Board robs shine off JEE stars
Apex court orders talks on leather complex row
Lax law spurs gizmo con-jobs
Legal kiss of life for doctors
The City Diary
Liluah minor inmates wait for wedding bells
A quest for catharsis, a rhythm for release
Seaman killed in ship blast cremated
Turmoil over transfers
Kids’ books, a labour of love

 
 
BOARD ROBS SHINE OFF JEE STARS 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
Sailing over the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) barrier, but tripping on the Higher Secondary (HS) hurdle — the curious conundrum the state higher education department is grappling with this year. And if the war of words between the JEE Board and the West Bengal Council for Higher Secondary Education is anything to go by — one accusing the other of queering its pitch — it will be a while before this inconsistency is resolved.

Take the case of Arnab (name changed on request). Having cracked JEE, he thought gaining admission to a private engineering college was just a matter of going through the counselling session. But that was before the HS results were published. On July 2, his academic dream lay in tatters; he had failed in chemistry.

Arnab is not alone. Since the HS results were published, several students have been petitioning the offices of the Board and the Council to “do something” for them. The total number of complaints the two offices have received has touched 60, say higher education department officials, with most demanding “immediate scrutiny” of their HS papers.

Chairman of the JEE Board and vice-chancellor of the Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) Amaljyoti Sengupta admitted he was at a loss to explain the JEE-success-HS-failure phenomenon this year. “We have never witnessed such a trend in the past. In fact, a student who figures on the JEE merit list should do well in the HS exam, as the JEE syllabus is based on the HS course,” said Sengupta. “Experts in the field will be contacted very soon to probe this phenomenon.”

Sengupta, however, admitted that “there was a growing tendency among parents to pressure their children to do well in JEE, even at the cost of HS”.

Council president Jyotirmoy Mukherjee said the JEE assessment was “not trustworthy” and the merit list “lacked transparency”, as the marks of individual papers were not revealed.

“The JEE merit list does not explain why a student gets the rank he/she has been given,” said Mukherjee. “It also does not explain a student’s actual performance in the individual papers he/she has appeared for.”

Students complained to the Council about having been “severely inconvenienced” by its refusal to conduct on-the-spot scrutiny of their answer scripts without a “valid document” proving they have really secured the JEE rank they are claiming.

Making things tough is the JEE Board’s refusal to give any written confirmation of the students’ rank. The system followed to date has students only finding their names on the merit list till they go to the counselling centres and gain admission to an engineering or a medical college.

   

 
 
APEX COURT ORDERS TALKS ON LEATHER COMPLEX ROW 
 
 
FROM OUR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, July 23: 
Sit down and sort out the mess: the message from the Supreme Court to the West Bengal government, the Centre and M.L. Dalmiya & Co. on Tuesday. The mess in question — the tussle over who should foot the bill for the effluent transportation system (ETS) in the newly-developed Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC).

The directive came from a division bench, comprising Justices M.B. Shah and B.P. Singh, after M.L. Dalmiya & Co. threatened to “walk out” of the agreement on the grounds that the Bengal government owed it Rs 8 crore.

The private firm’s contention is that the ETS is part of the common effluent treatment plant (CETP) and so, should be the government’s financial responsibility. But the government’s contention is that the ETS, which will deposit the waste into the CETP, falls under the firm’s scope of activity.

M.L. Dalmiya & Co. told the apex court that the state government had “refused” to pay up and if its “attitude” did not change, it would have no option but to walk out of the leather complex agreement.

Counsel for the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) Vijay Panjawani then came up with the suggestion of a meeting between “the three parties” to resolve the issue. The bench recorded the suggestion.

The justices then pointed to West Bengal advocate-general Balai Roy and directed him to arrange a meeting among representatives of the state government, the Centre and the construction firm to ensure that work on the ETS, to be set up in the leather complex, went on unhindered.

The bench said the issue of “non-payment” of Rs 8 crore to the firm should also be resolved, as “under no circumstance” should construction work be stopped to enable the October 15 deadline for the start of the leather complex to be met.

The bench said it would like to have “a positive result” by August 6, the next date of hearing.

Earlier, the 800-odd tanneries had told the apex court that they had paid the requisite amount for relocation to the state government, which had failed to fulfil its promise of making the complex environment-friendly.

LPG road bar

The movement of vehicles carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders will be prohibited along major roads from July 25. The traffic police have been instructed to stop these vehicles from entering 72 roads, including Lenin Sarani, Ganesh Chandra Avenue, BBD Bag (North), BB Ganguly Street, Ballygunge Circular Road and the Park Circus connector. The vehicles, however, will be allowed to cross the intersections on such roads between 9 am and 11.30 am on weekdays.

   

 
 
LAX LAW SPURS GIZMO CON-JOBS 
 
 
BY TAPAS GHOSH
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
Con-jobs involving electronic and electrical gizmos have prompted legal and police circles to demand a modification in the punitive measures of Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code.

With police sure of the existence of gangs that have penetrated reputed firms and shops, and which have a network of informers spread all over the city, state advocate-general Balai Roy has told the government that the anti-cheating section is “too lax” to check them.

“The old rules fail to strike fear in these gangs and I have told the government of the necessity for stricter punitive measures,” Roy told Metro.

Take the case of Shankar Mohan Bose of Kasba. He availed of an exchange offer floated by a reputed shop at Gariahat to buy a new refrigerator on July 5. Two deliverymen arrived the same day with it. With them was a third man, who claimed to be the “demonstrator”.

The two men left the fridge. The third discovered a “disorder” in it. He said he would get another machine from the shop’s godown “nearby” and left with it. But he never came back.

Bose contacted the shop’s management, which blamed him for letting in an “unauthorised” person.

Kasba police arrested the deliverymen after Bose filed an FIR, but investigating officer Rajat Hazra was transferred soon, allegedly because of his “swift action”.

Hazra is now in Kultali but he left only after complaining about the transfer effected by officer-in-charge Tez Mohammad.

Subhas Datta, of Howrah’s Mandirtala, bought a water-purifier seven months ago. Recently, after it developed a snag, he asked the makers to change the “faulty part”.

A man, identifying himself as the firm’s representative, took away the main component of the purifier. When Datta got back to the company, its representatives said they had sent no one.

A Tollygunge resident is another duped Calcuttan. Having met his school friend, who owns an air-conditioner-cum-repairing unit nearby, he spoke of the trouble his machine was giving.

The friend agreed to help. The next day, a man claiming to have been sent by the repairing unit took away the faulty machine. But the friend vehemently denied that he had sent anyone.

Tollygunge police now want to proceed with the case but the AC-owner does not want the police to interrogate his friend.

Calling for a change in laws framed decades ago, state public prosecutor Kazi Shafiullah said the government must “arm” the police to deal with the “new-age crime”.

   

 
 
LEGAL KISS OF LIFE FOR DOCTORS 
 
 
BY SUNANDO SARKAR
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
After the storm, the breather. Two recent consumer court verdicts should provide some welcome relief to the beleaguered medical community, under fire since the Kunal Saha case, with complaint after complaint piling up against it and healthcare centres.

The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, in a ruling passed on July 15, gave a ‘not-guilty’ verdict to Peerless Hospital and some of its doctors who failed to save the life of a 17-year-old student of Nava Nalanda School, Ankhi Ganguli, in 1995. The hospital was facing a Rs 10-lakh compensation suit.

Two days later, the same court passed another ‘not-guilty’ verdict on a nursing home in Midnapore, also slapped with a compensation demand of Rs 10 lakh, for the death of an 11-year-old boy, Partha Shankar Giri.

In the Calcutta case, the healthcare centre off the EM Bypass alleged that it was dragged to court only after it demanded dues — amounting to around Rs 64,000 — from Ankhi’s parents, in a money suit lodged at another court.

The girl was admitted to Peerless twice, first on March 18, 1995, with high fever, “increased pressure in the brain”, malaria-causing parasites in her blood and “meningitis with or without encephalitis”. She was discharged a month later, after having slipped into a coma and then recovering. She was back in the same hospital in June. She went into a coma on June 18 and died on June 21. Legal representatives of Ankhi’s parents alleged that she was a victim of “improper diagnosis” and wrong treatment.

The Peerless legal team, however, denied the allegations, telling the court that the medical board monitoring Ankhi’s condition had tried out several lines of treatment because of “the complicated nature of her ailments”.

Finding no material to prove any deficiency of service, the court — comprising president Justice S.C. Datta and members D. Karforma and S. Majumdar — ruled that Ankhi’s parents were not entitled to any compensation from the hospital.

The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission took cognisance of, but did not pursue, another issue, “since it fell outside its jurisdiction”. Ankhi’s parents owed more than Rs 64,000 to Peerless after her first stint there and were excused as they agreed to pay the balance in monthly instalments.

Peerless lawyers Prabir Basu and Jayanta Dasgupta alleged that Ankhi’s parents had “abused the hospital’s generosity” and moved the consumer court more than 18 months after the teenager died, as the hospital had filed a money suit against them.

The same bench gave a clean chit to N.K. Chatterjee Memorial Maternity-cum-Nursing Home in Midnapore, where Partha Shankar had undergone surgery and developed complications. He later died, after being admitted to SSKM Hospital. In the Midnapore case, however, one of the members of the bench felt the case could be pursued in a civil court.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

BE College students plan hungerstrike

The week-long disruption at Bengal Engineering College (Deemed University) is likely to continue as students on Tuesday threatened to intensify their agitation. On Tuesday, the university officials held a meeting with the representatives of the students’ union but a solution could not be found. The students have threatened to go on a hungerstrike from Wednesday and plan to gherao the vice-chancellor. Students have been boycotting classes since last week, demanding that the authorities withdraw the decision to introduce a new time schedule. The students have also protested the authorities’ move to curtail the number of seats for first-year students at the institution-run hostels since last year.

Body found in Lake

Police fished out the body of a 58-year-old employee of a reputed pen-manufacturing company from Rabindra Sarovar on Tuesday afternoon. The deceased was identified as Sanat Chatterjee, a resident of Moore Avenue. Police said it was a case of suicide. An officer of the Lake police station said the man had borrowed money from local money-lenders and was struggling to repay them.

Boy killed, one hurt

A six-year-old boy was killed when a Maruti car knocked him down at the crossing of Tiljala Road and the Park Circus connector on Tuesday afternoon. The victim was identified as Sadat Alam, a local resident. The driver of the killer vehicle managed to flee with his car. Sadat was admitted to National Medical College and Hospital where the doctors pronounced him dead. Witnesses have reported the licence number of the car to the police. In a separate incident, Tapasi Chakroborty, 30, was hit by a Matador van on Harish Mukherjee Road. The driver fled leaving the vehicle behind.

Hawkers’ protest

Newspaper hawkers at Howrah station have sought the intervention of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to stop “harassment” by a section of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) on the station premises. In a letter to the chief minister on Tuesday, the hawkers alleged that even after the divisional railway manager of Eastern Railway had warned the RPF men, they were still being harassed.

Medical hearing

The hearing of an appeal with regard to the removal of Asoke Chowdhury as president of the West Bengal Medical Council was heard on Tuesday by Justice A. Ganguly and Justice H. Banerjee. The next hearing has been fixed for August 1.

Metro services

Metro Railway services were disrupted following a technical fault on Tuesday morning during rush hour. Trouble began when a Dum Dum-bound train developed a snag while starting from Tollygunge at 9.24 am. Two pairs of trains were cancelled causing inconvenience to office-goers.

Cash-card call

AirTel has extended the last date for handing over proof of identity for Magic card-holders to July 31. Following a Central government directive to curb misuse of cellphones, the cellular service provider had asked its pre-paid customers to submit their forms and proof of identity to avoid disconnection.

Mela special

Eastern Railway will run two pairs of EMU special trains between Howrah and Tarakeshwar to cope with the rush of pilgrims during Shrabani Mela. According to a release, the trains will run on all Sundays, Mondays and full-moon days from July 24 to August 12. The special trains will halt at all stations.

Legal services chief

Justice Samaresh Banerjee of Calcutta High Court has been appointed chairman of State Legal Services Authority of West Bengal. Justice Banerjee replaced Justice S. L. Saraf. Thumbs Up TO rotary club of sonarpur for organising a public awareness campaign on zoonotic diseases in which veterinary doctors participated    

 
 
LILUAH MINOR INMATES WAIT FOR WEDDING BELLS 
 
 
BY BAPPA MAJUMDAR AND PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
Shelter for love-lorn minors till they attain marriageable age. The Liluah Home for Destitute Women, the state-run refuge centre for orphans and victims of abuse, is increasingly being used as a ‘waiting room’ by girls facing parental opposition to their choice of partner.

At present, there are 34 such girls lodged at Liluah, who had fled from their homes in the city and the fringe areas with their boyfriends after facing stiff resistance from their parents. They were later caught and remanded to the destitute home. These girls, the authorities say, refuse to return home and are using the centre as a “refuge” away from the clutches of their parents.

Reshma Naskar, 15, is one such inmate who prefers the confines of her corner at the Liluah Home to her residence. She has even refused to meet her parents for the past year and a half. Her only dream is to be reunited with her boyfriend with whom she had fled before being caught and she is waiting for the day she will turn 18.

The authorities say since these girls cannot be forced out of the home, the authorities are facing a tough time about accommodation. The home has a capacity of 380 inmates. Legal expert Raja Das of city-based Motilal and Associates, which has procured freedom for several destitutes lodged in the home, said: “The home authorities have repeatedly told us about the problem. But there is no law to force these girls out of the home,” Das said.

Not only are these girls willing to stay back, they make it a point to be well-dressed whenever they are produced in court, because they know their boyfriends would also be there, home officials say. The youths, who are out on bail, secure a release order from court and escort their paramours out of the home once they turn 18, they add.

The case of Sabita Ghosh, who turned 18 earlier this year, is one such example. She had fled with her boyfriend from Guma, in North 24-Parganas, three years ago. Their parents had objected to the match since Sabita was a minor and the boy was a Muslim. “She would hardly eat anything and refused to meet her parents. This January, she left the home with the boy and has tied the knot since,” the official said.

Shyamali Roy of Barasat had fled with her boyfriend five months before she turned 18. Like Sabita, she would meet her boyfriend in court who waited till she was free in April.

“They know that there is no law to stop them from marrying, once the girl attains adulthood and we too feel for them,” a home official said on condition of anonymity.

Ritu Pramanik, Tapashi Mahato and Rupali Konar, to name a few of the 34, meanwhile, are waiting to follow in the footsteps of Shyamali and Sabita.

   

 
 
A QUEST FOR CATHARSIS, A RHYTHM FOR RELEASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
It was back in the early 80s that danseuse Tripura Kashyap started toying with the idea of putting dance and music to therapeutic use. Her brother, suffering from cerebral palsy, had always had the most “excited” reaction to music, and the possibility of stretching her art form beyond its aesthetic value was a powerful prospect for the young Bangalore-based dancer.

Now, Tripura works with special educators, children with mental and physical challenges, autism, cerebral palsy, and even adults suffering schizophrenia. In Calcutta for a series of workshops since last Wednesday, Tripura now has no trouble finding an audience eager to learn more about her methods.

She is working with special educators for the hearing impaired, instructors of those with cerebral palsy and NGOs. Invited by Sanlaap, an NGO working with victims of trafficking, Tripura has been kept on her feet with the “overwhelming” response.

It was purely providence that she met Dr Grace Valentine, director of the Hancock Center for the Movement Arts & Therapies in Wisconsin, visiting India for a lecture tour. “She invited me to do a course at the centre, which was the beginning of my foray into the form,” explains Tripura.

But when the petite practitioner of the alternative technique returned from Hancock, the concept of dance as therapy had not caught on in India at all. On her return, Tripura targeted special needs institutes to practise her methods. Despite the added qualifications, the early 90s still did not hold a more receptive audience to the idea of dance therapy as part of the curriculum. “It was very difficult convincing teachers that dance therapy could be an effective way to reach out to children and adults with special needs,” she recounts.

Over last weekend, the director of Apoorva Dance Theatre took time out to work with the girls at Sneha, Sanlaap’s shelter home for minor girls in Narendrapur. Around 10 girls at the sprawling home for 18 have formed a cultural organisation, Samved, and learn classical dance forms for public performance. “We have seen that through dance, the girls find an outlet for their emotional troubles,” explains their teacher Sohini.

There is a distinction between the cathartic effect that dance as an art form has and the results seen from dance therapy. “A side-effect of dance could be catharsis and release, but the aim of dance therapy is that release,” says Tripura. So there are no rigid or traditional movements that are to be used. “We start with the movements that come out of the body naturally and develop from there.”

With the diverse profile of clients that Tripura has had, she has researched into the individual requirements of quite a few conditions, schizophrenia proving the most challenging. Work has already started in Bangalore, with various schools ready to use dance in education for curricular courses. She hasn’t had any feelers from schools in Calcutta as yet, but with the hectic weeklong programme, involving two days in Ranchi as well, Tripura isn’t complaining.

   

 
 
SEAMAN KILLED IN SHIP BLAST CREMATED 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
July 14, 7.30 am. The shrill of the telephone woke up Ratna Kundu at her Diamond Harbour Road apartment, in Behala. “It was my husband, Debkumar, calling from Venezuela. He told me his ship would be loading crude oil at the Port of Aruba, in Africa, and thereafter, he would return home,’’ she recounted.

July 17, 7.30 am. The telephone rang once again at the Kundu residence. “This time, it was an officer from my husband’s firm, informing me that Debkumar had died on July 16 when his ship met with an accident at Venezuela port,’’ wept Ratna on Tuesday.

Debkumar’s body arrived in the city on an Indian Airlines flight on Tuesday. Debkumar, 55, a second engineer in MP Motor Turbine Crude Ocean Ship, a tanker belonging to the city-based Welam Ship Management, died when a valve sprung a leak in the engine room and burst, just as the ship was preparing to leave Venezuela port.

Sources said Debkumar and his mates were on the deck when they noticed thick smoke billowing from the engine room. “The ship was still docked when the accident occurred. If the accident had taken place on the high seas, more lives would have been lost,’’ said a former colleague of Debkumar’s.

Seeing the smoke, Debkumar and two engineers rushed to the engine room to plug the leak. “It was burning hot. The steam turbine valve burst minutes after the trio entered. For hours, no one else could enter as the engine room was filled with thick smoke,’’ the colleague added.

Finally, the port authorities sent a helicopter to rescue the three. They were taken to a local hospital, where the doctors said all of them had died of severe burns.

“When his colleague called me from Venezuela to inform me of the accident, I was shocked. Still, I told them to bring back his body to the city in whatever condition it was,’’ said Ratna.

Gloom descended around 625A, Diamond Harbour Road, as Ratna sat grieving in the living room, surrounded by friends and relatives. The Kundus were childless. “I do not know how I will carry on without Debkumar,” wept Ratna.

Welam, the city-based shipping firm, transports crude to European and Central American ports. The company officers — Captains Tarit Dutta, and Ashes Sarkar — when contacted, were tightlipped about the incident. They told Metro they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Debkumar joined Welam in 1979. Since then, he had been working as a second engineer. “He was in ST Flying Cloud, a motor turbine ship, since last September. He had come on a vacation to the city early this year and left in May to join this ship,’’ said Anuja Mondol, a neighbour.

Officer-in-charge, Alipore police station, Pinaki Mondol, who was monitoring the arrangements at Keoratala crematorium on Tuesday evening, said his men will render “all possible help to Ratna.’’

   

 
 
TURMOIL OVER TRANSFERS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
Serving 30 years in one post without a transfer, and even retiring from the same hospital where one began his career? All because he had the right connections. This is not an unprecedented case, as around 100 doctors in the state have been skirting transfer orders for the past 25-30 years.

All this is, however, likely to change, as the Bengal branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) is planning a protest programme to coax the government into transferring these doctors from their present posts.

The IMA move to lodge a complaint follows a decision to transfer all doctors who have completed 10 years of service at government hospitals. “This is unfair. Junior doctors are continuously shuttled around, while seniors, who have spent over 25 years in one post, continue to elude transfer orders by wielding their clout,” said IMA president Subir Ganguly.

A recent survey by the state health department revealed that over 700 doctors, working in city hospitals and district health centres, have not been transferred for a period of time. Health minister Surya Kanta Mishra asked his department to immediately transfer all such doctors.

According to sources in the health department, an effort is being made to transfer only the junior doctors or, at most, doctors who have spent 10 years holding one post.

“Nothing has been decided about the senior doctors. According to rules, they ought to be transferred, but who cares about rules?” rued an official.

The IMA officials, who have prepared a list of around 40 doctors in Calcutta and 60 in the districts, say there are instances where some doctors had drawn salary from a north Bengal hospital, but continued to stay in Calcutta. The IMA plans to send the list to the government soon.

“We have found instances where doctors have retired holding a solitary post throughout their career. How can something like this be allowed to happen, when the juniors are still shuttled around? There cannot be a disparity,” Ganguly added.

“Several doctors have a thriving practice in the city, which they don’t want to lose by being posted out to north Bengal. But we are determined to go ahead with our job,” said a health department official.

   

 
 
KIDS’ BOOKS, A LABOUR OF LOVE 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, July 23: 
Anima Biswas of Sodepur has two little sons and rarely could she find Bengali storybooks or texts that could boast typo-free text, used good paper, and where the font size and illustrations were to her satisfaction.

She was just a housewife, desperately seeking a job to supplement her husband Adhir’s income, but could not find one. So she hit upon the idea of publishing books herself. She wanted to create quality products, where everything — from choosing the cover picture to the font — would be a labour of love.

She had her own meagre savings and her husband would support her. But that was not enough. So the couple went around looking for contributions. Friends willingly shelled out Rs 1,000 each, and thereby they collected Rs 36,000. Anima’s objective was to publish books whose superior quality would set them apart from bazaar products.

She began collecting children’s literature from all over the world. She conducted a survey that would help her find out the ideal format. She went around asking writers, artists, publishers and not to forget children. She knew that quality consciousness would push up the price of her books. She wanted the point size to be 16 and plenty of margin space that would be easy on the eye.

They named the publishing unit Doyel because of the bird’s associations with rural Bengal. The cover of each book bore the name of the author as well as that of the illustrator to give both their due.

They told writers and illustrators about their project and all of them contributed free short stories, rhymes and essays and pictures as well.

The writers were Shankha Ghosh, Nabanita Dev Sen, Sunil Ganguly, Nirendranath Chakraborty, Shirshendu Mukherjee, Sripantha, Ravishankar, Amarendra Chakraborty and the illustrators were Krishnendu Chaki, Sudhir Maitra, Subrata Choudhury and Suvaprasanna. By Calcutta Book Fair 2002, the first lot of books was ready, each costing about Rs 25. Everybody was ecstatic. Now, books for neo-literates are in the pipeline.

Doyel plans to bring out many more books, but the problem is marketing. Anima still goes around with a set looking for buyers and word-of-mouth helps. She feels a College Street outlet is what Doyel deserves. For that, however, they need more funds.

   
 

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