New stop for cancer care
Marks for missing script
Buses back, taxi fare hike revised
Bengal bandwagon rolls West
The City Diary
Sharing the baton in race of life
Technical snag hits SSKM
Power, water crises spark people protest
Patients shun state hospital
Key witness in Khadim’s case gunned down

 
 
NEW STOP FOR CANCER CARE 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
A “world-class cancer centre”, 10 minutes from Tollygunge Metro station, will be the latest destination for super-speciality medicare, in 18 months. That’s the hope for Calcuttans held out by a charitable trust ready to flag off a Rs 50-crore cancer hospital aimed at plugging a gaping hole in the city’s healthcare delivery system and checking the exodus of cancer patients.

The cancer hospital is at the heart of a Rs 100-crore project drawn up by Vishwa Jagriti Mission Trust (Calcutta).

“Our principal aim is to give Calcuttans a proper chance to cope with cancer. The hospital is being built at the request of minister Subhas Chakraborty,” says Amarnath Shroff, vice-president of the trust and president of City Developers’ Forum, the apex body of realtors here.

The trust has finalised the purchase of a nine-acre plot on M.G. Road, beside the Karunamoyee bridge, which has been “visited and approved” by Chakraborty and health minister Suryakanta Mishra. “We will complete the project inside 18 months from the date of receiving the required land-ceiling permission, which we are expecting any day now,” says Shroff. Members of the trust will be meeting chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee this week.

The 1.5 lakh-sq.ft cancer hospital will be housed in a 14-storeyed building. “This will be a boon for patients in Calcutta and nearby states, as the facilities planned are at par with the best in the world. For instance, the gamma knife (the latest equipment in oncology treatment), which the developers are importing at a cost of Rs 13 crore, will be the first of its kind in Calcutta,” says haemato-oncologist Asis Mukherjee. Along with leading cancer specialists A.P. Majumdar and Anil Poddar, Mukherjee will be part of the hospital’s medical board.

The leukaemia unit of the cancer hospital is being set up in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute of America in Bethesda (Maryland). “The hospital will have other firsts like umbilical cord blood banking and a haemato-oncology ICU. Blood from the umbilical cord can be stored up to 10 years in liquid nitrogen and used as substitute for bone marrow in transplants,” says Dr Mukherjee. A tie-up with the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) for a dedicated chemotherapy unit is also being finalised.

Besides the state-of-the-art oncology hospital, the mega project will include a school, an old-age home, a research centre for ayurvedic medicine, a charitable homeopathy dispensary, a 25,000-sq. ft auditorium for cultural programmes and medical seminars, a 100-apartment block to house patients’ kin, and vocational-training programmes.

Architect Dulal Mukherjee wants to give the hospital a “truly international feel”, exuding “a relaxed and restful atmosphere”. Hence, a twin-level, semi-covered central plaza to double as the waiting lounge, a dedicated ambulatory entrance, a special, clinically-clean ward for the terminally-ill, an art gallery, library, flower boutiques and landscaped gardens. “Although 80 per cent of this project is oncology, space will also be created for corollary medicine and top-drawer research, besides endocrinology and neurology,” he adds.

Vishwa Jagriti, engaged in literacy and self-employment programmes, hopes to raise the entire project cost through donations and promises to plough back revenue into development schemes for this “non-profit institution”.<

   

 
 
MARKS FOR MISSING SCRIPT 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
Justice Barin Ghosh of Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education to issue a fresh marksheet to Pinaki Patra, who appeared in this year’s Madhyamik examination, within 15 days with revised marks in history.

Pinaki, a student of Nabipur Saralabala High School in Murshidabad, was shocked when he saw that he had scored only 11 in history though on an average he had scored 65 per cent marks in other subjects.

Pinaki, along with teachers of his school, filed a case in Calcutta High Court. Justice Ghosh heard the case on July 3 and directed the Board to produce Pinaki’s history answerscript.

On Wednesday, the counsel appearing on behalf of the Board said Pinaki’s history answerscript could not be traced. “But according to the tabulation sheet, the boy has secured 60 marks in the written examination of the history paper,” he said.

Pinaki had secured full marks in the oral examination of history. The judge directed the Board to give him 70 in the subject.

High court lawyers say similar cases were coming up for hearing. In one case, a student who passed the joint entrance examination and has been allowed admission to IIT Kharagpur, had secured zero in mathematics in the Higher Secondary examination. The student has filed a case against the Higher Secondary Council.

Supradip Roy, the advocate who fought a long battle in high court in 2001 demanding a change in the methodology of publication of results of both Madhyamik and the Higher Secondary examinations conducted by the Board and the Council, respectively, claimed that both organisations were violating the Calcutta High Court order.

Roy said: “Unless the Board and the Council bring transparency — as desired by the court — in the publication of results, there is every chance of such mistakes being made.”

As in the previous years, this year, too, a number of cases had been filed by either aggrieved candidates or their unhappy parents. In some cases, the school authorities and the victimised students were fighting the system in tandem.

On Wednesday, too, a number of candidates of Madhyamik 2002 were present in the court room during the hearing of the Pinaki case.

   

 
 
BUSES BACK, TAXI FARE HIKE REVISED 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
The day that began on a bleak note for Calcutta commuters ended on a bright one. Not only was the chartered bus strike called off, but transport minister Subhas Chakraborty also announced a partial rollback of the taxi fare hike.

The “indefinite strike” called by the Association of Contract Carriage Owners and Operators — which inconvenienced thousands of schoolchildren on Wednesday — was withdrawn after Chakraborty assured the protesters that the government will re-examine public vehicles department rules and, if necessary, ban pool car services for schoolchildren.

Nine hundred and fifty chartered buses had gone off the road on Wednesday, forcing guardians to seek alternative transport for their children.

The association threatened to resume the movement after July 24 if the government failed to stop pool car services violating the rules.

Chakraborty, meanwhile, announced a revision in the enhanced taxi fare effective from August 1. After meetings with various taxi operators’ organisations and officers of the transport department, it was decided that the taxi fare will remain “unchanged for the first two kilometres”. So the taxi fare at meter-down remains at Rs 12.

For the subsequent 200 metres, passengers will be charged Rs 1.40 instead of Rs 1.30 as announced earlier. The existing rate is Rs 1.20 for every 200 metres. “In effect, passengers will have to pay Re 1 per km after the first two km,” Chakraborty said.

   

 
 
BENGAL BANDWAGON ROLLS WEST 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
Soccer, song and cinema. It’s time to take these passions of Bengal beyond the boundaries, to throw open the doors of the city to some international flavour and to bring sport and culture “that is intrinsically our own”, under one banner. Cases in point: the Indian football team’s trip to South Africa later this month, Usha Uthup’s tour to the US, an Aparna Sen retrospective…

Threading the three worlds together is Arun Poddar, recently-elected president of the Indian Football Association (IFA) and trustee of Spandan. His first foray under the Celebrity Management Group (CMG)-Spandan banner is the IFA-backed football friendlies against South African champion club Manning Rangers, “with four World Cuppers”, on July 26 and 28. The 17-member Indian line-up stars the best of the Maidan, including Jose Ramirez Barreto, with Mohd Habib at the helm.

“The idea is to bring back an international look and feel to Indian football after decades and give some much-needed visibility to the sport,” says Poddar.

The next CMG-Spandan tour will take Usha ‘Kolkata’ Uthup to several cities in the US. “The plan to take our music abroad will continue with Bangla bands like Bhoomi,” says Renu Roy, monitoring the CMG-Spandan programme.

But it’s not going to be just a one-way traffic. Top teams – including World Cup 2002 semi-finalists – are being contacted for football friendlies here. Concerts in Calcutta are also high on the agenda, kicking off with an A.R. Rehman gig at the Salt Lake stadium this winter.

The film fare includes Aparna Sen’s retrospective in the Durga Puja month, a Bangladeshi festival and production of “a quality film from Bengal” by the end of this year. CMG-Spandan will also develop software for the small screen.

But the first focus is football. “The IFA holds 960 matches in eight months, but how many are noticed? The sport needs greater visibility, especially in Calcutta,” says Poddar, keen to increase football fare on his Akash Bangla channel.

The next step is “a proper academy” for “30-35 boys” from Calcutta and the districts. The target date is October, the proposed site is Howrah, the standard must be international, the technical aspects will involve the IFA, but the push will be purely private, promises Poddar. “All I want is to see India play the World Cup,” he says, with Calcutta the cradle of this soccer surge.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Shot for foiling dacoity bid in store

Dacoits shot Bidyut Chakraborty, 32, who foiled a robbery attempt in a department store on CIT Road on Wednesday afternoon. Police said Chakraborty, a customer, resisted the robbers who were demanding Rs 20,000 at gunpoint from the shop owner. At this, the criminals fled trying to drag Chakraborty into a waiting taxi. When he raised an alarm, they shot him. The bullet pierced his leg. The taxi was later impounded. The dacoits have been identified, police said.

Cop shelter for wanted man

Shankar Sharma, wanted in connection with the recent murder of Mohan Nepali at the port quarters in the Taratala area, was arrested when he ran into Taratala police station after being chased by detectives of the anti-rowdy section on Wednesday afternoon. Sharma reportedly begged the duty officer for shelter in the thana for he feared the detectives would beat him up.

Constable run over

Basudeb Sashmal, a 48-year-old constable, was killed on Wednesday morning after being crushed by the rear wheels of a private bus on route 12C/2 at the Central Avenue-Bowbazar Street crossing. Sashmal, an employee of the Central Reserve force, fell off the bus while alighting. He was a resident of Kalindi in Lake Town. The driver was arrested and the vehicle impounded.

Identification call

Dinesh Singhania, who had been kidnapped and was subsequently released in the Ultadanga area a couple of months ago, was called to Presidency jail on Wednesday to identify Mohammed Salim, in judicial custody in connection with the case. Salim is believed to be involved in the kidnapping of the businessman and the extraction of a large sum of money as ransom.

Portal launch

In a bid to strengthen Indo-German ties, Bdreamz launched a portal Germanlive.net in the city on Wednesday. The portal will cover ongoing events in both the countries, highlighting economic, cultural and industrial relations in the backdrop of social and political changes. The portal was inaugurated by Consul-General, Federal Republic of Germany, Wolfgang Seiwart.

Dance workshop

A dance therapy workshop with NGOs, special educators and children being conducted by Bangalore-based danseuse Tripura Kashyap, started on Wednesday at the American Center. Kashyap will work with children at Sanlaap’s Narendrapur home for girls rescued from red-light areas, over the weekend. Danseuse Priti Mehrotra will join her on Monday for a workshop with special educators.

A video-conference with US dance therapists was held at the Center on Wednesday evening. Dancers, educators and activists attended.

Drowned in lake

Debashis Chakraborty, 40, drowned in Rabindra Sarobar on Wednesday morning. He was sitting on the bank of the Lake when he slipped and fell into the water, police said. He used to go for swims to the Lakes every day, an officer said.

Assembly arrests

Samajwadi Party activists staged a demonstration in front of the Assembly on Wednesday afternoon to demand the resignation of Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim. Thirty supporters were arrested.

Girls suffer burns

Two minor girls suffered severe burns after a fire engulfed shops near the Keoratola crematorium on Wednesday morning. The girls were taken to a nearby hospital in a serious condition. The cause of the fire, which gutted a number of shops, was not learnt.

Suicide

Tapan Bhandari, 26, committed suicide at his Regent Park residence on Tuesday night by hanging from the ceiling of his bedroom. Police said the man might have been suffering from mental disorder.

Health meet

A day-long seminar on ‘Healthcare resources — optimal utilisation a management challenge’ will be organised by IISWBM at a city hotel on Thursday. Health minister Suryakanta Mishra will attend.    

 
 
SHARING THE BATON IN RACE OF LIFE 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
There is a fire burning in Rita’s eyes. The same fire which makes identical twin Ranjita blaze the track. Rita, who gave up her own dreams to allow her sister’s sprinting dreams to come true, has no vent for what lies within.

In Paschimpara, Chinsurah, Ranjita and Rita need no introduction. Both were star runners ever since they were kids. Then, almost 10 years ago, their father, who used to eke together subsistence money selling supari, passed away, leaving them no choice but to leave school and the track. But their coaches couldn’t watch that happen, and came up with an offer to support either one of them in pursuing a career in athletics.

Rita was ready for the sacrifice. Now, she carefully applies sindoor before facing the camera. At 17, she was married this May, and now lives in Canning. “I thought I would get married when Ranjita gave her BA exams in a few years, but then this got arranged… Even if I don’t like it, I have to make the best of it, don’t I?” Hard choices seem to come easy to the girl who gave up a future and rolled 1,000 bidis a day to support her sister and mother.

But now, the bidi basket has changed hands. It is Ranjita who wakes up at the crack of dawn, rushes off for practice for a few hours, before cycling back home to roll bidis. Twice a week she travels to Salt Lake stadium for training sessions. With Rita gone, and her mother unwell, it is the 100m and 200m sprinter who makes ends somehow meet. With only a few hours on hand a day — between practice and studies — she barely manages to roll 500, earning Rs 20.

“Rita is married and I have to run the house,” shrugs the cheery Ranjita. Her expenses are high, with training, athletic meets and equipment to take care of. She couldn’t have managed without the help of current coach Swapan Haldar and ex-coach Sudip Sengupta, beside some local benefactors. But some help was pulled away when Ranjita — suffering a hip injury when she landed in a district tourney long-jump pit without enough sand — didn’t run as fast this year. But the national Under-16 record holder for a 12.28-second 100m sprint, is on the way to recovery, following “very expensive treatment” in the city.

With the state and national meets coming up, coach Swapan and Ranjita are both optimistic that her timings will be better this time round. “We are preparing with the hopes of making it to the Junior Asiad this year,” says Swapan. A berth in the meet will boost Ranjita’s hopes of a job offer from one of the government agencies that also field an athletics team.

Apart from Ranjita’s hectic daily schedule, a major hurdle for her is the inaccessibility of nutritious food. Four biscuits is what she has before taking off for a three-hour morning practice. Rice, vegetables and bread is all she can afford for the rest of the day, apart from the glass of milk sponsored by a local panchayat member. But that is as far as help from the “state” goes for her.

Fortune never has easy options for these two sisters. Rita’s boubhat fell on the same day as the state athletics meet. “I couldn’t do anything during the wedding, I was so upset…,” recalls Ranjita. “I told her she had to go… She can always come to my house later, but this meet will only happen once,” says Rita. That is the grit that won Rita recognition at The Telegraph School Awards for Excellence last year, where the sisters were honoured with The Shalini (Mimi) Rakshit Awards for Excellence — Ranjita for sporting achievement and Rita for bravery.

   

 
 
TECHNICAL SNAG HITS SSKM 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
The cardiology ward of SSKM Hospital has turned into a hunting ground for touts after the angiogram machine in the hospital developed a technical snag on Monday. Middlemen from private clinics were seen visiting the cardiology ward, offering patients angiography at Rs 7,500 and angioplasty at Rs 1.20 lakh.

On Monday, patients, who had been taken into the operation theatre for angiography and angioplasty, were returned to their beds as the doctors could not confirm when the machine would resume functioning.

House surgeons, too, pleaded helplessness when asked when the machine would start functioning.

“Mechanics have tried to rectify the snag but could not do so till Wednesday,” they said.

Surgeon superintendent of SSKM Hospital, Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay, said experts were still at work to repair the fault. Engineers from Mumbai are expected to visit the hospital on Thursday. “I know several patients have been inconvenienced. But I am sure the machine will be put in order soon,” he added.

   

 
 
POWER, WATER CRISES SPARK PEOPLE PROTEST 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
Plagued by the twin problems of power cuts and water shortage, residents in some city areas were even forced to seek alternative accommodation.

Following unscheduled power cuts for long hours, north Calcutta residents hit the streets on Wednesday morning. Residents of Sovabazar blocked the Jatindra Mohan Avenue-Naba Krishna Street intersection demanding an improvement in the power situation.

Office-goers and schoolchildren faced a harrowing time as traffic came to a halt, blocking main and parallel roads. A scuffle ensued between the demonstrators and bus passengers, with the latter demanding that the blockade be lifted.

A force from the nearby police station swung into action and around 10.30 am, the blockade was finally lifted.

When contacted, a senior CESC official said that the power failure was due to a mechanical fault and was repaired later in the day.

Meanwhile, the city and its adjoining areas experienced brief spells of power cuts on Wednesday evening as the CESC authorities were forced to isolate their system from the eastern grid, following a sharp drop in the frequency of power supply.

While the normal frequency is 49.5 Hz (cycles per second), the frequency in the eastern grid hovered between 47.7 and 47.9 Hz on Wednesday evening. An official said that unless the frequency stabilises in the eastern grid, it would become difficult to supply uninterrupted power to Calcutta.

The situation in the SEB-served areas in the suburbs and the districts was critical. The shortfall in SEB-served areas shot up to 180 mw on Wednesday evening. SEB chairman G.D. Gautama said that three 500-mw units of the NTPC at Farakka and Talcher tripped, leading to the deficit in power supply and instability in the eastern grid.

If power was the problem in some areas, water was the woe in others. The malfunctioning of a Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) deep tubewell forced residents of the Uttar Purbachal area in Kasba to put up with friends and relatives in other parts of the city. Residents alleged that for the past few days, the deep tubewell has been throwing up sand instead of water.

A few days ago, Ronita Basu, a lecturer at Bangabasi College, had left for her elder brother’s residence in Behala as she found it difficult to draw water from the tubewells. Another resident, B.K. Dasgupta moved to Salt Lake along with his family for the same reason.

Sources alleged that it took chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s intervention for the CMC to send water tankers. They added that member, mayor-in-council, water supply, Sovan Chatterjee had not even visited the area till July 12, despite repeated requests. When contacted, Chatterjee admitted that the deep tubewell was defunct though water supply was restored in the area by Wednesday.

According to chief engineer Dibyendu Roychaudhury, to tide over the present crisis, water was being channelled through Kalitola, Garfa and Kayetpara pumping stations. A mini-pump will be installed as a stop-gap measure. “We would not like to invest in another deep tubewell since water from the Garfa booster pumping station will be available in another six months,” said Roychaudhury.

   

 
 
PATIENTS SHUN STATE HOSPITAL 
 
 
BY SANJAY MANDAL
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
Pinaki Ghosh Dastidar, a resident of Block AA in Salt Lake, fell ill on the night of June 16. By the time the family physician arrived, Pinaki, 42, had slipped into a coma. His family took him to Bidhannagar Sub-divisional Hospital, where he was refused admission because the hospital did not have emergency facilities. After being turned away by a few other private nursing homes, Pinaki was taken to Nil Ratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital. But he died on the way.

The incident has brought to focus the plight of the state-run hospital in the satellite township. The condition of the hospital, set up in 1987, has deteriorated over the years. The 100 beds are sometimes inadequate. Sources said that at times, two patients have to occupy one bed. Sabyasachi Dutta, Trinamul Congress councillor of ward 10, alleged that though there were two beds allotted for VIPs, “not a single VIP has ever been treated here”.

Narayan Basu, president of Salt Lake Welfare Association, said: “Although the hospital is located in Salt Lake, residents are reluctant to go there for treatment. It’s only the poor patients from the added areas of Bidhannagar who get themselves treated there.”

According to Manju Banerjee, Trinamul Congress councillor of ward 6, lack of modern facilities at the hospital is responsible for its downfall. “The operation theatre does not have modern apparatus, neither is there any emergency service,” Banerjee added.

When contacted, superintendent Sekhar Chatterjee admitted that the hospital lacked emergency facilities. “We are trying our best to provide basic services to patients,” he added.

Hospital sources said that the health department had been informed of the need to increase the staff strength, but there was no response. “The health minister has not visited the hospital even once,” an official told Metro.

Sources added that the X-ray room is under lock and key as plates are not available. Besides, untrained Group-D employees take care of patients requiring basic treatment.

Bidhannagar municipality chairman Dilip Gupta is, however, optimistic that the scenario will improve. “I agree that modern facilities are lacking at the hospital but things have definitely improved there.”

The Trinamul Congress is planning a big movement on the issue. “In the week ahead, we will meet the health minister and give a deputation on this matter. If he still does not take any action, we will hold a protest programme,” warned Anupam Dutta, leader of the Opposition in Bidhannagar Municipality.

   

 
 
KEY WITNESS IN KHADIM’S CASE GUNNED DOWN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 17: 
Eight days before the first anniversary of the Khadim’s abduction, investigators suffered a setback when unidentified assailants shot dead a key witness in a paddy field in North 24 Parganas.

Rafique Khan, 45, was hacked with sharp weapons and shot dead allegedly by his rivals outside his home in Pakuria village. The conviction of several accused in the abduction of Khadim’s co-owner Partha Pratim Roy Burman depended on the testimony of the “shady” businessman.

This is the second setback for the criminal investigation department looking into the case after the death of Asif Reza Khan — the right hand of the adduction’s mastermind, Aftab Ansari — last year in a police encounter at Rajkot.

Rafique was the owner of the house in Pakuria village at Haroa where Roy Burman was held captive for nine days after his abduction from Tiljala on July 25 last year.

Like Asif, Rafique had agreed to testify against Happy Singh and Anita who kept guard at the dingy house till August 2, the day Roy Burman was released for a large ransom.

Villagers discovered the bullet-ridden body barely some yards away from a police camp and recognised the victim as Rafique, whose deserted house became a centre of attraction after the CID declared that the Khadim’s boss was kept there.

Special IG (CID) V.V. Thambi said a CID team has left for Haroa to investigate the circumstances under which Rafique was killed.

“The criminals have all been identified. The murder seems to be a result of a local dispute and does not appear to have any connection with the Roy Burman case,” said Thambi.

However, the CID officers will find out if the attackers had any links with the Aftab Ansari gang. Several persons were questioned in connection with Rafique’s killing.

“He had recognised most of the abductors and his statement in court would have been vital because Roy Burman was kept his house and he knew what was going on in the place. His death is definitely a big setback,” said a senior CID officer.

However, the CID had not requested the North 24 Parganas police to provide security to Rafique. “The CID did not even bother to inform us that he was a government approver, forget providing him security,” said a senior police official connected with the probe.

Preliminary investigations reveal that Rafique had a long-standing dispute with local goons over the control of bheris. “We have found that the people who pulled the trigger today had made a similar attempt on his life a few years ago,” said superintendent of police, North 24 Parganas, M. Hari Sen Verma.

   
 

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