

Rowdies arrested

The Alipore police arrested three persons on charges of unruly conduct on Friday morning. Police said the youths were picked up in Alipore Central Road. They are being interrogated.

Drug peddler held

A drug peddler was arrested while looking for customers on Bright Street in the Tangra area. Acting on a tip off, officers of the narcotics cell of the detective department went to the spot posing as buyers and caught the youth. Heroin was seized from him. He was brought to Lalbazar for interrogation.

Anniversary bash

The Renaissance Artists’ and Writers’ Association will organise a symposium-cum-cultural evening at the Science City auditorium on Sunday evening on the occasion of Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar’s 82nd birth anniversary. Former justice of Calcutta High Court Ajit Kumar Naik will be the chief guest while educationist Ramaranjan Mukhopadhyay will preside over the function.

Tree census

A city-based organisation published the findings of a study of trees in Calcutta. The organisation, Mission for Environment, released the tree census study recently at a function in the city.

Book distribution

A text-book distribution camp will be held at Behala on Sunday morning. The programme will be organised by Sabuj Sporting Club. Borough chairman Susanta Ghosh and councillor Kishore Ghosh will be present on the occasion. The project is being sponsored by Rotary Club of Calcutta South East.    

Calcutta, June 7: 

Tea with the Governor, masala chai with the locals, a brush past the Howrah flower market, machher jhol — all with a Bengali boy in front of the camera and a three-time Emmy-winner behind it. Calcutta’s food, culture, history and people will feature as three episodes of a 26-part programme being shot now in the city, called My India with Ranjan Dey. Mumbai, Goa, Cochin and Hyderabad have already been covered in what will be 30-minute shows for the US network PBS (Public Broadcast Service).

But this is not just another cookery show. “I wanted to make a show to promote India in all its diversity. There are too many myths about India… People think Indians get on an elephant, go hunt some tigers before office… India is no longer a poor country… There are world-class facilities here that need to be highlighted,” feels Dey, a San Francisco-based restaurateur and businessman. So, things like the Nizam’s jewels in Hyderabad, Unani medicine and Calcutta’s colonial heritage will all feature in the episodes. In Mumbai, Dey even managed a caper on camera, escaping a mango bazaar hidden under a pile of luscious Alphonso.

Having arrived in Calcutta on Thursday night, bandh-day shooting was restricted to The Oberoi Grand, where executive sous chef Bali joined Dey in front of the camera to demonstrate dishes like grilled lobster and fish. Bangali dishes like bekti machher jhol, aloo and kumro chochchori were also included.

Alan K. Walker, director of photography for such smash-hits as Cosby, The Golden Girls and Alf, with 18 Emmy nominations under his belt, is directing the series, while Ranjan plays host. The camera crew is from Mumbai, including director of photography Punkaj Prakaash. “I am not a world traveller… I thought I would have to come here and teach the crew everything, but they just instinctively know what I want, despite a small language barrier. I would come back here to work any day…” smiles the veteran Walker.

Tea forms a large part of the Calcutta segment, with auction houses, tea-tasting and masala chai all packed into the agenda. Jalebis and singaras will share screen space with the Kalighat mandir and traditional massages. “This show is more about the culture that inspires the cuisine,” says associate producer Lisa Dowda.

While Indian food is a hot favourite in the United States, most people dread cooking it at home, says Dey. So, the entrepreneur launched a range of combination masala, New World Spices, including concoctions like Sweet and Tangy Mango Soup Masala, Bombay Saffron Rice Blend and Calcutta Lemon Mustard Fish Curry. “It is possible to make a quick Indian meal, and this will increase its accessibility,” adds Dey, who started his career “peeling potatoes and onions” at The Park while he was in Class IX at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Fort William. After a course in hotel management, he worked with Maurya Sheraton in Delhi, before moving to Hong Kong for a 12-year stint and finally, San Francisco in 1987, where he set up an Indian restaurant called New Delhi.

Walker, who bagged Emmys for his work on The Golden Girls, the 1980 Winter Olympics and Cosby, joined the production team through executive producer Anthony Tiano, who has a long history in television in the US. There have been concerns regarding the safety of working in India at the moment, but Walker has told his colleagues that there is no way he is going back now. “I would rather shoot myself in the head than miss going to the Taj Mahal,” he laughs. Agra is the next stop, with Jaipur and Delhi to complete the month-long schedule.


Calcutta, June 7: 
A Calcutta University (CU) goof-up may prove very dear for over 30,000 students.

With the countdown to publishing results having begun even before the B.Com Part I examinations are over and the university under pressure to stick to its self-imposed deadlines, it has given out 300,000-plus answer-scripts for evaluation to those who teach other subjects.

Teachers themselves are uncertain about the quality of evaluation of the papers, what with Secretarial Practice teachers being given Management papers and Business Organisation teachers being given Secretarial Practice papers.

The anomaly, say teachers, is not limited to one subject. “The large-scale inter-changing of subjects and examiners has resulted in the possibility of gross injustice being done to students,” a senior CU commerce department teacher said.

“Many teachers, fearing repercussions, are not even bringing the matter to the university’s notice. Unjust evaluation is one consequence we cannot rule out,” she added.

Some of the teachers protested in writing. What followed has convinced them that remaining silent was a better option.

One of them, who has been teaching Business Organisation and Management for the past few decades, was asked to evaluate Business Organisation and Secretarial Practice papers.

Business Organisation and Secretarial Practice, despite being included in one 100-mark paper, are two separate departments in some colleges, with separate appointment letters and water-tight demarcation, according to CU regulations; and Management, according to the university’s own curriculum, is a separate 100-mark paper.

The teacher, saying that the last time he had anything to do with secretarial practice was 32 years ago, declined to take the papers for checking on May 27. The university is yet to get back to him. Another teacher who protested got a back-dated letter that was so hurriedly drafted that it did not have even his name in full.

The All-Bengal State Government College Teachers’ Association has taken up the matter with the university. “We have initiated moves to list this anomaly, that may affect the future of 30,000-plus students, as a topic for discussion in the Assembly,” association spokesperson Benoy Bhushan Chakraborty said.

Though the chairperson of the university’s board of studies for commerce, Sudipti Banerjee, was not available for comment, another senior board member admitted that the university had received “some complaints”.

“We have received complaints very similar to the ones you have mentioned,” he said, adding that the board was trying to save the day “without affecting the time-frame”.

Another officer said that the large number of anomalies was the outcome of the university’s decision not to involve part-time teachers in evaluation. “This has resulted in a large-scale narrowing down of the pool we could draw from. Hence, the resultant confusion,” he added.


Calcutta, June 7: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s plans to revamp the education system within this year appear uncertain, with the committee his government set up last year for conducting a study on the purpose failing to submit its report in time.

The 13-member committee, headed by Ranjugopal Mukherjee, vice-chancellor, North Bengal University, had been asked to complete its report by May and submit it to the government by the first week of this month.

But sources in the education department said it would not be possible for the panel to complete the report before September, as its members are yet to conduct inspections in the districts.

Sources in the government said the chief minister has expressed serious concern over the delay and directed Mukherjee to prepare the report as early as possible.To expedite matters, the government has set up a temporary office in south Calcutta.

Admitting that inspections are yet to be conducted, Mukherjee said: “As per the conditions laid by the government, the committee is valid for a year. Since it was set up in October last year, the last date for submission of the report is September 30. The committee had enough time to prepare the report.” However, sources in the government said though the panel was valid for a year, it was asked to submit the report within April 2002, and latest, by the first week of June.

Sources said the chief minister is believed to be worried over the delay specially because he had taken a special initiative to introduce vocational courses at the Madhyamik level. A review of vocational education and suggestions for its revamp was one of the main thrust areas of the committee. At present, vocational courses are taught at the Higher Secondary level in less than 20 schools. The government plans to introduce such courses in state-aided schools too.

The members who had been assigned to conduct the study on vocational education have completed their job. But the government cannot take any decision on their suggestions as, going by the rules, the government cannot take a decision on the basis of the findings of a part of the panel.


Calcutta, June 7: 
If the city police and the government have their way, construction of speedbreakers bang in the middle of roads will soon be banned.

“This is an absolute menace. It’s high time people realised that speed humps do not reduce the number of accidents but actually add to them,” said deputy commissioner of police (traffic) M.K. Singh.

The city police have already drawn up a list of roads in the city where speed humps have been “unnecessarily” erected. “We have asked the civic authorities to remove speed humps immediately from all major streets of the city. It would have been great if all the speedbreakers were removed. But that’s not possible as there are so many small roads and bylanes where they have come up,” said Singh.

The three speedbreakers erected recently on Cornfield Road caught Singh’s attention as passersby and motorcyclists have tripped on them.

A mayor-in-council, giving in to pressure from local residents, took the initiative to construct the three a couple of weeks ago. “I have written to the CMC to have them remove them immediately,” he said.

The traffic police department has decided to give local people lessons in traffic rules and safety guidelines on crossing roads. The city police are in touch with the state transport department and efforts are underway to start a bigger safety campaign in several parts of the city.

“They have a better infrastructure for conducting a massive campaign. It all depends on the outcome of a series of meetings,” an officer said.


Paschim Midnapore, June 7: 
An activist of the People’s War Group was arrested from a forest in Metela after a day-long combing operation.

A large police contingent led by district superintendent of police K.C. Meena launched the hunt last evening. PWG activists armed with sophisticated weapons had assembled in the forest.

Soon after being traced, the extremists began firing at the policemen. The encounter continued for about an hour, killing PWG member Subhas Karmakar, a resident of Sarenga in Bankura district.

The group managed to escape but left a bag containing about 200 cartridges behind. Police also recovered a pipe-gun from the spot.

Officials said the PWG activists were planning to kill some prominent CPM leaders and police officials who are on their hitlist.

The raid continued till this morning and police arrested a PWG activist, Debi Prasad Mahato. Meena said security forces are continuing search operations to trace the rest of the group.

Mahato was interrogated throughout the day. The investigating officer said Mahato is a local resident and used to work as a guide for the PWG.

“We have recovered some diaries from PWG activists who were earlier arrested from Salboni and Belpahari. We found some names of prominent CPM leaders and police officers of the district there. We believe it is a kind of hitlist. Some activists had even confessed before the police that they were assigned to kill CPM leaders,” a senior district police officer said.

Police said the group could not have gone very far as the entire forest has been ringed by the security force. Besides, policemen from the adjoining districts of Bankura and Burdwan have been alerted and asked to strengthen security along the inter-district border.

To stop the extremists from crossing over to Jharkhand through Bankura and Hirapur in Burdwan, the district police have deployed a large contingent along the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

Bankura superintendent of police Basudeb Bag said policemen are also keeping vigil in the forests at Sarenga and Ranibandh.

Meena said more police personnel would join the team. “The PWG activists are also planning to attack police stations so we have taken elaborate security measures in Belpahari, Salboni and Goaltore,” he said.


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