Doctors casualty in clean-up
HC slams bail in deaf-mute rape
Scooter breach in bandobast
Restaurants get back their water connections
The City Diary
No bidders for Bypass plot
High court order on Howrah jail report
Masterlist of mart traders
Halls trip on cable film shows
Saviour lawyers in new lock-up drive

 
 
DOCTORS CASUALTY IN CLEAN-UP 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
First clean up, then cure. With patient peeve on the rise and cases of medical neglect coming to the fore like never before, that’s the message the state government is determined to send out. A drastic step in the clean-up drive has been a showcause to over half-a-dozen leading doctors attached to three medical colleges and hospitals in Calcutta.

The doctors have been showcaused over the past three months on charges of dereliction of duty and medical negligence. Director of medical education C.R. Maity said in at least three cases, patients were found to have died due to callousness on the part of doctors.

“We have to stem the rot in hospital administration. And disciplinary action is part of our move to inculcate a sense of discipline and responsibility in some doctors,” added Maity.

Health minister Surya Kanta Mishra decided to read the riot act to the doctors after an inquiry committee — set up to probe charges of negligence towards former minister Shanti Ghatak, now undergoing treatment in SSKM Hospital — turned in a critical report.

Health officials confirmed on Friday that SSKM Hospital surgeon superintendent Deb Dwaipayan Chattopadhyay and SSKM head of the department of neurology T. Roy were among the doctors hauled up.

Surgeon superintendent Chattopadhyay, however, insisted he was not in the government line of fire. “ I have not been showcaused for anything,” he said. “A while ago, they (the probe panel members) had asked me to explain the exclusion of a certain doctor from the inquiry committee examining the charges relating to Ghatak’s treatment. I told them the doctor was involved in the inquiry and they were satisfied.”

Neurology chief Roy, on the other hand, admitted he had been served a showcause notice on charges of dereliction of duty. “I have already replied to the notice but have not heard anything after that,” he added.

Sources said the government was prodded into action by complaints from senior leaders of the ruling CPM, who had called on Ghatak at the Woodburn Ward of SSKM. State CPM secretary Anil Biswas, too, is believed to have spoken to Mishra about the conditions at SSKM. Biswas was unavailable for comment till late on Friday.

Two doctors from Medical College and Hospital and one from NRS Medical College and Hospital also figure in the showcause list, sources said. Nearly 125 doctors will be transferred from city hospitals to north Bengal by the end of next month, officials said. Nearly 600 new doctors will be inducted in city hospitals and elsewhere in the state by mid-September.

Maity claimed doctors were often found absent or negligent. “I believe disciplinary action will send a clear message to the community of healthcare management. Doctors will have to be more responsible and patient-friendly,” added the director of medical education.

Officials said special cells will be set up in hospitals to register complaints of negligence. All hospital superintendents have also been asked to check if doctors are following the roster. Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee has even asked all district chief medical officers of health not to leave station without permission from Writers’ Buildings.

   

 
 
HC SLAMS BAIL IN DEAF-MUTE RAPE 
 
 
OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
A “shocked” Calcutta High Court on Friday came down heavily on a fellow-member of the judicial fraternity for granting bail to three policemen accused of raping a deaf-mute girl in their custody in a prison van.

Acknowledging that the Alipore sub-divisional judicial magistrate’s act of granting bail was a “shame for the judiciary”, the division bench of Calcutta High Court, headed by Chief Justice A.K. Mathur, also ordered the state home secretary and the commissioner of Calcutta Police to suspend the three accused policemen at the earliest. The court said suspension could be the mildest action for “such a heinous crime”.

Agnes Rose-Gambiar, then 17, was picked up from the road in 2000. Unable to understand what the deaf-mute girl was trying to say, the police sent her to Presidency jail. On September 19 that year, Agnes was sent to court for a ‘routine appearance’ in a prison van. She appeared in court, but while being taken back to prison, was allegedly raped in the van.

She reached Presidency jail and managed to convey to jail officials what had transpired. Head constable Jagabandhu Seth, constable Brojo Singh and van-driver Biswanath Ghosh had taken turns raping her, she claimed.

Following reports in the media, advocate Tapas Bhanja moved the high court. The court ordered the deputy commissioner (detective department) to probe Agnes’ allegation and asked the chief medical officer of health of Presidency jail to submit a medical report.

None of the two reports succeeded in establishing the allegation. The police report said there had been no rape.

A few days later, however, Agnes showed signs of pregnancy. Bhanja moved court again.

The same division bench then asked the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) deputy inspector-general to conduct a fresh probe.

This time, a preliminary inquiry established that Agnes had been raped and warrants of arrest were issued against the three accused to make them undergo DNA tests. Alipore court, however, let them off on bail after they underwent the tests. The girl, meanwhile, was first sent to the Liluah home for destitute women and then admitted to SSKM Hospital, where she delivered a child on May 5, 2001.

The court passed another order soon after, ordering the state government to pay Agnes a compensation of Rs 50,000; kept in a post office, the principal now fetches Agnes Rs 396 every month. She lives with her father at Mominpore.

   

 
 
SCOOTER BREACH IN BANDOBAST 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
Sandbags and barricades, stengun-toting guards and a crowd of constables could not keep a solitary scooterist at bay.

Waking up to the fact that a street resembling a war zone in the heart of the city can be ‘invaded’ so easily, the police top-brass has cracked down on errant cops who allowed “a major security breach” on Ho Chi Minh Sarani recently.

A showcause was slapped on Inspector Rajat Kumar, of the reserve force, for failing to stop a youth on a scooter who turned left off Little Russell Street, crossed the high-security American Consulate and hit Camac Street without a hitch. This flouted stringent road rules and breached one of the tightest security barriers in town. “He zoomed past at least 20 police personnel and two strong pickets,” confirmed officials.

Shivaji Ghosh, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), said an inquiry had found Kumar responsible for the security lapse and the report had been sent to the commissioner of police. “We have asked him to show cause for the lapse and marked his service book. His next promotion will be pushed back by a few years,” added Ghosh.

According to sources, at 3 pm, around 10 days ago, a youth on a white scooter was asked to stop by three policemen as he turned into Ho Chi Minh Sarani. Instead of stopping, the scooterist accelerated and weaved his way past them. A senior officer then alerted the picket at the end of the street over wireless.

As the cops closed in on him, some waving at him to stop, the youth accelerated further. “A few police personnel jumped out of the way of the speeding scooter. Others, armed with rifles, were too stunned to react. Taking advantage of their indecision, the youth dodged the police cordon and turned into Camac Street. The drama was over in less than two minutes.

The news was immediately relayed to the Lalbazar police headquarters, under pressure to provide adequate security to both the American Consulate and the British Deputy High Commission, post-September 11 and the attack on the American Center.

Ghosh called in senior police officers, including DC (south) Kuldeep Singh. They then summoned the policemen on duty on the spot. The constables present during the incident were asked to submit a detailed account of what had happened. A team was formed to conduct a probe.

   

 
 
RESTAURANTS GET BACK THEIR WATER CONNECTIONS 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
Water will start trickling back to certain quarters of Karnani Mansions over the weekend.

This follows Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya’s directive to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) on Friday to restore filtered water supply to two of the Karnani Mansions restaurants, Oasis and Moulin Rouge, against a payment of Rs 1.22 lakh.

CMC counsel Ashok Das Adhikari argued before the court that it was impossible for his client to restore water supply to one or two premises in an isolated manner, unless the total property tax dues of Rs 2.33 crore were cleared.

On Thursday, the high court had ordered restoration of water supply to a branch of Allahabad Bank on the premises.

At Moulin Rouge, manager Shubhro Dasgupta said late on Friday: “We welcome the court order to restore water supply. For the past two days we have been serving mineral water, instead of filtered drinking water. The water we have stored in our tank will last us till Sunday.”

The civic authorities had disconnected 11 filtered water lines and one tubewell on the Park Street premises of Karnani Mansions on Wednesday night. Supply to the 25A and 25B, Park Street sections of Karnani Mansions was not snapped following a stay issued by the court.

“All the 17 lines of filtered water supply and the three deep tubewells are in the name of the landlord, Karnani Mansions Pvt Ltd, and we are snapping the water lines for their failure to clear property-tax dues,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee.

A spokesperson for the Karnani Mansions Residents Association, however, termed the CMC action “unfair”.

He said: “We are being punished, though we have been paying our rent to the landlord or the rent control on time.”

Responding to the mayor’s directive to structural engineers and health inspectors to “start an intensive survey”, the civic health department slapped a seven-day notice on the owners of Karnani Mansions for “unhygienic conditions, leading to the breeding of mosquitoes” on the premises. “Malarial parasite has been found in the reservoirs and puddles on the premises. If they fail to clean the premises within a week, the CMC will be forced to file a suit against the owners,” warned officer on special duty (health) Atanu Mukherjee.

Also on Park Street, the face-off between Charles Mantosh and the CMC — sparked by his alleged assault on a civic official on Wednesday night — took another turn on Friday with two of his Park Street restaurants, Waldorf and Moulin Rouge, being raided by civic food inspectors. They collected food samples and spices for laboratory tests.

   

 
 
THE CITY DIARY 
 
 
 
 

BA, B.Sc results declared in 82 days

Calcutta University (CU) declared the results of BA, B.Sc Part II (general) examinations on Friday, 82 days after the completion of the exams. Over 21,500 examinees had appeared for the exams. The pass percentage was 79.98 in BA and 93.7 in B.Sc. According to Suranjan Das, CU pro-vice chancellor (academic), only one out of 16,063 candidates in BA managed a first class. Last year, six students had scored above 60 per cent. In B.Sc, 267 out of 5,527 examinees secured a first class, against 290 in 2001. Das added that a student of Ramakrishna Vivekananda Centenary College had topped the B.SC list, while a student of Derozio Memorial College came first in BA.

17 injured in minibus crash

At least 17 passengers were injured when a minibus on the Baishnabghata-Howrah route, overturned after being hit by another minibus on the same route at the intersection of Southern Avenue and SP Mukherjee Road on Friday afternoon. Police said 11 of the injured were rushed to MR Bangur Hospital. Three were released after first-aid while the others have been kept under observation. Six others were treated at a nearby nursing home. The driver of the bus that overturned was arrested, but the other driver managed to flee. Both vehicles were taken to the Tollygunge police station. Traffic movement was disrupted on SP Mukherjee Road and Southern Avenue for over half-an-hour following the accident.

Road mishap

A 35-year-old helper of a Matador van was killed on Friday morning when the vehicle overturned at the crossing of Elliot Road and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. The victim was identified as Ravinder Singh, a resident of Watgunge. Police said the accident took place when the driver of the vehicle, carrying clothes, was trying to flee after hitting a car. Singh died on the way to Nilratan Sirkar Hospital. Another helper of the vehicle, Jaswant Singh, was “seriously injured”.

Fire in office

A fire broke out in the office of a private firm on Taratala Road on Friday morning. Four fire-tenders were pressed into service to douse the flames.

Armsdrop case

Peter Bleach reiterated before Justice A. Ganguly on Friday that the five Latvians — co-accused and co-sentenced in the Purulia armsdrop case — had been granted remission only because of the bilateral relations between India and Russia, and that he was being discriminated against because he was a British citizen. The next date for hearing has been set for August 9.

Held for extortion

Johnny, an associate of crimelord Gabbar, was rounded up on charges of extortion in the New Market area during a raid on Friday.

Husband jailed

Narayan Saha, 32, was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Howrah court on Friday. Police said Saha had murdered his wife Bobby in May 2000.

Baby run over

An 18-month-old girl, Nasin Khatun, was run over while crossing the road with her mother in Barasat on Friday. The driver of the killer bus was arrested.    

 
 
NO BIDDERS FOR BYPASS PLOT 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
At a time when the state government is keen to develop the EM Bypass as the ‘happening’ corridor of the city, the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) has suffered a jolt in its bid to develop a large chunk of idle land on the freeway.

The WBIDC had invited bids for the acquisition of a four-acre plot on the Bypass, belonging to Bengal Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BCPL), on a lease-cum-sale basis. A price preference of up to 10 per cent was offered to bidders for agro-processing or IT-based units.

Although 20 parties purchased the bid document, not a single “qualified bid” was submitted.

“Yes, it’s unfortunate and a huge disappointment for the WBIDC, as enthusiasm was high because of the plot’s locational strength,” admits D. Sengupta, managing director, ICICI Winfra, engaged by WBIDC to handle the bidding process.

“We actually received three bids, but all of them had to be disqualified as they included residential premises, an option categorically excluded in the offer document,” says Sengupta.

While most of the leading developers of the city had picked up the bid papers — with the reserve value for the lease premium pegged at Rs 10.78 crore — none deemed it wise to throw the hat into the ring.

The no-residence clause has been the principal deterrent for the developers. “We decided not to bid as it becomes a high-risk investment, since commercial properties are not doing well in the city,” says Nandu Belani, of the Belani Group. “Besides, Harsh Neotia’s City Centre is coming up in Salt Lake. That zone cannot support two large commercial ventures.”

ICICI Winfra, a joint venture between ICICI and WBIDC, is itself not too surprised by the “zero response”, though. Says Sengupta: “We had half-expected this. Without the residential option, developers don’t have an exit route and can’t swing usage according to market demand.”

The bid-handler’s suggestion to the WBIDC was a mixed-use project, with 30 per cent set aside for residential premises, a three-star hotel, shopping complex, cinema, theatre and a marriage hall. But that was turned down.

The failure of the RPG Group to submit a qualified bid has also hit the WBIDC hard. It is learnt that the corporation top-brass was “reasonably confident” about RPG bidding for a hypermart on the Bypass plot. The group is learnt to have flown in top executives from Chennai to study the feasibility of bringing in its Giant hypermart model to the Bypass. But the company, apparently, backed out following a “technical problem”.

   

 
 
HIGH COURT ORDER ON HOWRAH JAIL REPORT 
 
 
OUR LEGAL REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the chief judicial magistrate of Howrah to investigate alleged mismanagement at the district jail and furnish a report by September.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice A. K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas, passed the directive after deputy inspector-general, prisons, Anup Tripathi, submitted a report stating that conditions in the jail had improved in the wake of corrective steps taken by the authorities.

Earlier, a report was placed in the court by public prosecutor, Howrah, Chinmoy Chowdhury, admitting the allegations made by petitioner Subhas Dutta, general secretary of Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity. Dutta filed his petition in 1995, alleging that the jail conditions were unhygienic and illegal activities were carried out in connivance with the authorities.

The bench, hearing the matter seven years ago, had directed the public prosecutor to furnish a report on the matter.

The prosecutor, in his report on July 10, 1995, had said that the prisoners lived like “cattle without food”. The report also revealed allegations of torture of prisoners, besides bribery and extortion.

The report also admitted that the condition of the cells and kitchens were appalling and hinted that goons controlled the resources from their cells.

The case came up for further hearing last week and the report of the prosecutor was placed in the court. On Friday, when the matter came up for hearing again before the green bench, additional government pleader D. Kar Gupta placed a fresh report by DIG (prison) Tripathi.

In his report, Tripathi had said that conditions at the jail had improved after Chowdhury’s visit seven years ago.

“Several steps were taken to improve the living conditions of inmates,” he said, adding that television sets had been provided in the male and female wards.

“Newly-admitted prisoners were given regular medical check-ups and ambulances had been provided for speedy transfer of sick inmates to hospital,” he said.

Tripathi denied that wardens took money to allow convicts to meet their relatives.

The DIG, however, admitted that the jail authorities had recently recovered some contraband during combing operations. After going through the report, the judges deemed it fit to appoint the chief judicial magistrate for further investigation.

   

 
 
MASTERLIST OF MART TRADERS 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
The state consumer affairs department is planning to create a database of traders, who operate from major municipal and other markets of the city. The database, to be called “masterlist”, will help the department keep track of unfair trade practices in the city, officials said on Friday.

Complaints are pouring into the offices of the legal metrology department, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and various consumer fora that have led the consumer affairs department to think on these lines, the officials explained.

Besides the names of traders, the masterlist will comprise the addresses of their outlets and the kind of services they offer, an official of the state consumer affairs department told Metro.

“A detailed information- base about the traders, their whereabouts and the nature of their business will help the department immensely in case of disputes with consumers,” he explained, adding that the most common cases related to discrepancies in the quantity of goods sold.

According to the plans being worked out, the market near the Gariahat intersection may be the first to have its traders enlisted. “We plan to finish our work in Gariahat by August-end or September,” an official said.

“The traders’ association has welcomed the idea and asked us to organise a camp so they do not have to go elsewhere, thereby suffering a day’s loss,” he added.

The market at Gariahat notched up another first on Friday: it became the first to have an interface between consumers and organisations representing them, on one hand, and traders and their association on the other.

Organised by the legal metrology wing of the state consumer affairs department, both sides came together to devise ways to resolve the problems that crop up during transactions. State legal metrology controller Ashok Bhattacharya said the department would conduct similar interfaces between consumers and sellers at other markets of the city.

The market at Gariahat was the first where traders had set up a self-regulatory body to mete out “punishment” to errant co-traders, said Gariahat Market Byabsayee Samanwyay Samiti president Nimai Ghosh. He added that the traders had punished a fishmonger and warned another — the first such incident in the city — in March this year.

“We did not let one of them set up shop for a week after he was caught short-changing customers,” Ghosh added.

   

 
 
HALLS TRIP ON CABLE FILM SHOWS 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug, 2: 
The city’s cinema hall-owners have urged the police to ban illegal screening of movies by cable operators. “Cable operators are ruining the industry by screening pirated cassettes. Things have reached such a stage that our existence is at stake,’’ said Arijit Dutta, owner, Priya cinema, and senior vice-president, Eastern India Motion Pictures Association (EIMPA).

He alleged that hall-owners and the government were losing huge revenue because of the menace. “Cable operators screen five movies a day, most of which are pirated. We have no objections if they show other programmes, but not pirated cassettes of new films. We have sought police assistance to check the racket,’’ Dutta said. “Our gate receipts have come down drastically and unless the government takes a stand against the operators, we will be forced to close shop,’’ he added.

Dutta and Girish Mansatta, of Jyoti cinema, met inspector-general of police, enforcement branch (EB), Prasun Mukherjee, and explained their stand to him. According to EB sources, there are around 2,000 cable operators in the city and suburbs.

These operators are linked to either of the two multi-system operators in the city, RPG Netcom and SitiCable.

Sources said every cable operator has his own channel, through which he screens local programmes and films. “Besides, they collect advertisement revenue from local clients, which are scrolled along the bottom of the television screen. The government does not have any control over such advertisements,” the sources added.

The Forum of Cable Operators reacted with caution. “We will try to ensure that new releases are not screened simultaneously with shows in cinema halls. But the authorities cannot stop us from telecasting films through private channels,’’ said Tarak Saha, secretary of the forum. “With expenses sky-rocketing, it is difficult to be in the business without advertisement revenue from our own channels,’’ said a south Calcutta operator.

Asim Dutta, of RPG Netcom, said the multi-system operators do not have any control over private channels run by local cable operators.

Deputy commissioner of police, enforcement branch, Rajeev Kumar, said his department has opened a special control room where cinema hall-owners can lodge complaints against illegal screening of films. “I have passed on the information to the hall-owners, but we have not received a single complaint till now,’’ he added.

   

 
 
SAVIOUR LAWYERS IN NEW LOCK-UP DRIVE 
 
 
BAPPA MAJUMDAR AND DEBARATI AGARWALA
 
Malda, Aug. 2: 
The timely intervention of lawyers present in the crowded courtroom here yesterday prevented more deaths in the suffocating confines of the district court lock-up.

“They are suffocating to death, free them immediately or we will start beating you up,” the lawyers had yelled at the policemen, even as Nimai Ghosh and Anish Das had slumped to the floor, killed by the dank and choking confines of the 15x20 ft lock-up.

Nearly 400 men had been shoved inside that room, crammed into the airless space by policemen wielding batons and rifles. The room is more than a 100 years old and was used by the British to hold and torture freedom fighters.

Police officials admitted that had it not been for the alarm raised by the lawyers, the toll would have been much higher.

The 385 Malda court lawyers today began a movement for the construction of a new and airy lock-up. They were in no mood to listen to the appeals made by the judges, court officials and senior police officers to call off their agitation. The lawyers have decided not to work till concrete steps are taken to make the lock-up conditions humane.

“This was waiting to happen. We had written to the chief justice of Calcutta High Court to renovate the lock-up at least on six occasions. A separate proposal to build a new central, court lock-up has been gathering dust for some years now. Two lives have been lost but I have my doubts if the authorities concerned have learnt their lesson,” said an agitated secretary of the Malda Bar Association, Asit Bose.

The lawyers recounted that even last year, several undertrial prisoners had fallen ill inside the lock-up. Then too, the lawyers’ intervention had ensured their early release.

“Police this time broke all the rules, they crammed more than 300 men in the room which can, at best, hold 40. Moreover, most of those arrested had no idea why they had been rounded up,” Bose said.

A dank, filthy and smelly room, the old lock-up has just one toilet and those arrested or brought from the prison are forced to relieve themselves inside it. It is in this kind of a medieval environment that the men are forced to spend hours in, even managing to sleep on the floor amid the noxious environment, the lawyers charged.

The lawyers are demanding an immediate facelift for the room and the installation of an exhaust fan. The lawyers claimed that the undertrials who died had been picked up earlier as well, fined and released as soon as the court’s session ended. “They had to give a written undertaking before being released that they would not indulge in whatever crime they had committed anymore,” a lawyer said.

This system, they said, had been done away with a couple of years ago for reasons unknown to them. Now the undertrials, even those who had been granted bail, have to suffer, since it takes quite some time to release them from the lock-up.

Later in the afternoon, PWD engineers were seen inspecting the lock-up for possible spots where exhaust fans could be installed.

Seeing the overwhelming support from the lawyers, the court clerks too have joined in the movement for a new and improved lock-up. “We will not let a single case be heard here. This inhuman torture has to stop,” said Nirmal Das, a senior clerk.

   
 

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