Govt lines up database with doctors’ dossier
REC sticks to suspension gun
Medics from PSC for health centres
CPM stubs out squabble reports
HS dates announced
Tap water in village homes
Another district on drought map
State provides e-health model
Depot flames spark early House halt
Now, Nitish the match-maker

 
 
GOVT LINES UP DATABASE WITH DOCTORS’ DOSSIER 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
Waking up to the importance of maintaining records of patients’ treatment, particularly after the Anuradha Saha case, the health department has embarked on an exercise to create an elaborate data bank comprising documents on every government doctor and details of the treatment he or she carries out.

Two prominent city physicians were recently found guilty of negligent and rash treatment that led to the death of Anuradha Saha, wife of non-resident Indian doctor Kunal.

“The Anuradha Saha death case acted as an eye-opener for us and in what trouble can a doctor be in if he does not maintain his treatment records. Our decision to maintain all treatment records meticulously is aimed at protecting our doctors. It will help them as witnesses in various other medico-legal cases,” said health services director Prabhakar Chatterjee.

Through the computerised database, health officials would be able to audit prescriptions and find out whether patients are being treated “properly”, Chatterjee said.

“It is very important for us to monitor what kinds of drugs the doctors are prescribing or what methods of surgery are being adopted in every day treatment. For example, if a patient is cured by ampicillin (a broad-spectrum penicillin), he should not be given a costlier antibiotic like Taxim. This is part of our policy on rational use of drugs,” the health services director added.

The health department has engaged a software consultant to build up the database that will also include a Personal Information System on the doctors, nurses and paramedical staff in state-run hospitals.

The system will have all the particulars on the 8,000 doctors, 27,000 nurses and about 4,000 paramedics — technicians, physiotherapists and laboratory assistants — that the government employs.

“The system will have detailed information relating to the person — when he was born, when he passed out from medical college, his postings, area of specialisation, types of patients he treats and performance as a medicine man or surgeon. This will help us evaluate the doctors and decide on promotions and transfers,” said Chatterjee.

The personal information system for doctors is almost ready and those on the nurses and paramedics are under way.

The data bank will include the progress of health programmes taken up by the government. “For example, we will be able to find out in no time the number of people affected by tuberculosis, malaria and diarrhoea in Bengal and the number cases that have been adequately treated. We will also be able to find out the progress of various tuberculosis control programmes,” Chatterjee said.

The personal details on the doctors would also help run hospital administrations better, Chatterjee said. “We will know the performance of the doctors. If it is found that a doctor is consistently not discharging duties properly, steps will be taken against him.

“A few days ago, I went to a hospital on inspection and found the progress of the tuberculosis control programme inadequate. I pulled up the doctor who told me he was overworked. I shifted some of his responsibilities and asked him to concentrate on the TB programme. This type of monitoring can be done more efficiently through the system.”

   

 
 
REC STICKS TO SUSPENSION GUN 
 
 
OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Durgapur, Aug. 12: 
It is business as usual at the Regional Engineering College here, but for the absence of the 450 students suspended after a section of them blockaded higher education minister Satya Sadhan Chakraborty on August 2.

Four days after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said in Calcutta the blanket action was not fair, the college authorities are yet to revoke their suspension order.

Last week, the chief minister had said students have a right to protest against grievances.

The REC students were dropped for demonstrating before Chakraborty to protest the state’s alleged role in delaying the granting of a “national institute” status to the college.

REC principal S.P. Ghosh returned to work yesterday after a four-day leave. He met members of the inquiry committee he had set up after the incident and the departmental heads. However, nothing fruitful emerged from the meeting, said sources.

The college is functioning “normally” with the newly-selected students scheduled to report at the residential college on August 16. According to Ghosh, there will be “no problem” in taking them in.

Asked what he was planning to do after the chief minister’s reaction to the suspensions, Ghosh was reluctant to respond. “I have instructions from my superiors not to make any comment before the media. But I can tell you that some of the inquiry committee members have informed me that they are yet to identify the actual culprits who had picketed before the minister,” he said.

The apolitical students’ union of the college has threatened a stir along with the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) — the CPM’s student’s wing — if the authorities do not relent. The unions have been accused of not co-operating with the probe panel.

A students’ union representative said none of the seniors are ready to name the students at the picketing.

“We do not want to be involved in the witch hunt and it is wrong to presume that the union has a hand in the suspensions,” a union member said. The union has written to the college to withdraw the suspensions.

SFI leader Apurba Chatterjee, who had been to the college to look into the situation, is expected to lead a team to Calcutta to meet the minister and tender an apology on behalf of the picketing students.

The SFI will meet on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

   

 
 
MEDICS FROM PSC FOR HEALTH CENTRES 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
Fed up with repeated refusals to work in rural health centres, the state government has decided to appoint 406 doctors recommended by the Public Service Commission (PSC).

Health minister Suryakanta Mishra said at Writers’ Buildings that the PSC had conducted written examinations and interviewed applicants before sending a list of 673 doctors willing to serve in rural hospitals. The health department has short-listed the 406 from that list.

There are nearly 1,000 vacancies in the rural health centres. About half of them are manned by 400 doctors on contract. However, those recommended by the PSC will have to be taken in as permanent employees.

“We will retain the doctors who are on contract and press into service the 406 new ones. We will take in some more from the remaining 267 PSC-recommended doctors. Then we hopefully will be able to fill up the vacancies,” said Mishra.

Those who know they have been short-listed by the department need not wait for the appointment letters to arrive by post, the health minister said. “They can contact the health directorate personally and collect their letters.

“We have tried as far as possible to maintain the preference of districts given by the applicants,” he added.

“It is now well-known that doctors don’t want to go to the villages. If a doctor quits his job after being posted in a rural health centre, what can the government do?” Mishra asked.

The government’s plans in the mid 1980s to make it compulsory for fresh doctors to serve the rural health centres after passing out fell through because health being on the concurrent list, the Centre and the state government never arrived at a consensus on the issue.

   

 
 
CPM STUBS OUT SQUABBLE REPORTS 
 
 
ANUPAM DASGUPTA
 
Siliguri, Aug. 12: 
The local CPM leadership today tried to put a lid on the intra-party squabble plaguing its Darjeeling district unit by brushing aside reports that it has slapped a “suspension notice” on former Kurseong MLA Tulsi Bhattrai for alleged anti-party activities.

Bhattrai, a district secretariat member who wields a lot of clout in the hills and was largely instrumental in building up the party after the Gorkhaland agitation in the late-eighties, denied receiving any official intimation on the issue.

“I have come to know about our party’s decision from two vernacular dailies. As of now, I have received no official confirmation on what has appeared in the media. I am awaiting an official version,” he said.

Bhattrai is credited with weaning away 25,000 votes from his GNLF rival in the last Assembly elections. The hill subdivision of Kurseong is a GNLF stronghold.

The senior leader had earlier served as a nominated councillor in the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.

A section of CPM cadre believe Bhattrai’s popularity helped the party retain its support base in pockets like Kurseong and Mirik despite the “GNLF onslaught”.

According to the media reports, the CPM is thinking of “suspending” Bhattrai for misappropriation of party funds. Not exactly denying the “action” against the senior leader, party insiders said the “move” is a closely-guarded secret.

Municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya, who is widely perceived to be Bhattrai’s rival in the local set-up, claimed he was unaware of any such action against the leader. “I don’t know anything about the matter,” Bhattacharya told The Telegraph in Calcutta.

Sources said the reported action against Bhattrai may be a fallout of his differences with Bhattacharya, the MLA from Siliguri. Party leaders admitted in private that Bhattrai initially enjoyed a rapport with Bhattacharya but got into trouble because of his outspokenness.

“His (Bhattrai’s) frank assessment of certain issues had earned him enemies within the party. Moreover, the leadership in the plains kept him at arm’s length because he hailed from the hills. The fight is essentially a fallout of the plains-hill rift,” party sources said.

They pointed out that the CPM district secretariat is packed with Bhattacharya’s loyalists and that may have had a part in the clipping of Bhattrai’s wings.

Party sources said it is Bhattacharya who calls the shots within the local CPM and the “action” against Bhattrai is aimed at stifling the voice of dissent.

   

 
 
HS DATES ANNOUNCED 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
The coming higher secondary (HS) examinations will begin on April 1, 2003.

West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education officials said it will continue till April 26.

The 2002 HS examinations had started on March 20. The delayed examination will give students more time for revision, said council officials.

CU results

The results of Calcutta University’s BCom Part I honours examination will be declared on August 16, varsity sources said.    

 
 
TAP WATER IN VILLAGE HOMES 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
For the first time since it came to power in 1977, the state government will introduce a domestic tap-water supply scheme in rural Bengal.

Public health engineering minister Goutam Deb will inaugurate a pilot project on rural water supply at Jagadishpur village in Howrah tomorrow. Under the scheme, about 10,000 people will get water connection in their houses, but they will have to pay for it. The villagers will have to keep a security deposit of Rs 2,000 and pay a monthly charge of Rs 30.

   

 
 
ANOTHER DISTRICT ON DROUGHT MAP 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
The state government today included most of Paschim Midnapore district in the drought map of Bengal.

Agriculture department director N. Trivedi said 3,745 moujas in 24 blocks of the district have been affected by the drought.

The government had earlier declared Purulia and parts of Bankura as drought-hit.

Sources in the agriculture department said little or no rain in the south Bengal districts for some time had led to very little transplantation of aman paddy, the principal crop around this time of the year.

In end July, the situation turned worse in the parched Purulia, Bankura, Paschim Midnapore and Birbhum.

According to a government assessment, there has ben a loss of crop to the tune of Rs 400 crore this summer. In Purulia and Bankura together, the damage would be to the tune of Rs 600 crore, Trivedi said.

“Fifty per cent of the crop in the affected moujas of Paschim Midnapore has got sizzled in the scorching sun. There is no scope for any improvement even if there is ample rainfall now,” a senior agriculture official said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee this morning reviewed the drought situation at a meeting that was attended by, among others, finance minister Asim Dasgupta, PWD minister Amar Chowdhury and health and panchayat minister Suryakanta Mishra.

Bhattacharjee directed the relief department to supply fertilisers and mini kits for alternative crops like pulses, oil seeds and vegetables that require less water.

Trivedi, who was also present at the meeting, said he has asked for Rs 15 crore from the relief department to supply fertilisers and mini kits to the farmers.

Of the 29 blocks in Paschim Midnapore, 24 have been declared drought-hit and out of an average yield of 6.5 lakh tonnes of aman crop every year in the blocks, only 1.5 lakh tonnes are expected to survive.

The PWD minister said it was decided at the meeting that the affected farmers would be employed in the construction of roads under the Prime Minister’s Gram Sarak Yojna.

Though the yojna is usually implemented by zilla parishads, Chowdhury said the PWD would implement the Central project in 13 districts, including those affected by drought, because it has better infrastructure.

The project would be implemented in the rest of the districts by the urban development department.

The PWD has earned a revenue of Rs 26 crore from toll collected from new roads and bridges, the minister said. The department is now trying to identify other roads and bridges that could fetch revenue.

   

 
 
STATE PROVIDES E-HEALTH MODEL 
 
 
A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug. 12: 
The integrated telemedicine and telehealth project launched in the state by the Asia Heart Foundation a year ago has grown to become the largest model of its kind in Asia.

The “e-health vision” of foundation chairman cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty and vice-chairman Alok Roy led to the birth of the project in Bankura and Siliguri.

The six-bed telemedicine unit at B.S. Medical College in Bankura, set up by the foundation in collaboration with the state government, was inaugurated by health minister Suryakanta Mishra on July 21, 2001.

A patient admitted to the hospital can now consult specialists at the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences, Calcutta and Narayana Hrudayalaya, Bangalore.

“The journey of our telemedicine effort from its inception to the experience of having delivered care to more than 4,200 patients was a feeling beyond expression,” said Roy at the Tagore institute of cardiac sciences today.

“In a year, the project has evidence to share with the people of Bengal and the entire world — the good news of having delivered life-saving treatment to 206 in-patients.

“The continuing synergistic support from the government is what sustains the project, and the beneficiaries are the masses,” Roy said.

After its initial successes in the state, the foundation took its telemedicine project to Udaipur in Tripura, Tinsukia in Assam, Chamarajanagar in Karnataka and other remote corners of the country.

Shetty has himself checked more than 3,000 patients over the telemedicine network till date.

The foundation has already taken its model to Malaysia, Mauritius, Nepal and Bangladesh. Several other Asian destinations feature in its expansion route.

“The foundation has the most active telemedicine network in Asia,” Roy said.

The Indian Space research Organisation (Isro), which provides technical support to the network, is convinced the model is one for the future.

“Health is a major issue in rural areas and so we have developed the telemedicine concept using our satellite system. Five VSAT terminals have been set up for telemedicine in Bangalore, Calcutta, Tripura, Port Blair and Leh,” Isro chairman Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan said in a recent interview.

High incidence of heart diseases among Indians due to a genetic predisposition makes it imperative to have a coronary care unit in every district hospital, said the foundation officials.

“Thirty per cent of those who suffer a heart attack can die if proper treatment is not offered in time. Our project in Bankura has addressed this issue effectively,” said Roy.

   

 
 
DEPOT FLAMES SPARK EARLY HOUSE HALT 
 
 
OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
New Delhi, Aug. 12: 
The storm over petroleum dealerships today forced both Houses of Parliament to be adjourned sine die three days ahead of schedule as rival lawmakers traded charges on the scam that has stalled proceedings the whole of last week.

“Over to petrol pumps,” Congress MP Priya Ranjan Das Munshi shouted over the din soon after Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi adjourned the House before the scheduled conclusion of the monsoon session, and vowed to take the scandal to the “people’s court”.

Charges and counter-charges followed even as Joshi proceeded to regret the “national waste” over the repeated stalling of proceedings.

Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy held Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee responsible for the logjam, alleging that he had made no attempt to resolve it. “The Prime Minister made no appearance in the Lok Sabha since the scam broke out. He made no attempt to convene (a) meeting of Opposition parties. If he had taken such an initiative, things could have been different,” Reddy said. Congress members also stormed the well, protesting against the Speaker’s decision.

The BJP trained guns on the main Opposition party, saying public money to the tune of about Rs 100 crore had been lost because of the uproar and adjournments. “No work could be done for 356 hours by the 13th Lok Sabha. At the rate of over Rs 25 lakh per hour, the total loss of public money works out to about Rs 100 crore,” party spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said.

Joshi, who decided to halt proceedings when it became clear the Opposition was in no mood to relent, maintained he was not in a position to comment on the merit of the Opposition stand that petroleum minister Ram Naik should resign.

“I am, however, concerned at the national waste caused by the adjournment of the House day after day without transacting any business,” he added. The Speaker said he would talk to leaders of various political parties during the inter-session period to ensure its smooth functioning during the winter session.

He regretted that members were still rushing to the well of the House and said it was time they pondered over their actions. Asked to comment on the decision to suspend those who charged to the well, he said when 50 to 60 members do that, “it becomes difficult for the chair” to take any action.

Joshi said 36 hours and 27 minutes out of a total sitting time of 120 hours and 50 minutes were lost because of interruptions, but claimed the House had succeeded in transacting more business than it did last year.

The Rajya Sabha was also adjourned sine die. It was first adjourned for an hour after the Opposition stuck to its demand for Naik’s resignation. A similar scene prevailed when it re-assembled at noon. “I am sorry that business is not being allowed and I am adjourning the House sine die,” deputy chairperson Najma Heptullah said after allowing ministers to table papers.

   

 
 
NOW, NITISH THE MATCH-MAKER 
 
 
TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Patna, Aug. 12: 
Nitish Kumar is playing Cupid for the “brave young men” who want to marry outside their castes.

Speaking at a memorial meeting for Jaiprakash Narain yesterday, Nitish advocated that Bihari youths marrying outside their castes be offered government jobs.

Samata Party sources said the party’s youth wing may even organise a few such marriages to pave the way for a social change. The party top brass is hunting for some “rebels” to volunteer.

Having gained ground in his home state by offering Bihar a railway zone, the Union railway minister is now changing tracks to consolidate his backward support base.

In an attempt to add new dimensions to the job quota policy, Nitish said there should be reservation for those who dare to break caste barriers and attempt to integrate society.

In the heydays of Narain’s “total revolution”, his followers, who were advised not to use their surnames, had launched an upbit toro andolan (tear the holy thread).

However, these slogans are now long forgotten with successive governments turning a blind eye to the evils of caste system.

Nitish is seeking to revive Narain’s policies and Samata is going to town with its leader’s new mission.

Posters and banners with catchy slogans can be spotted all around Patna. A series of colourful posters adorn Kumar’s new baby — the swank Patna railway station which has been given a new look. “Jati toro, samaj joro (break the caste divide and unite the society),” screamed one banner.

Riding high on the newly-acquired popularity wave, Nitish is trying to steal a march over Laloo Prasad Yadav by challenging him on his trump card. Laloo has always exploited the caste divide for political gain.

For Nitish, scaling the deeply entrenched caste system may seem insurmountable. His own caste support base constitutes less than 10 per cent of Bihar’s population.

Kurmi leaders in Bihar have never been successful in putting together a caste combine to match Laloo’s might. Shakuni Chowdhary, a high-profile Kurmi leader, parted ways with Nitish in 1999.

   
 

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