Doctor in dock for eye damage
Private pitch for education
Face-off threat to flyover
A voice raised against ‘silent dowry’
The City Diary
Water tank crushes six-yr-old
From prison bars to pencils
Cops match fingerprints in double murder case
DA-or-defy action plan
Among poorest of the poor, chosen ones prosper

Calcutta, June 23: 
The complainant: an advocate with two decades’ experience

The defendant: a surgeon who began his practice around the same time

The accusation: the doctor caused ‘permanent blindness’ in one of the eyes of the advocate and impaired vision in the other

The arena: a courtroom in the city

The doctors-versus-lawyers (and patients) battle raging in the aftermath of the Anuradha Saha death case has taken a potentially critical turn with a practising advocate dragging a doctor to court.

The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission is already hearing the legal representatives of complainant Subhendu Majumdar, an Alipore Court advocate, and defendants Ashish Bhattacharjee, the doctor who performed a cataract operation on Majumdar’s right eye, and K.D. Cure Nursing Home, where the surgery was conducted nearly six years ago.

Majumdar, accusing Bhattacharjee of being “careless, negligent, unskilled and not responding to pleas for post-operative treatment”, has claimed a compensation of Rs 19 lakh. The total loss of vision in the right eye, and the subsequent medical advice not to strain his other eye, has “destroyed all aspirations of becoming a top-ranking advocate”, as the legal profession involves a lot of reading and writing, claims Majumdar.

The defence built up by Bhattacharjee’s legal representatives, however, accuses Majumdar of making “vexatious allegations” with the aim of “extorting money”. The charges of not responding to the patient’s pleas for post-operative assistance are “denied emphatically” and there are hints that the infection and consequent complications could have originated at a Chennai-based eye-care institute.

Majumdar first went to Sankara Nethralaya in July-August 1996 to undergo a cataract operation. He returned in October, after preliminary treatment. Majumdar then met Bhattacharjee and was “convinced” about undergoing the cataract operation here, as it would cost less. The operation was conducted in the Jodhpur Park nursing home on October 15, 1996. According to the complaint, the complications started soon after. “My family waited till 10.30 pm for the doctor to come for a check-up, but he did not turn up after the morning surgery,” he has alleged.

The next day, Bhattacharjee chose to release Majumdar, despite the “severe pain” and complications (“swelling, profuse watering”). “He asked us to consult a general physician,” Majumdar has complained.

The situation, however, worsened and Majumdar — with the doctor refusing to come to his residence on October 17 — visited his chamber on October 18. A post-operative infection was discovered and Bhattacharjee, according to his patient, admitted he could not deal with the complications.

Majumdar flew to Chennai the same evening and, after prolonged treatment over two more visits, managed to “save the other eye”. The severe viral and bacterial infection was countered by steroids and there was a risk of even the brain being affected, he has alleged.

Bhattacharjee’s defence, however, denies all allegations. It was Majumdar who insisted on being operated upon in Calcutta as it would be cheaper. Bhattacharjee never declined post-operative assistance and Majumdar did not appear to have too many complications. There were, however, signs of post-operative infection and despite being offered treatment here, Majumdar insisted on going to Chennai.

While regretting the misfortunes Majumdar has suffered, the doctor has made it clear that he was not to blame.


Calcutta, June 23: 
The private sector will be increasingly involved in the development of infrastructure in the sphere of higher education in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state to supplement the government’s industrialisation efforts.

Delivering the inaugural address at a function to mark the setting up of yet another private engineering college on the outskirts of the city, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Sunday sought to correct the stand of the Left Front government which, till the other day, would frown at the idea of private-sector involvement in education.

Before opening the Future Institute of Engineering and Management at Sonarpur, founded by the husband-wife team of Shilajit and Moushumi Ghosh, Bhattacharjee dwelt at length on the government’s changing policy.

There used to be a time, the chief minister admitted, when the government could not understand the importance of investment in the field of research and development and technological studies. That was, partially, responsible for the brain-drain to other states in the country, Bhattacharjee said.

“But we must realise that the government can’t do everything alone. The importance of private-sector participation can’t be ruled out here,” he said. Till a few years ago, there used to be only eight engineering colleges in the state. “Now, there are 40,” he added.

A one-man committee of former B.E. College vice-chancellor Sparshamani Chatterjee had been set up to submit a report, detailing how things could be bettered. The deadline for the report was June, but the chief minister on Sunday extended it by two more months.


Calcutta, June 23: 
A face-off between state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and mayor Subrata Mukherjee could ground the proposed flyover over Vivekananda Road, near Girish Park, even before it takes off.

“No force on earth can stop this flyover,” Chakraborty thundered on Sunday, promising to set the law-and-order machinery on anyone who tried to “stop development” in the city. “I can’t help it if the mayor wants to make a political issue of it,” the minister added.

Mukherjee, expectedly, returned fire with gusto. After boycotting the pre-construction ceremony at Girish Park in the morning, he vowed to write to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to stop work on the flyover immediately, as the multi-crore project did not have the CMC’s “clearance”.

Chakraborty said he was surprised with the mayor’s sudden “volte-face”, after having spoken to him “thrice over telephone” and personally inviting him to Sunday’s function.

“As far as I am concerned, the project has all the necessary clearances and the government has law and the police machinery on its side to ensure no one comes in the way of development,” the minister said.

The proposed 2.5-km flyover is slated to come up near the Vivekananda Road-Rabindra Sarani crossing and join the approach road of the Brabourne Road flyover. The Rs 60-crore project is expected to be completed in two years.

Chakraborty, however, kept the door open for a rapprochement, saying he was ready to remove the “technical hitches” with the mayor or “anybody else”. But he was “helpless if development was turned into a game of political one-upmanship”.

Refusing to accept that business in Posta and its adjoining areas would suffer because of the project, the transport minister said that the government was trying to create ring roads with inter-connecting flyovers in the near future.

The mayor said the project, apart from not having CMC clearance, was “ill-planned”. He added: “The roads in the area are narrow and clumsy, and the flyover will add to the existing problems.”


Calcutta, June 23: 
She was, they say, the first victim of “silent dowry” — after the Kauravas staked their claim on property that had come as dowry with her, their cousins’ wife. Harassment followed, then humiliation and, finally, Kurukshetra.

Silent dowry — where a woman suffers ‘non-physical pressures’ from her in-laws and the system, with the husband often being sympathetic but complacent — has gone on through the ages, silent and debilitating. Actress Rupa Ganguly, who had become synonymous with Draupadi on the small screen, says this remains rampant in middle and upper middle-class families. “Believe me, most of us are victims of silent dowry but there’s little that can be done. It’s best to handle such things with dignity,” says Rupa.

But a small group of women in the city is now determined to raise a voice against silent dowry. Banding together under the banner of Panchali — one of Draupadi’s names — these women have decided to reach out to victims, spread awareness and fight for its eradication. “In most cases we are tackling, the husband is supportive but complacent. Very much like the Pandavas,” says Amreeta Sen, founder of Panchali.

The group is planning plays, events and exhibitions to highlight its mission. And “doing what she can” for the cause will be Rupa, “not as Draupadi, but as a woman who believes something needs to be done” about this.

“We have already talked to Rupa Ganguly for a reading on Draupadi’s suffering and her perceptions. We will also have an interaction, which is absolutely necessary,” says Sen.

Operating from her Dover Road bungalow, Sen says the idea for a help-group was sparked by a relative being cheated of her family rights. She has gathered a band of faithfuls as partners in the crusade. These include teachers Monishita Khastgir, Kamalika Maitra, housewife Shoma Choudhury, librarian Suchandra Chakraborty and a few others. In consultation with professor P. Lal and some lawyers, Panchali is also trying to find a way to bring “silent dowry” under the legal umbrella.

The cases the group has been dealing with are varied: a woman in Beckbagan, who was targeted by her sister-in-law after she became pregnant. After harassing her in every possible way, she removed the banisters on the staircase. “Every time she would climb the stairs, she would become nervous. The sister-in-law was hoping the woman would suffer a miscarriage,” says a member of Panchali. Eventually, she, and her husband, left her in-laws, with help from counselling sessions by Panchali.

The fact that “mental battering” does not have a legal locus standi is a formidable hurdle. So the role of Panchali is restricted to making the victims aware of their rights through counselling. “And they do emerge stronger,” says Maitra.

The Panchali team warns that the saas-bahu conflict in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or Kkusum takes place in countless Calcutta homes. “In one case, when the daughter-in-law was expecting, her mother-in-law twisted a cat in front of her, cursing her if she gave birth to a daughter,” says Sen. “All this must stop.”



Wakf scam accused bail plea rejected

Hamimul Huda, prime accused in the wakf board scam, was produced before acting chief metropolitan magistrate of Bankshal Court Jaladhar Mandal on Sunday. The magistrate rejected Huda’s bail plea and remanded him in police custody till July 5. Huda was arrested on Saturday by the detective department of the city police from his Collin Street residence. Amiya Chakraborty, Huda’s lawyer, prayed for his bail on the grounds that Huda was ill. Chakraborty had also produced a doctor’s certificate in support of his claim for bail.

Five held for car-lifting

Jadavpur police on Sunday arrested five persons in the Golf Green area on charges of lifting motorcycles and cars. During interrogation, the criminals disclosed their hideouts in Golf Green, where a few stolen motorcycles were garaged. The police have impounded half-a-dozen two-wheelers.

Railway protest

All central trade unions, including Citu and Intuc, will hold a demonstration at the Eastern Railway headquarters in Fairlie Place on Thursday to protest the Centre’s move to bifurcate the railway. Citu state secretary Chittabrata Majumder said a statewide movement will be organised to block the Centre’s scheme.

Lawyer dies

Calcutta High Court lawyer Bharati Chatterjee, 49, died in a Phoolbagan nursing home on Saturday night. She was enrolled in 1979.

Doctor dead

P.K. Ghosh, chest physician and chairman of the West Bengal Tuberculosis Association, died last week after a brief period of illness. He was 98.

Snatchers held

Three criminals were rounded up for snatching a bag from a girl in a private bus at Thakurpukur on Sunday. Police said they received complaints from commuters that a gang of pickpockets were operating in the area.    

Calcutta, June 23: 
A six-year-old girl collecting water from a tank was killed in a freak accident on Rameshwarpur Road, in the Garden Reach area, on Saturday.

The Turkey-Senegal match was nearing half-time when the beam of the shutter gate of a meat shop on I-75, Rameshwarpur Road got dislodged and fell on a concrete water tank right next to the shop. The tank had been installed by the CMC several years ago, residents of the area said.

The weight of the beam, in turn, knocked the tank from its moorings and it fell on the girl, killing her on the spot. “Her head split in two. It was a ghastly sight,” said Ehtesham Arif, who stays a few houses down the road.

The Garden Reach police said the girl’s name was Reshmi. She was the daughter of Mohammad Nizam, who stayed nearby.

Reshmi was collecting water in a bucket when the tank fell. The limp girl was rushed to a hospital nearby, where she was declared dead on arrival.

A case of unnatural death has been registered at the Garden Reach police station, deputy commissioner of police (Port) H.P. Singh said. Reshmi’s body was taken for post-mortem, much against the wishes of her parents.

“But this is a formality that has to be completed in every case of unnatural death and in cases where the injured is brought dead to hospital, even though the cause of death is quite apparent,” a police official said.

The body arrived from the morgue on Sunday night and was then taken for burial by the family and neighbours, even as sympathy poured out over the girl’s untimely death.

Some of the residents said they were planning to submit a memorandum to the local CMC borough office, urging it to repair the water tank. “The tank and its condition were forgotten soon after it was set up there. There are several water tanks sharing the same fate in the locality. The civic authorities should do something about it,” Arif pointed out.


Calcutta, June 23: 
At a time when parents lavish love and affection on boys of his age, a seven-year-old is being denied this basic right because both his parents are lodged in the city’s Presidency jail on charges of triple murders.

Born behind bars in May 1995, the boy had to spend the first and best five years of his life in a dingy cell among hardened criminals. He would have languished some more years there, along with his convicted parents, had the court not intervened to set him free on the basis of a petition moved by his grandfather, Gopal Mondal. Only two years ago, Mondal was given custody of the boy.

Though Mondal managed to get the boy admitted to Class I of a local high school in the Maniktala area of north Calcutta, he finds it difficult to meet the boy’s spiralling educational expenses on his meagre income. Moreover, Gopal has two unmarried daughters and an unemployed son to feed.

Now, a city-based non-government organisation (NGO), Satyam Seva Kendra, has offerred to sponsor the boy’s education. “I was really happy when people from the NGO visited my home last week and offered to sponsor my grandson’s education,” said a relieved Mondal, adding that he had already informed his jailed daughter about the NGO’s gesture.

The boy, too, appeared excited about his prospects. “Whenever I meet my mother in jail, she tells me to study carefully.” NGO officers announced on Friday that the organisation will bear the educational expenses of about 100 children of convicts lodged in 54 jails across West Bengal.

Welcoming the gesture, inspector-general of prisons Anil Kumar said the move would help the government better rehabilitate prisoners’ children.


Calcutta, June 23: 
Calcutta Police on Sunday claimed to have made a breakthrough in the twin murders of a woman and her daughter last week at Deshapriya Park.

Detectives said following a series of raids and investigations in Jaipur, in Rajasthan, and at Tanda, in Uttar Pradesh, they had “foolproof and direct as well as sufficient circumstantial evidence” against the Bermecha brothers, Chandan and Arun, that was enough to prove that they had killed their distant relative, Sushila Samsukha, and her daughter Pragati. A detective said they were killed following a “dispute in the family”.

Chandan and Arun went to the third-floor apartment of the Samsukhas in the afternoon last week and struck up a conversation with Sushila. Pragati and brother Mudit were asleep at the time. About 30 minutes later, when Mudit woke up, he was introduced to “uncles” Chandan and Arun. Mudit went out to play with his friends.

When he returned a couple of hours later, he found the doors locked. He stayed out till his father, Uttam, returned home from work and opened the doors with a duplicate key. Inside the flat, they found Sushila and Pragati had been stabbed to death.

Deputy commissioner of police (south) Kuldeep Singh said on Sunday that policemen, now camping in Tanda, succeeded in entering Chandan’s house after breaking the lock on Saturday. “But there was no one there,” Singh said.

But an important breakthrough was made, officers claimed. Speaking over the phone from Tanda, additional superintendent of police Sunil Saxena said fingerprints found in the house matched those found on the victims’ bodies.

“We found that Chandan and his brother had been planning to commit the murders for the past three months,’’ he added.

“We are now trying to track down and arrest the two fugitive brothers,” Singh said. “Once we get them, we will file the chargesheet within the stipulated period,’’ he added.

After talking to Chandan’s relatives at Tanda and in Jaipur, investigators have come to the conclusion that a “ family dispute’’ led to the murders.

Tanda police, quoting neighbours and relatives, said Chandan and Arun appeared to know that police would come looking for them. “They sold off most of their belongings, packed their clothes in suitcases and left for an unknown destination,’’ sub-inspector Ramesh Yadav of Tanda police station said.

In the preliminary report prepared on Saturday, Mudit has been named as one of the main witnesses to the crime. Mudit has identified Chandan and Arun as the two men who were chatting with his mother before he went out to play. The building’s security man said in his statement that nobody came to visit the Samsukhas after Chandan and Arun left.


Calcutta, June 23: 
Teachers from nearly 70 Christian missionary schools in the city on Sunday decided to launch a series of movements early next month to protest the government’s delay in responding to an appeal from heads of such institutions to withdraw its order on slashing dearness allowances.

Nearly 50 teachers of various well-known English medium schools, including St James, Pratt Memorial, La Martiniere and Don Bosco, held an emergency meeting on the issue during the day.

A resolution was adopted to launch an intensive agitation against the government’s tough stand on not rolling back its decision on dearness allowances (DA) payment. The government has announced curtailment of the DA of Anglo-Indian school-teachers from 132 per cent to 41 per cent of their basic salaries.

Officers said academic activities in the schools are likely to be disrupted if the teachers decide to agitate. Teachers claimed that classes would be not affected.

Dilip Bhattacharya, general secretary of the Association of Teachers of Anglo-Indian Schools (ATAIS), said on Sunday they will submit a memorandum to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee listing their grievances. Next, they will organise a “massive” rally at Esplanade to take their demands to the people.

“If the government sticks to its stand, we will have to organise a more intensive movement. Our (Anglo-Indian schools’) teachers and employees will automatically face a pay cut due to the proposed DA reduction. We will not tolerate such injustice,” said the association general secretary.

The association has already submitted a memorandum to Kanti Biswas, state school education minister, on Friday on the same demand.

Biswas had assured a delegation of heads from Anglo-Indian schools that his government will consider their plea when they met him and demanded withdrawal of the decision.

He told the delegation that he would hold a discussion with the finance minister and take a decision on their demand.

Nearly a month has passed, but the government is yet to give any indication in this regard.

At Sunday’s meeting, members of the teachers’ association told the government that instead of drastically cutting funds, it should frame a “rational policy” for distribution of grants to minority schools run by Christian missionaries.

“The government had been providing the dearness allowance at the existing rate on the basis of a policy it framed in 1993. The government is free to review its policies. But how can they slash the rate? It was fixed by its own officers,” said a teacher.

Members expressed their concern over the government’s move to curtail the funds as, they said, the bulk of the expenditure for paying the dearness allowance to Anglo-Indian school teachers at the rate of 132 per cent has been already allotted by the finance department in the current year’s budget.

The education minister said the government has the sole power to divert funds and it could do so at its discretion.


Nabagram (Murshidabad), June 23: 
The village is Raypara. The Sorens are a joint family but two of the brothers, Shalku and Chhotku, are not to be found. Shalku, the eldest, is away in district headquarters Behrampore where he is an employee in the sericulture department; Chhotku is in Jangipur and is qualified enough to teach in a government-sponsored school there.

Five kilometres from the main road in the same belt is another village called Talapahar. If you ask for the whereabouts of Nepal Tudu, his neighbours will guide you to the “pucca bari”. Tudu’s house, however, does not employ bricks but is the only one in the village where the mud walls are covered by a stretch of whitewash and some colours.

Quite a few examples of such prosperity can be seen but the Sorens and the Tudus give a very misleading picture of the economic condition of the tribals of Raypara or Talapahar. Or for that matter, that of the neighbouring villages in this tribal belt of Murshidabad, the poorest region in one of the poorest districts of the state, say their neighbours. The Sorens are tribals all right, but are also Christians, they explain.

Despite the church’s failure to wean away a large section of tribals from the influence of the village ojha (witch-doctor), it has, nevertheless, given some a degree of prosperity that they could not have dreamt of if they were not Christians.

Bang opposite the Sorens’ house in Raypara lives the family of Loba Kisku. His children — like those of Shalku and Chhotku — go to school. But they do not have the bright blue-and-white dresses the young school-going Sorens have got from the Catholic church at Azimganj, where they go religiously every Sunday.

The Sorens are also the only family in the 200-home village to have members who hold government jobs. “Leave alone a government job, not a single person in the village has anything to do except tilling the common land,” said Kabir Murmu.

Murmu has five children but can afford to send only the youngest to school. “Who will till the land if I send all of them to school?” he asked. “The more the number of hands, the less the hunger,” he explained his decision.

Like the Sorens of Raypara, the Tudus of Talapahar enjoy an exalted status. Besides the attractive colour on the walls of their home, they also have the largest number of cattle. Their Christian neighbour, Bajed Magdi, is the only jobholder in the village and his courtyard flaunts a new BSA SLR sports bicycle, a luxury in this belt.

Sonami Soren, the eldest wife of Raypara’s Soren family, agreed that their prosperity had everything to do with their becoming Christians a decade ago. “It’s god’s gift,” she explained.

Her neighbour, Murmu, too, knows about “god’s gift”. There were times he felt like converting to Christianity, he said, but he stepped back at the last moment on every occasion.

Tradition was important for him, he explained. “Besides, what if my children fail to use the opportunity and get decent marks and a decent job?” he asked, admitting that “god” could help only that much.


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