High road to despair
Murmurs in medical ranks
State bus driver in cop paper chase net
Lavish crores, hold back a lakh
The City Diary
Law boost for civic body
4 held for trade hub firm raid
Yoga, meditation to keep Howrah cops fit
Pay hike suit by court staff
Pop a pill for gastro check

Calcutta, June 14: 
The road is ravaged; the pavement is hard to find; the volume of traffic has dropped drastically but the chaos at the crossroads has never been worse; underground sewerage pipes have contaminated filtered water flow; telephone and electric cables are all over the place…

All this has forced two banks to look for another address. And it nearly forced a ‘star’ hotel out of the city. For several business establishments enjoying pride of place on what used to be boom street, it’s all changed because of a bridge too near on AJC Bose Road.

Work on the 2.2-km flyover, to connect Park Circus with Race Course, has wreaked havoc. The Rs 177-crore flyover, built by construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T), is one of the four flyovers being built with aid from the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation.

But two Indian banks are not amused. “We talk about relationship banking these days. And if the customer has to struggle to reach the bank, the result is reflected in the bottom-line. We have to move out,” says a senior official of Centurion Bank, in FMC Fortuna Building, near the Camac Street crossing. UTI Bank has also chalked out its exit route. “We have selected three possible relocation sites and will soon choose one,” says an official in Lords building.

Hotel Hindusthan International (HHI) has decided to stay on, but only just. “We had told the authorities that if our hotel-bound cars are obstructed and our guests are forced to walk this horrible stretch, we will down shutters and move out of the city,” says D.K. Jaiswal, chairman and managing director, HHI. The Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC), nodal state government agency for the four flyovers, and contractors L&T stepped in and the hotel-bound cars were allowed special passage by the police.

There is, however, no exit route in sight for smaller establishments on the stretch. “My business volume has dropped by 60 per cent. People can’t enter my shop, they can’t even see the glosign. I would like to move out, but I just can’t afford to,” says Ram Jiban Agarwal, owner of sari showrooms Nandini and Ranjana.

And it’s not just about convenience and accessibility, the threat is also insidious. “Since they have blocked the sewerage pipe, the water is overflowing and seeping into the drinking water. We are all using mineral water,” says Samit Roy Burman, administrator of Lords.

From petrol pump to florist shop, sweetmeat store to auto showroom, business has taken a beating. Shop-owners are complaining that the trade-off between “today’s pain” and “tomorrow’s gain” is proving too costly. “We are not against the flyover. But neither HRBC nor L&T has kept us posted about the project deadline. How long will we continue to suffer?” asks R.K. Bubna of East Zone Supply Corporation, near the Lord Sinha Road crossing.

“We can’t go and inform every shop-owner about the project deadline,” counters A.K. Pal, vice-chairman, HRBC. “The project is running slightly behind schedule, but we are sure to make up for time lost and complete the flyover by August 2003.”

But it might well be too late by then for at least some of the business establishments here. Unless they go the Gokul way of adjusting to adversity. “With fewer people dropping in, we have shifted focus on home-delivery,” admits Lakshmikant Balasariya of the popular eatery on Lord Sinha Road.


Calcutta, June 14: 
City doctors on Friday urged the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to flush out “the black sheep” from the fraternity.

On the eve of Saturday’s meeting, called under the banner of an influential medical practitioners’ lobby to discuss the ramifications of the Kunal Saha case, several doctors said issues like “negligence and corruption” in the medical field needed to be addressed immediately to “regain people’s confidence”.

Kamal Sinha, a physical medicine specialist, blamed “the MCI, the IMA and to some extent the government” for the present state of affairs.

“It is now time for all of us to realise that regaining people’s confidence is very important. There are some black sheep in the medical field, as there are in any other profession, but that does not mean an entire community will have to stand indicted,” said Sinha.

According to Sinha, the government and the doctors’ lobbies should have “anticipated” the developments in the Kunal Saha case, which led to the indictment of Sukumar Mukherjee and Baidyanath Haldar, and initiated crisis-management measures. “We should work out a mission statement and reiterate our commitment to the people,” said some doctors.

Saturday’s convention has been called by the Calcutta chapter of the IMA to express solidarity with Sukumar Mukherjee and Baidyanath Haldar, who were held responsible for the death of Kunal’s wife, Anuradha Saha. Apart from the case, several key issues are likely to be discussed at the convention, to be held at NRS Medical College and Hospital.

IMA Journal committee member R.D. Dubey confirmed on Friday that they “would discuss, at length, all issues like corruption and negligence in various spheres of the medical field”. The main objective of the convention was to “urge people not to lose faith in doctors”.

Dubey added: “Ideally, people should first go to the MCI with their grievances, and file a court case only if they are not satisfied. One should realise that doctors are there to serve the sick, not hurt them. We hope to decide our next course of action on Saturday.”

Cardiologist Asish Kumar has called for the IMA to take care of the “flaws” in the system. “One has to clearly analyse what happened in the Anuradha Saha case, before jumping to conclusions,” he warned.

A sitting judge of Calcutta High Court is also expected to attend the convention, where a general audience will get to express its views on the Anuradha Saha death case and air personal grievances.

IMA members are also contemplating formation of a legal body to protect doctors from consumer-related cases in future.


Calcutta, June 14: 
A day after announcing the July 1 drive against errant drivers, the city police made their first arrest on Friday afternoon.

Explaining the reason for bringing forward the date of the crackdown, deputy commissioner of police, traffic, M.K. Singh, said that he had done so on instructions from police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty. “He felt that since the provisions existed, there should be no delay in implementing them.”

Singh said the driver of a state bus, Bisweshwar Singh, was arrested at the intersection of Mayo Road and Dufferin Road on charges of rash and negligent driving, as well as for not possessing a proper driving licence and authorisation.

“The driver had jumped the traffic signal. He could produce only a photocopy of a licence when the policeman asked for his documents. Neither could he produce papers to prove that he has been authorised to drive the bus,’’ the deputy commissioner said.

Singh was arrested under Sections 184 and 197 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, and was later released on bail. The police impounded the bus and towed it to the Maidan police station.

“There were passengers on the bus, but we asked them to disembark,” the deputy commissioner said. “We wanted to set an example. Though the measures we announced on Thursday already existed on paper, they were never implemented. There will be more such arrests in the days to come.”

Singh said the police were forced to take such harsh measures to discipline errant drivers. He said almost 80 per cent of the deaths from accidents last year were due to rash and negligent driving.

Drivers must carry proper authorisation because there had been a sudden spurt in thefts of vehicles, he explained.

“Only if the driver can produce a valid licence and the necessary authorisation papers can we confirm that it is not a stolen vehicle,” Singh said.

The deputy commissioner felt that the government should stop hiring buses from private sources — the South Bengal State Transport Corporation bus impounded on Friday belonged to one Bechubabu of Diamond Harbour. “These vehicles may belong to dubious people and I have asked the Diamond Harbour police to check out on this particular bus,” Singh said.

The police also alleged that in most cases, drivers do not carry the originals of either their licences or their vehicle’s registration papers with them. “This trend is quite alarming,” said an official. “Any one can make fake photocopies of the documents and drive a stolen car away.”


Calcutta, June 14: 
Imagine making the most expensive film in the history of Bollywood and denying a doctor-turned-designer based in Calcutta a measly Rs 1.5 lakh. That’s the bill the doctor ran up to ensure that everything — from the clothes, to the accessories and jewellery and the thakurghar — reflected an authentic Bengali milieu in the record-breaking extravaganza.

Arindrajit (Badshah) Panja, a dermatologist by profession, who also designs clothes purely for charity, alleges that he had arranged for an array of heirloom jewellery to be replicated by Garanhata craftsmen in gold-plated silver; that he had brought out his mother’s collection of traditional Bengali saris so that they could be photographed; and that he organised an elaborate puja to be performed in the thakurdalan of his home in Barasat to be recorded with a handycam — all for the sake of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. “You can see all that stuff in the film. The design of the bala that Shah Rukh Khan gifts Aishwarya Rai is mine,” he claims.

But the Devdas team is yet to pick up the tab, and the unkindest cut of all, there is no mention of his contribution in the credits, says Panja, who supplied the saris for Aparna Sen’s Paromitar Ekdin and who can count Mamata Banerjee among his valued clientele. “I still have the Devdas bills with me,” says Panja, who is the son of dermatologist Ranjit Panja, and nephew of former information minister Ajit Panja.

Bhansali’s public relations man says: “Sanjay Leela Bhansali doesn’t want to comment on anything controversial. Besides, everything related to payments is the responsibility of Bharat Shah’s company, which has produced the film. Bhansali is only the director.”

Panja says he was introduced to Bhansali about two years ago, when he came to meet Mamata Shankar, who was supposed to help him with the choreography.

Next, after Durga Puja 2000, one of the Devdas designers, the celebrated Neeta Lulla, got in touch with him. “She had no concept of what Parbati, from a kulin Brahmin family, should wear,” alleges Panja. “I was told they needed costumes for 21 characters and 100 extras in 13 scenes. I ordered 2,000 to 2,500 pieces of jewellery, to be made in Garanhata. Fifty to 60 weavers and 55-60 jewellers worked overtime. These were used in the Dola re dola scene,” he claims.

Then, art director Nitin Desai and his team came. Panja says they shot the baithak-khana (drawing room), thakurdalan and pond in their house. He went out of his way to help the Devdas team because he wanted to set up a charitable dispensary. But now he is at a loss, because only a small percentage of the Rs 2-lakh bill was paid and the poor craftspeople are at the receiving end.

“I have flown to Mumbai twice and sent emissaries. But they won’t come to the phone,” says Panja. So, while the fate of Bharat Shah, now out on bail, remains uncertain, the craftspeople of Calcutta suffer.



Locked door greets murder probe team

The two police teams which had gone to Barabanki in UP in search of Chandan Bermucha, the fugitive relative of Sushila Samsukha, returned on Friday morning to report that his house was locked. Samsukha and her daughter Pragati were murdered at their Deshapriya Park apartment on Tuesday. None of Chandan’s relatives could be traced, police said. The teams have been asked to probe whether Chandan had fled to Jaipur. Chandan might also be hiding somewhere in Calcutta. The motive behind the murder cannot be ascertained without his arrest, said DC, south, Kuldip Singh.

Rs 25,000 snatched

A miscreant snatched Rs 25,000 from an employee of the Accountant-General of Bengal on Friday afternoon at Dhakuria. Police said the incident occurred when Asit Banerjee was returning home after withdrawing the money from the Dhakuria branch of State Bank of India. Banerjee parked his scooter near Dhakuria Bridge and went over to a fruit-seller. He suddenly spotted a youth running away with his bag. He chased him but the miscreant melted into the crowd.

Housewife kills self

A 32-year-old housewife hanged herself in Shibpur, Howrah, on Friday afternoon. She was later identified as Sumitra Das. After conducting preliminary investigations, police suspected that the family had fallen into a debt trap. “The husband of the deceased had run up huge debts with local money-lenders,” said an officer of the Shibpur police station.

New connections

The Calcutta Telephones has given a large number of new connections in the Picnic Gardens-Bondel Road area in record time, according to area manager, central, Sampa Saha. Calcutta Telephones received a large number of applications from the area after holding a series of roadshows to attract subscribers.

Five arrested

Five miscreants were arrested from Cossipore on Friday morning. Police had received a tip-off that they had gathered at the spot to carry out a dacoity. They are being interrogated.


North Calcutta district Congress staged a demonstration in front of the office of deputy commissioner of police, north division, K.L. Tamta on Friday afternoon. The demonstrators placed a five-point charter of demands, which included a slash in the recent hike in power tariff and an assurance that teachers get their salaries on time.

Brown sugar haul

The Border Security Force and the Bongaon police arrested four persons and recovered brown sugar worth Rs 2 crore from them at Petrapole, North 24-Parganas. Police also seized a cellphone of Bangladeshi make from them. Police said the arrested persons had plans to smuggle drugs. “We are interrogating the four to trace the other gang members,” said a police officer.

PIL on Wakf

Idris Ali on Friday moved a public interest litigation before the high court, seeking an order directing the district courts to transfer cases relating to Wakf properties to the tribunal formed for the purpose. The division bench of Justice T. Chatterjee and Justice H. Banerjee fixed the matter for hearing on June 18.

Goon held

Belghoria police arrested local goon Raju Shau in Dakshineswar early on Friday. A pipegun and four rounds of ammunition were recovered from him. Police said Raju was extorting money from businessmen along the BT Road stretch.

Power tariff hike

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee on Friday said he would consult legal experts on whether the government, which gave the licence to CESC, could restrain the private power utility from charging increased power rates until the Supreme Court gave its verdict on the matter. Replying to a question in the Assembly, Banerjee said preliminary consultations with experts indicated that the government could not stop the CESC from charging increased tariff after the recent high court verdict.

Banerjee also informed the House that the government will soon decide on whether to move the Supreme Court or not. The State Electricity Regulatory Commission had already appealed to the apex court against the high court ruling, he added.


Calcutta, June 14: 
Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya, of Calcutta High Court, passed an order on Friday that will help the civic authorities force stall-owners of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) markets to clear their dues. According to officials, the CMC is expected to earn crores if the dues are realised from stall-owners of the 23 markets.

In the order, the court has empowered the civic authorities to disconnect the water and power connections of the defaulting stalls. It has also equipped the civic authorities with powers to close down shops, if payments are not made on time.

Friday’s order had contradicted an earlier judgment, which said the civic authorities had no power to close any shop, even if the owner did not pay the rent on time.

The court order came on the basis of a petition filed by Karco, a popular restaurant in S.S. Hogg Market, challenging a decision of the civic authorities to disconnect the electricity and water connections of the eatery for not paying rent on time. The CMC had also threatened to close down the restaurant.

Counsel for the restaurant argued that the civic authorities had no right to claim rent after three years. “The CMC law does not provide the authorities the right to claim dues, pending for more than three years,” he said.

CMC counsel Aloke Ghosh, however, submitted that the Corporation had every right to disconnect the water and electricity connections, if the stall-owners do not clear the arrears.

Citing Rule 573 of the CMC Act, Ghosh claimed that the Corporation had the right to close down establishments, if payments were not made on time. He informed the court that the petitioner (Karco) had not paid rent for the past 15 years, and the arrears ran into lakhs.

“My client had time and again asked the petitioner to pay the arrears but the owner simply refused to acknowledge our reminders,” the CMC counsel alleged. He said his client had no option but to disconnect the electricity of the eatery.

Sources said Friday’s court order has given special impetus to the Trinamul Congress-led civic board. When contacted on Friday, mayor-in-council, water, Rajib Deb, said the judgment will help the civic authorities mop up revenue worth crores.

According to a CMC spokesperson, 80 per cent of stall-owners of the 23 civic markets do not pay rent on time. “This time, the civic authorities have decided to take action against the defaulters,” he said.


Calcutta, June 14: 
Four criminals were arrested during a robbery on Mahatma Gandhi Road, in the Burrabazar area, late on Thursday. Two others, however, gave the police the slip and escaped with the loot.

Police sources said the criminals had raided a private firm and were escaping with the cash, when four of them, including gangleader Wasim Khan, were caught. With Khan’s arrest, Burrabazar police claimed to have solved nearly half-a-dozen cases of dacoity in the past three months. “We had been on Khan’s trail for a long time and he was eluding us each time,” they said.

On Thursday, Khan, with six of his associates, all armed with revolvers and sharp weapons, had gathered around 8 pm in Burrabazar, intending to commit a dacoity. Most offices were closing for the day. The criminals stopped in front of 210A, Mahatma Gandhi Road. Khan and Mohammad Munna went inside, while the others stood guard outside.

“We have reason to believe that the criminals were tipped off that the firm had come into a lot of cash of late,’’ the police said. Seeing the criminals with revolvers raised, the employees were stunned and failed to put up a resistance.

Munna asked for the keys to the locker and took out the cash. Only when the criminals came out of the office did the employees begin to shout for help.

The criminals panicked and started fleeing through the busy Burrabazar lanes. One of them, Sarafat Malik, slipped and was caught by the employees.

Four policemen, on patrol in the area, noticed the others scampering through the bylanes and chased them. While two of the criminals escaped with the cash, four of them were caught.

Deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, said the arrested criminals were being interrogated on Friday. “We have information that they were involved in six other robberies in the area. We hope to round up the two who escaped on Thursday,’’ he said.


Calcutta, June 14: 
The district administration has decided to introduce yoga and meditation classes for the police personnel of Howrah.

Rajesh Kumar, district superintendent of police, said the crash course will start soon to raise the fitness level of his force.

“Initially, we will enrol a sizeable number of personnel from various police stations. The scheme will be extended to the rest of the force in a phased manner,” said Kumar.

There are 21 police stations and a number of town and rural outposts, manned by more than 1,000 police personnel in the district. Sources said the ratio of police to people is abysmally low, which overburdens the force.

“The population has increased manifold, but the number of policemen is not adequate to handle a crisis. Most policemen work beyond duty hours. Therefore, they need special attention to stay mentally and psychologically fit,” added a police officer.

At the grassroots level, too, the need for yoga and meditation classes is felt immensely. According to sources, an officer-in-charge of a police station gets an erratic break. The same is the case with sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors, who feel they are “burnt out” due to the excessive workload.

“There are no fixed duty hours. Whenever we get a message from our officers or the control room, we have to rush to the spot. On several occasions, officers and other police personnel have to go to the spot just when they are being relieved for the day. There is no source of entertainment for us. Therefore, police personnel get easily irritated and are not in a position to give a patient hearing even in the cases of genuine grievances,” said the officer-in-charge of a district police station.

“Since the Vedic times, saints have emphasised the need for yoga and meditation. Experiments in India and abroad have proved that such exercises do yield good results. So, these classes will definitely bring about a change in the mindset and attitude of policemen,” said superintendent Kumar.

Police also may take the help of psychologists and other professionals on this score.


Calcutta, June 14: 
The high court admitted a case on Friday by the assistant registrars of the court, seeking an order to hike their pay structure. The case will be heard on June 20.

In November 1994, the state government had issued a memo fixing the pay-scales for personal assistants. The decision brought the assistant registrars and personal assistants under the same pay-scale. The registrars moved court as, according to them, the personal assistants were designated two rungs below them.

In February 2001, Chief Justice A. K. Mathur had constituted a four-judge committee, which was of the opinion that the assistant registrars should get a higher pay-scale.

The chief justice then recommended the matter to the state government. As the government is still silent on the issue, the registrars moved court.


Calcutta, June 14: 
Science fiction or fact, that is no longer the question. Capsule Endoscopy has climbed out of Hollywood flicks and come to India within six months of the technology being unleashed on the US. And it’s just a matter of time before it lands in Calcutta.

All a patient with a gastrointestinal problem has to do is swallow a robotic capsule, which contains a small miniaturised video camera.

Within a few hours, the capsule travels through the entire digestive system, transmitting moving images to a digital recording device the patient has to wear. Hence, the capsule is popularly known as M2A (mouth to anus).

The doctor can diagnose the illness by simply studying the data on the recorder. This technology is presently available in Hyderabad and Mumbai’s Bhatia Hospital, the only two centres in Asia with the technology.

The disposable capsules cost Rs 25,000 each, and are made only by an Israel-based company. The process costs Rs 40,000. “Although new, the procedure is already popular because of its simplicity and the lack of pain. We can now not only diagnose gastro-intestinal diseases with absolute certainty, but also pinpoint the exact location and severity of the problem,” said Amit Maydeo, of the digestive disease centre at Bhatia Hospital and vice-president of the Endoscopy Society of India.

In Calcutta to spread awareness about the new technology, the Mumbai-based gastro-intestinal specialist said: “The cost is high at the moment, but as the demand for it rises, the prices will go down.”

Explaining plans to bring the technology to Calcutta and the other metros, Maydeo said: “The idea is to make people aware about the availability of this technology, so that the next time a doctor is about to perform a painful physical examination or an indirect test like barium, patients will be able to demand a Capsule Endoscopy.

“In Calcutta, according to our survey, cases of ulcers and stones in the kidney, gall bladder and pancreas are very high. This process is very useful in identifying these illnesses painlessly and accurately,” he added.


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