Teens take fast track to trauma
Seat slash in tech colleges
School asked to raise cash for girl’s treatment
Legacy lockhorn over Indrajaal
The City Diary
Business trips on power snags
Bank calls police to rein in
Ballygunge extension in ADB project
Goons strike at work sites
Sorrows of snoring

 
 
TEENS TAKE FAST TRACK TO TRAUMA 
 
 
BY AMIT UKIL
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
It’s developed over the past 10 years. More and more teenagers in the city today are doing things they would not have dared a generation back, resulting in problems of varying degrees.

Findings and surveys conducted by NGOs and government agencies, and cases being treated by city psychiatrists and counsellors, are conclusive that the difficulties that parents and their adolescent children face nowadays are “of a more serious and complex nature”, so much so that an adolescence clinic was set up recently at the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, the first in eastern India.

“The problems are more widespread and need immediate intervention so that they can be identified early and addressed properly,” said an official of the West Bengal Voluntary Health Association (WBVHA), which has been visiting schools in the city and surroundings over the past two years to build awareness and offer solutions.

To blame are the changed contents of the visual media that the vulnerable age group is being constantly exposed to, and the neglect by the parents, say counsellors who have their hands full with teen problems.

The technical advances over the period have enabled the TV and the Internet to “bring New York into our bedrooms,” said one of the counsellors. Amusement parks, night clubs and fashion shows have also encouraged a trend of “liberated free-mixing”, sparking problems like pregnancies, drugs, aggressive and violent behaviour and a chase for funds to pursue “adult activities”.

“We are not just talking pocket money here. It involves asking parents for hefty sums, and if they don’t respond, there have been instances of stealing and selling household items,” points out psychiatrist Suranjana Ganguly.

Some cases that have come to the counsellors’ table:

A 17-year-old boy attempts suicide for not being allowed to pursue his “romance” with a 15-year-old girl. Now recuperating in a nursing home, the boy has admitted that she is not his first love. “He is an only child, and his parents are at their wits’ end as to what to do,” says Ganguly

A 16-year-old girl from a prominent English-medium school has approached Snigda Gohain, a student counsellor attached to various schools in Calcutta. “She has conceived and wants to know what she has to do for an abortion. There are two more cases like hers that I know of.” In fact, an employee at Marie Stopes admits that they are conducting more teenage abortions than they used to a few years ago

A Class IX girl in a well-known school has been behaving “strangely”. An average student, she is no longer taking interest in studies. When her parents brought her for counselling, it was found she was “having an affair with” a Class XII student.

In a bid to address the changed situation, WBVHA teams have been visiting schools to set up counselling classes for students of Class IX upwards. Peer leaders have been chosen from the students and trained to address various problems faced by the age group. “We find that the students open up to their colleagues more freely than they do with parents or teachers,” says Tarun Maity, who heads the adolescence programme.

One such peer leader is Anindita Dam of Tollygunge Girls’ School, who has been visiting various schools to take ‘classes’ with students on their “growing up problems.” Similar peer leaders are Diana Gomes of Loreto, Sealdah, and Avijit Bagui of Sanskrit Collegiate School.

The clinic at Medical College has specialists from four disciplines — gynaecology, endocrinology, psychiatry and paediatrics — to address adolescence problems. “The clinic is open every Friday and appointments can be made on the phone (219-8118),” says Sukanta Chatterjee, head of the paediatrics department and the clinic.

   

 
 
SEAT SLASH IN TECH COLLEGES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
The All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), scrutinising the manner in which private engineering colleges function, has taken action against two of them and one state-controlled institute. The AICTE, the national-level body that regulates the standard of engineering institutions across the country, has asked the three city-based colleges to “temporarily reduce admission” by 25 per cent in all the courses they offer.

Private engineering colleges have grown in numbers over the past four years after the state government decided to allow entrepreneurs to set up such institutes irrespective of the infrastructure they have.

College sources said they have been asked to admit fewer students this year, as a “punishment” for not having fulfilled the AICTE norms in respect of infrastructure. The three colleges are B.P. Poddar Institute of Management and Technology (on VIP Road), Netaji Subhas Engineering College (in Garia) and the government-controlled R.C.C. Institute of Information Technology in Beleghata.

“The seat-reduction order has been served on the three colleges after examining the reports submitted to us by the team of officers who recently inspected the institutions. The order will be valid for a year. We may withdraw the embargo next year, if we find the colleges have rectified their faults. If they don’t, we may have to take a tougher stand,” said B.K. Tosh, AICTE eastern region officer.

Shortage of space, poor laboratory facilities and inadequate number of faculty members are some of the deficiencies identified in the colleges. This prompted the AICTE to ask them to slash the number of seats by 25 per cent this year.

The order sparked confusion among many students attending the ongoing counselling sessions being organised by the state for admission of students in the state’s 37 engineering colleges.

Most worried are those who have been placed in the lower ranks in the joint entrance merit list and are getting selected for admission to private colleges. “As it is, we are not very sure about the standard of education being offered by the private colleges. The AICTE order has further increased our doubts,” said Anita Mondal, selected by one of the three colleges.

   

 
 
SCHOOL ASKED TO RAISE CASH FOR GIRL’S TREATMENT 
 
 
BY OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
In a significant move, Calcutta High Court on Monday endorsed a decision taken by advocates on both sides urging a city-based school to appeal to guardians for monetary help in the treatment of a student who was hit by a chartered bus of the same institute.

Kinnori Ghosh, a student of Class VI of a south Calcutta school, is now undergoing treatment in a Jodhpur Park nursing home for a collarbone injury. On May 11, the girl was injured when a contract carriage bus hit her while it was taking a turn near a petrol pump beside her school.

Kinnori’s treatment will cost the family “more than a lakh”. Her father, Kishore Brata Ghosh, a lawyer of Calcutta High Court, says he is in no position to pay such “a mammoth medical bill”.

Ghosh had pleaded with the school authorities to urge other guardians for financial help to ensure the treatment of his daughter. But the officials had turned down Ghosh’s request, said his lawyer Shaktinath Mukherjee.

Ghosh then moved a writ petition before the court. Though the petition did not fall under the jurisdiction of the high court, the judge and the lawyers of both the sides took up the matter on “humanitarian grounds”.

The lawyers on either side then worked out a formula to extend help to Ghosh by mobilising funds from the campus.

Justice Pinaki Ghosh has ruled that the school will appeal to parents of all students to contribute voluntarily to raise the funds to pay for Kinnori’s hospital bill.

The judge, however, directed Ghosh to withdraw all complaints lodged by him against the school authorities.

This, say observers, could set a precedent of sorts in cases relating to injuries suffered by students either on campus or in any way connected to the school.

   

 
 
LEGACY LOCKHORN OVER INDRAJAAL 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
There are two fresh claimants to the Indrajaal brand of magic, made famous by its creator Jadukar P.C. Sorcar. One is a Hyderabad-based magician, Chingoli. The other is a person who identifies himself as Nemai Sarkar; he calls up the Sorcar home in Ballygunge, asserting his claim, but refuses to show up.

“In Hyderabad, I was surprised when people asked me if I was related to M.C. Sorcar, a local magician,” said P.C. Sorcar Junior from Bangalore, where he is touring with his troupe. “I made inquiries and was told that his real name was Chingoli and that he had changed his name to M.C. Sorcar. I also found from those who had attended his shows that he had been claiming that the magic he was performing was our Indrajaal. He has even claimed to be my relative.”

Sorcar said that he had tried to contact Chingoli. “When I saw posters of Chingoli in Hyderabad, claiming to be M.C. Sorcar, a relative of P.C. Sorcar, I tried to track him down,” Sorcar Junior said. “I even traced his visiting cards, where the same claim was made. But he proved to be too elusive even for me.”

If M.C. Sorcar is proving to be elusive, the Sorcar family is finding it hard to shake off Nemai Sarkar, who has been calling up and claiming to be the “real inheritor of the Indrajaal legacy”. With P.C. Sorcar on tour, it is his two daughters, Moubani and Mumtaz, who have to face the brunt of it.

“This man first started calling up our home shortly before I left for my tour of south India,” Sorcar Junior said on phone. “Now, he is making life miserable for my daughters.”

Moubani said: “The man has been calling up frequently and he is very rude. He claims to have known my grandfather, but that is a lie. He said he is 28 years old, but my grandfather died 30 years ago. He says that he is the real exponent of Indrajaal and that my father has misappropriated it.”

Moubani said that Nemai Sarkar had even claimed to be a relative. “But when I asked him about our family tree, he was at a loss,” she said. “Then he started cursing us and said that he would perform hocus-pocus on us.” Unable to trace the calls, the Sorcar family has verbally complained to the Gariahat police station. “We have intensified our vigil in and around the Sorcar home,” said Tapas Basu, officer-in-charge of Gariahat police station.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

Body in Howrah train toilet

Tension ran high in Howrah station after a passenger discovered a man’s body dumped inside the toilet of a Mail train. Police said the man, whose body bore marks of injury on his throat and shoulder, was possibly murdered at night and left in the toilet. The man was reportedly in his thirties. Passengers boarding the Purbanchal Express were asked to vacate the coaches after the body was recovered from the toilet. The train left for its destination after it was removed. No one has been arrested.

Man run over on Strand Road

An unidentified man, aged around 60, was run over by a truck on Strand Road, in the South Port police station area, late on Sunday. Police said the man, possibly a beggar, was crossing the road in the rain when the truck, approaching at high speed, knocked him down. The man was rushed to a local hospital where he was pronounced “brought dead”. The driver fled with the vehicle.

Torture protest

Members of 12 teachers’ organisations from various universities and colleges on Monday condemned the alleged torture on Rajabazar Science College lecturer Kaushik Ganguly. They have decided to stage a demonstration in front of the college on Thursday for four hours from 12 noon. The organisations held a meeting on Monday to protest “police excesses” on Ganguly.

Civic bypolls

Congress candidate for the by-election in ward 36 of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation Subimal Mitra alleged that miscreants shot at him while he was on his way to check the polling booths in the ward on Monday. Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Shivaji Ghosh said they were looking into the allegation. No arrests were made and the by-election passed off peacefully, with stray incidents of scuffles being reported from some parts.

JEE results

The West Bengal Board of Examination will announce the results of the Joint Entrance Examination 2002, for admission to engineering, medical and technological degree colleges for master of computer application courses, on Wednesday. The examination was held on June 2 and the results will be available on the Internet from 6 pm on Wednesday at www.tathyabangla.org and http://jexab.bccs.ac.in.

Baruipur snatching

Four armed miscreants snatched Rs 1.83 lakh from a businessman at Suryapur, in the Baruipur area of South 24-Parganas. According to police, the goons riding two-wheelers, intercepted the businessman on his way to the bank. The gangsters fired two rounds in the air when the businessman tried to raise an alarm. They snatched the bag from him and sped away. No one has been arrested so far.

Shah-scouts meet

Governor Viren. J. Shah will meet the members of the Bharat Scouts and Guides at Raj Bhavan. They had reportedly approached the Governor to seek his intervention to solve their organisational problems.    

 
 
BUSINESS TRIPS ON POWER SNAGS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
The meters of more than 700 consumers have been disconnected on charges of hooking by the CESC inspection teams in Topsia and Tangra in the past year, but the quality of supply has not improved as promised.

Production in most factories in the belt’s footwear, tannery and plastic industry has hit an all-time low, as disconnected power lines, low voltage and regular snags have played havoc with output over the past few months, forcing industrialists to hit the streets in protest.

The situation is similar in business zones such as Howrah and Cossipore, forcing over 1,000 factory-owners to organise a series of protest rallies from July 25. The daily wage-earners employed in these factories are without work for most part of the week, forcing their families — around 200,000 people at a modest estimate — to go without a decent meal a day.

“We have paid hefty reconnection fees and security deposits to the CESC. In turn, they promised us better supply. But that has remained an unfulfilled promise for the past five months. We cannot bear the losses any more,” says Topsia Industries Association (TIA) secretary Sailesh Singhal.

A CESC spokesman, however, rubbished the allegations. “They resort to all kinds of unscrupulous means to pilfer power. In case of a 10-kw load allocation, if a consumer draws 40 kw by hooking power, one can understand the damage wreaked on the transformer,” the spokesman said.

Another spokesman of the CESC’s loss control cell said several rounds of talks have been held with the businessmen and their association, but “no one is willing to cooperate.”

TIA, which swept aside these statements as lies, has merged with factory-owners in Tangra, and will take out a rally in the area on Thursday. A gherao of the CESC office at Mandeville Gardens has also been lined up, in which aggrieved domestic consumers have been invited to participate. “All shops and other establishments will remain closed in Topsia and Tangra that day. The next agitation will be launched from Howrah and Cossipore. Our struggle will continue,” said a TIA spokesman.

The All Bengal Electricity Consumers Association, the parent body of these localised units, plans a larger protest campaign — rallies and meetings throughout the city in mid-August. “The CESC has increased electricity charges, but has not done anything to improve the infrastructure. The Topsia campaign has our full support,” said association spokesman Swapan Chatterjee.

The CESC authorities intensified a disconnection drive about a year and a half ago, after they learnt that most factory-owners, including those in Topsia, Tangra and Howrah, had resorted to tapping electricity. The drive, taken up for the past year, saw removal of hooked lines and replacement of faulty meters. “After initial protests, the consumers agreed to pay the reconnection money and other costs, especially when senior CESC officers promised better infrastructure and proper supply. But that has not happened, leaving us with no alternative but to organise rallies,” added Singhal.

Industrialists across the city and Howrah have decided to go on a joint movement in August.

   

 
 
BANK CALLS POLICE TO REIN IN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
Following a string of cheating cases in its branches across the city, the United Bank of India (UBI) has sought help of the detective department to check such activities. The vigilance cell of the bank sent a letter to DC, DD (I) Soumen Mitra on Monday, requesting him to initiate a probe into the matter.

The last case of cheating took place on July 13 at the bank’s Deshapriya Park branch. Elaborating the modus operandi of cheats, Mitra said: “A group of middle-aged people, fluent in English, Bengali and Hindi, are approaching people from well-to-do families for subscription to foreign journals and magazines. When the customer is finally ready to subscribe to the magazine, he is asked to write out a small amount on a cheque. Later, the amount is manipulated and huge amounts are withdrawn from the bank.”

Mitra added that those swindled usually came from affluent families. Police have instructed people to be cautious about such cheats, rather than expect the police to help out.

“We have asked citizens to inform us in case they notice suspicious people in banks,” suggested Mitra.

   

 
 
BALLYGUNGE EXTENSION IN ADB PROJECT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
The state government has agreed to include the Ballygunge extension in the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Rs 1,740-crore civic infrastructure development project. The move follows an appeal by mayor Subrata Mukherjee, Marxist MLA from Ballygunge Rabin Deb and councillors of the CPM and Trinamul Congress from east Calcutta.

Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, who is also chairman of the ADB advisory committee for environment-related projects in Calcutta, said: “We have convened a meeting of the advisory committee on August 5 on this inclusion. The area lacks filtered surface water and adequate drainage facilities.”

Sources said the ADB loan would be utilised for basic facilities in north Calcutta, from Sinthee to Chiria More, and in the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur.

The mayor pointed out that the development of civic amenities on the eastern fringes had always been neglected, as south Calcutta, with Gariahat and Ballygunge as its hub, had grown southwards towards Dhakuria, Jadavpur and Santoshpur, instead of the east.

   

 
 
GOONS STRIKE AT WORK SITES 
 
 
BY SANJAY MANDAL
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
Pay up or move out. That is the message that several developers and hoteliers of Salt Lake’s Sector III are receiving. Fed up with police inaction, some of them have now approached Bidhannagar Municipality chairman Dilip Gupta to bail them out.

“I did receive complaints about arm-twisting tactics to sell building material at construction sites,” Gupta told Metro on Monday. “Although some complaints proved baseless, we do not want to take a chance,” he said. “In some cases, councillors and ward committees took action, but that was not enough,” the chairman added.

Ashim Guha, CPM councillor of ward 21, in whose area most cases are being reported, said: “We have received a number of complaints against forcible selling of inferior building material at a premium. We are lining up action against these elements with the help of the administration.”

According to sources, Minta, a local goon, is terrorising developers and contractors. “He forces us to buy building material from him and every time, the weight is less,” said an executive of an upcoming hotel in Salt Lake. Others allege that Minta often stalls work at construction sites by threatening the labourers. The practice of forcible selling to developers started in the mid-90s. Allegations were raised against a number of youths, who claimed allegiance to the ruling party. Government buildings, such as Aranya Bhavan and Paribesh Bhavan, were not spared.

A year ago, in Sector III, construction of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences was stopped midway. The Bridge and Roof Company has been given the contract. The university lodged a complaint with the sub-divisional officer of Salt Lake. The problem was finally settled through negotiations.

Sources say Minta’s reign of terror continues. He was arrested in 1990, but no action has been taken against him since. Police say he enjoys political clout. “It is difficult to do anything against a person who is backed by a section of the ruling party,” said a senior officer of Bidhannagar. A section of CPM leaders, too, is irked at Minta’s notoriety. “For reasons best known to them, the police refuse to take action against him,” said a senior CPM leader of Duttabad area, in Salt Lake.

   

 
 
SORROWS OF SNORING 
 
 
BY NISHA LAHIRI
 
Calcutta, July 22: 
Snoring at night and falling asleep by day? There might finally be a solution at hand. Sleep apnea syndrome is a recognised disease, and in Calcutta, Pulmonary Sleep Associated Research Centre (Pulsar) is dedicated to its research and treatment.

“We conducted a study among 1,000 individuals in housing estates recently. Ten per cent of them had apnea, but few of them actually knew about it,” says R.K. Das, of the sleep lab at Pulsar, on Rashbehari Avenue.

“Snoring is not an indication of deep sleep. In fact, it’s just the opposite. That is why people with this problem fall asleep at any time during the day. This is a very dangerous phenomenon, because such people can fall asleep even while performing a crucial activity that requires their full concentration, like driving or operating machines,” he adds.

Apnea is caused by obstruction of the airflow in the nasal passage, because of excessive relaxation of the throat muscles during sleep, causing noisy breathing and snoring. In some cases, the patient stops breathing for a few seconds, and has to wake up to start breathing again, although he/she might not be aware of it.

The snoring and choking leads to a drop in oxygen levels and a rise in carbon dioxide in the blood, predisposing the sufferer to certain types of cardiac problems, hypertension and cerebral infarction.

Due to the interrupted sleep pattern, apnea patients rarely reach beyond the pre-rapid eye movement (REM) stages of light sleep, not progressing normally to deep, REM sleep.

This causes daytime problems, like sleepiness, disorientation, morning headache, fatigue, impaired thinking and decreased libido, “thus preventing a person from doing his job and living his life”, points out Das.

“The frightening thing is that most people suffering from it are not aware that they have a disease. Our aim at the moment is to increase awareness. We are in the process of publishing the results of our study, which we will make public,” he adds.

The problem is diagnosed by conducting a sleep study (polysomnography). “We have the only machine in Calcutta that records electro-encephalogram, electro-cardiogram, electromyogram, nasal/oral airflow, oxygen saturation, electro-oculogram and body position” during the night, through small sensors attached to the body.

The “middle-aged, overweight” section of the population is prone to the problem. Solutions can range from sleeping sideways, losing weight and reducing alcohol intake, to surgery and use of a breathing machine which administers Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). “It might not be curable, but it is treatable. However, first you have to know you have a problem,” adds Das.

   
 

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