Texts break sex taboos
Globetrotter with fake papers
Hospitals set to heal image
August 16 date for seat belts
For Raj Kapoor fan, Bollywood beckons
The City Diary
Higher bill for water boost
Son sees father die in fall off footboard
Brush with hospitality
Contract bus strike from Wednesday

 
 
TEXTS BREAK SEX TABOOS 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
After government schools, it is the turn of private-sector institutions to break barriers and smash taboos. Convent schools, a majority of them run by orders affiliated to the Catholic church, are introducing sex education, including a discussion on condoms, at the high-school level.

Two senior educators from the city, attached to well-known schools, are involved in the writing and editing of books meant for Classes IX and above, in which issues concerning sex and sexuality have been addressed. The series has a separate content and approach that addresses high-school students.

Sister Cyril, principal of Loreto Convent, Sealdah, has authored a continuation of her We are the World series for Classes XI and XII. The “pro-life” series is already being taught in Classes I to X, but the new book, to be introduced in schools from the next academic year, includes a “human approach” to problems of adolescence.

Father A. Bruylants, former headmaster of St Xaviers’ Collegiate School, is the coordinating editor of another series of texts titled Human Values — Discovering Myself. The books in the series for Classes I to VIII are already in print and used by different institutions.

“I have sent the manuscript for Classes IX and X for approval and subsequent printing. The books will be ready by the year-end,” said Father Bruylants.

In both cases, the new textbooks are meant for senior-level courses in value education. The Union education ministry has made value education compulsory in its latest education policy.

The advent and spread of sexually-transmitted diseases and AIDS, coupled with the infotainment boom, have led to conditions that could prove harmful to the youth, who are not as yet equipped to make the right decisions, points out Sister Cyril.

“The students should have the capacity to reflect, to judge what is right and wrong, on different issues, including sex,” she said.

“We are no longer in a black-and-white world. Grey areas have crept in. The facts of life that students learn in biology class are not enough. More information on sex and sexuality, emotions and psychological aspects are required now,” added Sister Cyril.

All this has compelled Catholic schools to include in their textbooks knowledge of condoms as a measure to ward off infection. When an NGO approached St Xaviers on holding a few classes for the senior boys on the same issue about six years ago, it was refused on the ground that the Catholic church prohibits the use of artificial methods of birth control, including condoms.

“In principle, it still does,” points out Father Bruylants. “The Catholic Church is clear on the use of condoms. It is prohibited, the reason being the use of condoms vitiates the purpose for which the sexual organs have been created, which is the self-gift of husband and wife in the sexual act, an act of love essentially open to life.

“But the Church’s pastoral approach takes into account the difficulties and needs of individuals or couples,” he adds. “For instance, there may be a very serious reason to avoid pregnancy. In such cases, individuals and couples are directed to reflect upon the situation and take such decisions that are dictated by an informed conscience.”

The authorities at Loreto House agree. “Even though sex education, AIDS and condoms are mentioned in a section of the course in value education for Classes IX upwards, the chapter discourages pre-marital and extra-marital sex and the use of condoms. It was included as the students should know and make the right decisions,” they said.

Father Jacob, principal of Don Bosco, Park Circus, says that sex education is being introduced in Classes XI and XII in more detail, compared to the lower classes.

“The Church is against the use of any means of artificial birth control, but the mention of condoms is still there because the students should be equipped to make the right decisions when necessary,” said Father Jacob.

   

 
 
GLOBETROTTER WITH FAKE PAPERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
A globetrotting goon’s luck has finally run out after being hauled up for entering the city on a forged passport.

Deputy commissioner of police, security control, P.K. Chatterjee, said investigations on Monday revealed that Sidheek Karipadhi Abdullah, 28, had entered the country “several times” with fake travel documents.

Abdullah was handed over to the Mumbai Police on Monday. His possible links with the Mumbai underworld, his stay in Dubai and his travel schedule have come under the scanner.

“We checked with Interpol and Central intelligence agencies to ascertain that Abdullah was travelling with forged passports and fake documents in Dubai for the past year,’’ said Chatterjee. “We know from the reports we have received that he was a swindler, but there might well be more to his crime trail.”

Security-control officers arrested Abdullah on July 12, as he was trying to sneak in through immigration with a Xerox copy of his passport, after arriving on a Bangladesh Biman flight from Dhaka. “He lied about his antecedents during initial interrogation and told officials that his passport was stolen in transit,’’ said Chatterjee.

The police began a probe and got in touch with Interpol and other security agencies. Sources said Interpol sent a fax to the city police on Monday, stating that Abdullah “had reached Dubai last summer and was travelling with forged travel documents ever since.’’

Chatterjee confirmed that Abdullah is from Kazargode, in Kerala. “We checked with our counterparts in Kerala and found that he had left for Dubai on July 1 last year,’’ he added. The Dubai authorities told Interpol that Abdullah had been stopped at the airport while trying to leave for Bahrain earlier this month. “He was kept in custody for two days in Dubai before being put on a Mumbai-bound flight,’’ said an officer.

Abdullah reached Mumbai on July 6, but was intercepted for travelling on a forged passport. He claimed to be a Dubai citizen but could not prove his credentials and was sent back to West Asia by the Mumbai police. Abdullah reached Sharjah and from there, took a flight to Dhaka. On July 12, he tried to enter Calcutta, but was stopped.

   

 
 
HOSPITALS SET TO HEAL IMAGE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The diagnosis is done. The prescription is ready. Now, it’s time for the treatment.

The image of healthcare has hit a new low, patients are increasingly looking beyond the boundaries of Bengal and disgruntled ‘victims of medical negligence’ are turning to consumer courts like never before. The Association of Hospitals of Eastern India (AHEI), a group of eight premier non-government healthcare units in Calcutta, has finally decided to do what it can to arrest this slide.

Following months of “dormancy” after coming together two years ago, the association — comprising Woodlands, CMRI, B.M. Birla, Kothari, AMRI-Apollo, Belle-Vue, Peerless and Ruby — is ready to launch a drive to put the city’s much-maligned medical services back on track and give the profession an image makeover.

“We are trying to arrest the exodus of patients from the city,” says Ananda M. Mallick, president of the association and vice-president, finance & administration, Woodlands Hospital and Medical Research Centre. The immediate thrust in the post-Kunal Saha scenario is “improving patient-doctor relations” by “increasing the commitment level” among doctors. “We are even discussing a code of conduct for doctors associated with our member-hospitals,” he adds.

Amit De, association secretary and general administrator, B.M. Birla Heart Research Centre, says: “To bring back the trust of the people in our healthcare delivery system and the medical fraternity, it is absolutely vital to improve doctor-patient relationship and ensure greater transparency all round.”

AHEI plans to introduce medical audits for doctors to stop the rampant practice of “needless” medical investigations. “The nexus between a section of doctors and some dubious labs must be broken,” says the association president. “Moral pressure will be exerted by doctors who don’t encourage commissions on those who do,” he adds. Then, the “rogue clinics” will be identified and “dealt with”.

To “reduce cost of treatment with standardisation”, the association will “attack the pacemaker racket” and urge doctors and diagnostic centres to display rates. The association will also move to put an end to the “price war” among its member-hospitals. “All member-hospitals must lay their cards on the table, in terms of facilities offered and the cost involved. We don’t want a cost-war situation, but will welcome a service-war scenario,” says De.

AHEI, which hopes to have 20 private hospitals with a minimum of 100 beds under its fold “in a few months”, will soon meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and health minister Surya Kanta Mishra to discuss its immediate and long-term goals.

   

 
 
AUGUST 16 DATE FOR SEAT BELTS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
From August 16, using seat belts in cars will become mandatory. “We are all set to get the new rule implemented,” said deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh on Monday. “We have given vehicle-owners enough time to get themselves organised. They should have everything in order, a month from now,” he added.

Metro clears the air on the seat-belt issue:

The mandatory use of seat belts will apply to all vehicles above 500 cc. This would cover the entire range of vehicles from cars to Matador vans to buses

The rule is applicable to those occupying the front seat. Not just the driver, but those sitting next to him will have to strap up too

Offenders will be prosecuted in three stages. A first-time violation will draw a fine of Rs 100; the second time Rs 200, and the third Rs 300. A fourth-time violation will lead to cancellation of the driver’s licence

All vehicles to hit the road from 1994 will fall under the new rule. The rest will be exempted, since there were no seat belts in cars before 1994. “We will, however, request car-owners to get the seat belts attached for safety,” said Singh. “But we cannot force them to do so,” he added

In case of minibuses, only the driver will be required to use the seat belt, since he faces the windscreen. Others in the driver’s cabin will be spared

Seat belts will have to be strapped on all the time. They cannot be taken off even if the car is stranded in a traffic jam

All government buses, even those manufactured before 1994, will be provided with seat belts. Special arrangements are being made for this

   

 
 
FOR RAJ KAPOOR FAN, BOLLYWOOD BECKONS 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
His Raj Kapoor act has taken the boy from Burrabazar to Bollywood and back. But for nine-year-old Navneet Sewak, battling thalassaemia, the dream of meeting the stars, the hope of making it to the screen, lives on.

An evening with Fardeen Khan last Thursday — after an hour with Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai in February 2001 — brought with it a promise from the star that has sent Navneet’s hopes of being in front of the cameras soaring.

Fardeen was floored when he saw the little boy perform Jeena yahan, marna yahan. When he heard how Navneet nursed dreams of being on TV, he promised to try his best to get him a slot on Kya Masti Kya Dhoom. “He said he would put in a word with Sonali Bendre, who hosts the STAR Plus programe,” says Rishabh Bapna, a student of Don Bosco Park Circus, who helped arrange Thursday’s meet between children suffering from thalassaemia and the Provogue man. Fardeen took down Navneet’s contact, assured him that he would “try his best” and let him know “within a week”.

Navneet has been doing the tragic clown number from Mera Naam Joker for four years now, on different city stages, for various occasions. No one, not even his mother Usha, knows how the Raj Kapoor fixation developed. But it led to dreams of becoming an actor, early on.

Navneet is now up to three transfusions a month — from two earlier — and his “wellness is a relative thing”, says Sanghamitra Choudhury of the Thalassaemia Society of India. “But he is always very enthusiastic… He is a real dreamer.”

When he met Fardeen, Navneet decided to tattle on the Big B: “Amitabh uncle grabbed two toffees from me.” And while sharing the small screen with Sonali will be ‘mast’, he told Fardeen what would really make his day — a bit role in one of his films.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Morning blaze at Writers’ Buildings

A fire broke out in the co-operative department of Writers’ Buildings on Monday morning. Three fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the flames. According to the police, employees first noticed smoke billowing from the third-floor office of the co-operative department. Firemen brought the flames under control within half-an-hour. No report of injury was received. After conducting preliminary investigations, fire brigade officials said a short-circuit might have caused the blaze.

Illegal taps off in Howrah

The Howrah Municipal Corporation (HMC) has started disconnecting illegal water connections on Monday in different parts of the town. Dilip Sen, deputy mayor, said the HMC would identify all the illegal tappings and disconnect them. “This will benefit people with legal water connections,” said Sen.

Road mishaps

Two persons, including a woman, were injured in separate road accidents on Monday. Both were hospitalised where their condition was stated to be critical. A 52-year-old cyclist, Brahmagopal Singh, was injured when a private bus on route 205A knocked him down in front of the Ballygunge police outpost. Singh was admitted to Ramakrishna Mission Seva Pratisthan with head injuries. The driver of the bus managed to flee with the vehicle. Meera Bhattacharya, 40, was injured when she fell from a private bus near Mahabirtala, on Tollygunge Circular Road. She was admitted to MR Bangur Hospital.

Madarsa jobs

A writ petition alleging irregularities in the appointments of teachers in different schools was filed before Calcutta High Court on Monday. Idris Ali, who filed the petition, stated that the candidates from the madarsa panel of 2000 were not finding a berth in schools while School Service Commission nominees were getting jobs in madarsas. Justice M. Sinha admitted the petition and directed the respondents to file affidavits.

Subba at SSKM

A tight security ring was thrown around SSKM Hospital after Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO) chief Chhatra Subba, was brought to the city for treatment. The arrested leader was whisked into the cardiology wing of the city hospital soon after his arrival from Siliguri on Darjeeling Mail. Hospital sources said his condition was stable, but is being monitored round the clock.

Tax net on tracks

The Corporation has started assessment of property taxes on railway properties in the city after mayor Subrata Mukherjee instructed municipal commissioner Debasis Som to despatch a demand notice to railway minister Nitish Kumar. The Sealdah station, the staff quarters, the stations of the Sealdah division, both north and south, and Metro Rail will come under the tax net.

Jo’burg trip for CM

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is leaving for Johannesberg on July 23 to attend a Communist Party of South Africa meet. He will take the midnight flight from Mumbai on July 23 and will return on July 30. Bhattacharjee will represent the CPM at the party congress.

Protest arrest

Five employees of a garment showroom were arrested on Monday afternoon when they were demonstrating under the Citu banner on JL Nehru Road. The irate employees broke the glass panes of the showroom. Police said the demonstration was to protest the transfer policy of the management.

Power theft

Forty-two persons were arrested on Monday for pilfering power. The raids were carried out in areas like Ganesh Chandra Avenue, Bowbazar, Kasba, Jadavpur and Lake Town.    

 
 
HIGHER BILL FOR WATER BOOST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
The civic authorities are set to revise filtered water charges to raise funds for the augmentation scheme for the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach, Jadavpur and east Calcutta. The move will force flat-owners to pay Rs 5 per 1,000 litres of filtered water. So far, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has been charging Rs 3 per 1,000 litres.

The CMC is considering another proposal to slash drainage connection fees for buildings in the making. The rethink started after mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s discussions with a city developers’ forum, which insisted on a rational fee structure. This, the forum felt, would serve twin purposes: relief to property tax-payers and taking civic services on the path of self-sustenance.

The proposals are:

Raising the rate of filtered water from Rs 3 to Rs 5 per 1,000 litres for apartments

Slashing the drainage connection fee

“Once the decisions are implemented, the CMC will need to harness resources to foot the bill for its filtered water supply augmentation schemes,” said Mukherjee on Monday. With urbanisation spreading on the eastern fringes of the city and in the added areas, the additional demand for filtered water by 2010 will be around 100 million gallons a day, he added.

Mayor-in-council member Sovan Chatterjee said the cost of production of 1,000 litres of filtered water worked out to Rs 1.75 a litre. “If capital investment on the distribution network and augmentation schemes are added, the price per 1,000 litres will shoot up to Rs 4.75 a litre,” he said.

According to chief engineer, water supply, Dibyendu Roychaudhury, the proposed rate of Rs 5 per 1,000 litres would not burden a family of four. “If the daily per capita consumption of water is 250 litres, the monthly water charges for a family comes to about Rs 15,” he said.

The developers’ forum agreed to include water fees in the monthly maintenance charges from flat-owners, on the condition that the CMC shoulders the cost of laying mains in the eastern fringes and the added areas.

Pressure is mounting on the mayor to slash drainage connection fees. The charges levelled against the CMC were that it was charging the fee for an open space in a building and the total amount worked out to almost 50 per cent of the sanction fee.

A civic officer said the sanction fee for constructing a five-storeyed building on a three-cottah plot would be around Rs 88,940; the drainage connection fee for the same building would come to around Rs 42,552. Moreover, a citizen did not get any monetary relief even if a drainage connection already existed on the premises on which the construction was underway.

   

 
 
SON SEES FATHER DIE IN FALL OFF FOOTBOARD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
A Howrah-bound passenger, Shantiranjan Roy, 47, died in a fall from a private bus at the College Street-Mahatma Gandhi Road intersection at 8-30 am on Monday. Roy’s son, Lytton, a student of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, was accompanying him.

Roy and his son, residents of Habra, in North 24-Parganas, had got off a train at Sealdah, from where they took a bus for Howrah.

Later, doctors at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital said Roy probably suffered a heart attack before he fell off the bus. “There were no marks of external injury on the body,” said one of the doctors.

The driver and the conductor fled after the accident, the police said. After admitting his father to Medical College, Lytton called up home in Habra and informed the rest of his family of the mishap.

Bikash Roy, Lytton’s uncle, said his brother Shantiranjan was a former bank employee. He had taken voluntary retirement in March 2001 and was running a small business in Habra.

“Father and son were in Calcutta on work. Lytton is doing a study-based project in Calcutta and was to meet some of his seniors in that connection. His father was planning to visit the share market,” said Bikash.

Nilima Roy, Lytton’s aunt, who reached Medical College immediately on hearing of the accident, said: “Lytton is a brilliant student. With his father gone, I don’t how he will complete his M.Sc in Kanpur”.

Though Shantiranjan’s wife has not been informed of the tragedy, relatives were slowly filing in at the Roys’ Habra residence.

“I think my mother will not be able to bear the shock. Don’t tell her anything,” Lytton told his relatives.

   

 
 
BRUSH WITH HOSPITALITY 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
Beauties who age gracefully are said to have gravity-defying charms. The old houses that line Chitpur resemble their human counterparts in this respect.

Tumble-down they may be, but seldom do entire structures collapse in a heap. Unlike aging beauties, however, who love to plaster their faces with layers of pancake and powder, old houses rarely see a coat of whitewash. Which is one of the reasons why Chitpur looks so forbiddingly grey to the uninitiated, who cannot detect either the elaborate stucco work or the noble proportions of buildings wearing layers of grime cramped into a corner of a street barely wider than an alley.

So you can hardly miss it when one of these houses suddenly looks as if it has just emerged out of gift wrapping. A few months ago, Salehjee Musafirkhana, opposite Nakhoda Masjid, used to look abandoned. Now it is good enough for royalty.

Blinding white in the afternoon sun, it is surprising that it has escaped the notice of detergent ad filmmakers. The massive three-storeyed building, with verandas running down its length, was built in 1889. It has two dramatic wrought iron gates, its design suggestive of writhing creepers. All its lunettes with tinted glass still gleam.

As its name indicates, it is a guest house for poor people looking for a place to stay in when they come visiting the city. It was built by Ebrahim Sulaiman Salehjee and Musaji Ahmed Salehjee, who belonged to the Sunni Bohra community and who came all the way from Kathor village, in Surat. Now guests are required to make a nominal payment but years ago it was all free. It has 70 rooms and three halls on each floor, which can accommodate 1,500 pilgrims during Haj.

Md Ibrahim Ameen Salehjee, who is honorary joint secretary of the Salehjee Musafirkhana Wakf, which runs the guest house, says the two traders were uncle and nephew and their business interests extended to Burma. Their partnership deed stated that 25 per cent of their earnings “belonged to god”. Many Muslim institutions and Calcutta University were beneficiaries.

In 1944, the responsibility of running the musafirkhana was vested in the official trustee of West Bengal under a scheme of Calcutta High Court. But for years it was neglected. The rear of the building was on the verge of collapse, when members of the Salehjee family brought it to the notice of the authorities. Since 1994, a five-member committee has been in charge of its management.

Ibrahim Salehjee says repairs are not complete yet, but they are making every effort to restore it.

The wakf used to own valuable property in Howrah. But in 1965, the government acquired it without compensation. So they have filed a case and it is pending before high court.

   

 
 
CONTRACT BUS STRIKE FROM WEDNESDAY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 15: 
Over 950 school buses will stay off the road from Wednesday, in response to an indefinite strike called by the West Bengal Contract Carriage-Owners and Operators’ Association.

The strike will protest the government’s decision on permitting pool cars to ferry schoolchildren. The association had observed a token strike on May 10 on the same issue.

“Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty had assured us in May that he would take action against the private car-owners who were flouting motor vehicles guidelines. However, nothing came out of the assurance. We have no alternative but to go on an indefinite strike. We have informed chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee about our intention,” said general secretary of the association, Himadri Ganguly, on Monday.

The state transport department had initially argued that if private car-owners cleared their commercial taxes, they could ferry passengers, but the contract carriage operators pointed out that the Motor Vehicles Act implied that commercial tax-payers could let out their vehicles on hire, but not to ferry school-goers.

When several meetings with the transport department failed to evoke a response, the association wrote to the chief minister, seeking his intervention.

Admission counselling: The counselling of students for admission to the MBBS stream in the state-run medical and dental colleges will be held from July 25 to July 27.

Soumendra Nath Banerjee, principal, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, said the forms for admission to the four medical colleges in the city would be distributed from his institution this week.

The four colleges are Calcutta Medical College, Nilratan Sirkar Medical College, R.G. Kar Medical College and National Medical College.

The counselling session will be held at the Ashutosh Centenary Hall, on the Indian Museum premises.

The forms for admission to the district medical colleges will be distributed this week from Burdwan Medical College, North Bengal Medical College and Bankura Medical College. There are 975 seats in the medical and dental colleges in the state.

   
 

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