Troubled oil route to redress
NRS doctor beaten up on train
I-Day flights rescheduled
Mill hand crushed to death
Site storm over traffic-stopper pandal
The City Diary
Fit for royalty then, for fashion now
Mark of a leader and the scent of profit
Exam date shift irks teachers
Event recorder for the right rhythm

Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
Monday: five. Tuesday: 24 and counting.

Calcutta High Court is now witnessing a spate of cases being filed by people whose petrol-pump allotments have been cancelled because of a decision taken by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee..

Those who have already approached the high court have a common prayer: the court intervene in the matter and save them from impending penury, as most of them invested “everything” while trying to meet the requirements of the government notification inviting bids for petrol-pump retailerships.

Take the case of Santosh Ghosh (name changed). He convinced his siblings and relatives to sell their ancestral property at Baidyabati, in Hooghly, as he went about gathering enough money for the retailership.

Ghosh’s relatives gave up their share and Ghosh, with all the money, got the retailership for a pump in Budge Budge, on the southern fringes of the city. The average amount required was around Rs 20 lakh.

Vajpayee’s order last week — cancelling all allotments made in response to the 2000 advertisement — has now hit him hard. With a fresh order for an open bid, Ghosh and his family are staring penury in the face.

West Bengal alone had more than 250 new petrol pumps, following the order two years ago. Though only around 10 per cent have moved the high court till Tuesday, there is a likelihood of a substantial chunk of the rest following suit.

Two north Calcutta traders are among the 30-odd who have already sought the court’s intervention, demanding that it declare the government order cancelling the allotments “illegal”.

They were partners owning a firm producing stationery goods and sold off their assets to buy prime land in central Calcutta for the pump they were bidding for. They also paid the tender money and got the eagerly-awaited licence. With a prospering business even 10 days ago, they are now bracing for bankruptcy.

Subhashis Chattopadhyay (name changed on request) had a cushy job in a Central government undertaking. He took voluntary retirement and pumped most of his benefits into his bid to bag a petrol pump in 2000. He was awarded one in central Calcutta. Today, he is ruing his luck. “I am no minister’s relative,” he said. “Why should I suffer?”

Some of the more unfortunate cases, however, come from outside Calcutta. Manas Adhikari, resident of Khirpai, in West Midnapore, is crippled with polio. He told the Indian Oil Corporation that he had an 18-cottah plot along National Highway 6.

IOC responded favourably, but gave the retailership to Dilip Das of Haldia. Adhikari was left with a monthly compensation of Rs 1,500 for his land.

Adhikari approached the division bench of Calcutta High Court hearing his case. On Monday, however, the bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Jayanta Biswas, said it was deferring the next hearing for four weeks “as the matter was before Parliament”.

But some other litigants, who went to Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghosh’s room, were told the court will hear their case “together” next Monday.


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
A 36-year-old doctor of Nilratan Sirkar Medical College and Hospital, Ratnakar Sarkar, was seriously injured when a group of commuters beat him up in a train compartment.

The mob left an unconscious Sarkar on the train and walked away when it reached Sealdah station. Later, the station authorities sent Sarkar to NRS Hospital, where he has been kept under observation.

Shyamal Kumar Rudra, superintendent of NRS Hospital, said: “A complaint has been lodged with the Dum Dum Government Railway Police (GRP) with details of how Sarkar, a lecturer of the department of medicine, was beaten up. We are keeping a close eye on his condition.”

According to the GRP, Sarkar boarded a Naihati-Sealdah local on his way to the hospital from Khardah, where he lives.

“All the compartments were overcrowded as the train was late. At Sodepur, a group of 20 youths boarded the sixth compartment in which Sarkar was travelling,” said a Dum Dum GRP official.

“Initially, he protested when one of the youths pushed him. Instead of paying heed, the youth kept pushing Sarkar,” said an official investigating the case.

The youths turned violent as soon as Sarkar raised his voice and demanded that they keep away from him. They pounced on the lecturer, and beat him up ruthlessly. “They punched him in his face, on the chest and abdomen. Co-passengers were brushed aside when they tried to rescue Sarkar,” said the official.

At Sealdah, the passengers walked away, leaving behind Sarkar in an unconscious state. “The station master of Sealdah North section found him lying on a bench on Platform no. 1. Another co-passenger identified Sarkar. The station master then alerted us,” said NRS Hospital superintendent Rudra.


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
Indian Airlines and Alliance Air have rescheduled flights on August 15, due to “operational reasons”.

Indian Airlines sources said on Tuesday that IC 201 and IC 402 to Delhi have been combined. The flight will leave Calcutta at 5 pm.

Fight IC 229 to Guwahati and IC 701 to Dibrugarh have been combined and will operate on the Calcutta-Guwahati-Dibrugarh-Calcutta sector. This flight will leave Calcutta airport at 10.20 am. The return flight will reach the city at 3.10 pm.

Flight CD 7255 and CD 7256, operating on the Calcutta-Silchar-Calcutta sector, and flight 7215, from Calcutta to Dimapur, has been combined. This will fly the Calcutta-Dimapur-Silchar-Calcutta sector, leaving the city at 12 noon.

Flight CD 7215 will not go to Tezpur. Also, CD 7278, on the Calcutta-Bhubaneswar-Hyderabad sector, has been cancelled.


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
Gangasagar Yadav, 40, a worker of Hukumchand Jute Mill, in Barrackpore, was crushed to death on Tuesday morning in the machine that reduces raw jute to pulp.

Violence erupted in the mill, with hundreds of employees going on the rampage, damaging machines and furniture. Later, however, both the police and the manager of the mill denied that this had happened at all.

Police said the violent agitation continued for more than an hour, with workers refusing to allow the management to remove the body to hospital.

They blocked the movement of traffic on the roads surrounding the mill. The workers were demanding the presence of senior officers of the mill and compensation for Yadav’s family.

Workers fought a pitched battle with the police and forced them to retreat. Initially, Naihati police were outnumbered and they retreated. A large contingent of police reached the spot half an hour later and cleared the area.

Additional superintendent of police, Ajay Ranade, however, denied reports that the workers had resorted to violence and damaged mill property. “A worker was killed in an accident and his colleagues were tense. The situation is under control and the jute mill resumed operation towards the evening,’’ he said.

Witnesses said Yadav worked in the ‘batching’ department of the mill. He was on the morning shift, which began from 6 am. The accident happened at 7.30 am. Yadav was trying to feed jute into the huge machine when he got entangled in the wires.

“The machine has springs with iron teeth, which roll on each other. The wires are intertwined with the springs. Yadav got entangled in the wires and was crushed by the iron teeth,’’ said a worker, who identified himself as Raju.

About 50 workers were present and they watched in stunned silence as Yadav screamed for help. He was crushed to death within minutes.

“We shouted so that someone would switch off the mains,’’ said Nirmal Yadav, another worker. The workers tried to pull out the mangled body but failed.

It was later brought out after much effort. The employees said the machine was worn out and needed immediate repairs.

None of the senior officers of the mill was available for comment. A senior manager, unwilling to be named, said: “We are taking steps to prevent such accidents’’. The manager denied that there was “widespread’’ violence.

Labour minister Mohammad Amin sought a report from the deputy chief inspector of factories in Barrackpore on Tuesday.


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
Playing cards in 2000; earthen cups in 2001; sugarcane pulp and bark in 2002 — or maybe nothing at all.

The Bosepukur Sitala Mandir puja in Kasba, that stole the show last year — and proved a real traffic-stopper — with a spectacular pandal of 1.6-million earthen cups, may be reduced to a no-show this October, if it is “penalised for being popular”.

The police have asked the organisers to shift the 52nd edition of the puja from the present site on the Rashbehari connecter. “Last year, there was such a crowd that vehicular traffic came to a halt. The connector is south Calcutta’s link to the airport. We have to keep it free,” said Rajesh Kumar Singh, additional superintendent of police (industrial), South 24-Parganas.

He admitted that there are quite a few other pujas on the main road, but none of them is such a crowd-puller or traffic hazard. “Also, if there is a stampede, it will be a huge calamity and the blame will be on us. Last year, around 300-400 cops were posted there, but even that was insufficient,” he added.

The organisers, however, are in no mood to budge. Samir Roychowdhury, general secretary of the puja committee, said: “The place they are suggesting is somewhere behind Ruby Hospital, called Hatisur Math. Vehicles will have to be parked on Rajdanga Math, from where people will have to walk a km. There is no point shifting the para puja four km away. They might as well ask us to stop the puja.”

A makeshift foundation was laid on August 5. But the organisers were called to the Kasba police station at midnight and told to uproot the wooden pegs. The residents then closed ranks and a signature campaign was conducted to keep the puja in the para. Among the signatories was sheriff Sunil Gangopadhyay. On Tuesday, a memorandum was submitted to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “He instructed his assistant Moloy Roy to take up the matter with the police,” said Subir Ghosh, puja committee treasurer.

Local MLA Rabin Deb, who is negotiating with the administration, believes it is possible to hold the puja at the present site as “there is an outlet at the rear that can be used for crowd movement”. But the police are not convinced. “Had there been other outlets at the site, we would have used them last year too,” pointed out Singh.

With the clock ticking away, pandal designer Bandan Raha is on tenterhooks. After lapping up four major awards last year, his plan to pull off a sugarcane coup hangs in the balance. “My men are working off-site but I need the pandal measurements really soon.”

The organisers have also approached the CIT for a lease on the puja plot. “Our club has an ambulance and we also plan to buy a hearse. We need the land round the year for these services. The PWD minister has promised to look into the proposal,” they say.

Pledging full support to the police during the puja, Ghosh said: “Our volunteers were on duty round the clock last year. Not a single untoward incident occurred at Bosepukur. This time, too, we will take every possible measure to ensure that the people can enjoy the puja without trouble.”

A deputation to the Kasba police station has been lined up on Wednesday evening, under the DYFI banner. But it is the chief minister that the organisers are banking on to keep the dhak at Bosepukur beating and the crowds gaping.



Rallies halt traffic, protesters held

Traffic services were thrown out of gear for over three hours at different places in north and central Calcutta on Tuesday following a string of rallies to protest issues ranging from flesh trade to the recent hike in bus fare. At least 500 Chhatra Parishad supporters marched towards Writers’ Buildings to protest police atrocities on SUCI supporters. Police arrested 437 supporters. Around 2,000 SUCI supporters held a rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue on the same issue. Trinamul Congress supporters staged a demonstration in front of Ganesh Talkies to protest prostitution in the area.

Mob heckles CESC team

A mob damaged three CESC jeeps and heckled the staff at Akraphatak, in Metiabruz, when they went to remove illegal connections. Police said the attack was so sudden that the policemen were caught off guard and overpowered. Six persons were arrested.

Leader dies

Veteran communist leader and founder-principal of Netaji Nagar College in south Calcutta Pijush Dasgupta died at Bangalore on Monday night. He translated Das Kapital in Bengali and authored books on Rabindranath Tagore. He was 80. He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Apex court order

There was confusion at Calcutta High Court after a directive of the Supreme Court reached the bar association, directing the secretary to attend a case at the apex court on Wednesday. The five-bench special judge passed this directive on the basis of a petition filed by a former army personnel, Utpal Harsiut, demanding a guideline for practising advocates and fixing their fees. Bar Association secretary Asish Roy said his lawyer would represent him at the court. Former secretary Arunavo Ghosh said lawyers are governed by the Advocates Act, so the case was “not maintainable”.

Temple foundation

Bhoomi puja for the Lake Kalibari will take place on Wednesday. The plan for the temple, to be spread over an area of 1,000 square metres, has been drawn up by architect Achyut Kanvinde and the building is to be completed within three years.

Dacoity in Howrah

Dacoits looted a house at Domjur, in Howrah, on Monday night. Police said seven armed men took away about Rs 35,000 in cash and ornaments. No one was arrested.

Night halt for trains

Kanchenjunga Express will run to and from New Jalpaiguri till Friday following restrictions imposed by the Assam government on the running of trains at night. The North-East Frontier Railway had stopped night runs of all mail and express trains between Guwahati and Srirampur in Assam. The Saraighat Express will leave Guwahati at 11 am instead of 7.15 pm.

Medical meet

The third domestic training programme on molecular epidemiology of diarrhoeal diseases will be inaugurated on Wednesday at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases in Beliaghata. The programme, which was first held in 1998, is sponsored by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Indian Council of Medical Research. The health secretary, the director of medical education and the consul-general of Japan in Calcutta will attend the inauguration.    

Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
The Koh-i-Noor was set in it and France’s Louis XVI proclaimed it the only metal fit for royalty. After decades spent in hiding, platinum is now back as a jewellery metal. It has been brought to Calcutta by Platinum Guild International (PGI), in partnership with six of the city’s leading jewellery houses.

“It’s the quintessential metal for all ages,” says Vaishali Banerjee, manager, PGI-India. “It never tarnishes, is compatible with all skin types, is 95 per cent pure and, and is 20 times rarer than gold. Calcutta has such a rich tradition of jewellery that we expect platinum to do very well here.” Intergold, B.C. Sen and Co, A. Sirkar Jewellers, M.P. Jewellers, Senco Gold Jewellers and P.C. Chandra Jewellers are set to showcase platinum jewellery here.

Platinum jewellery faded in the mid-1900s due to its multiple industrial applications. Fifty per cent of all platinum mined is used in fields as varied as chemical, electronics, petroleum and glass-making. Now, it’s back with a bang in jewellery stores, say retailers and manufacturers.

Adds Vaishali: “Platinum jewellery is aimed at the modern Indian woman, who is urban, affluent and aware of the latest fashions. Jewellery used to be a sign of wealth, and was occasion-specific. Nowadays, women wear it everyday, and are ready to experiment.”

Retailers agree that the designs are extremely wearable and the prices affordable. Brinda Ganguly Sirkar of A. Sirkar Jewellers says: “Recently, consumers have been gravitating towards smaller, untraditional, lighter ornaments. Platinum is so universal that you can dress it up or down. I’m confident that not only will it be accepted, but will, in fact, do very well in Calcutta.”

Indranil Paul of P.C. Chandra feels that the attraction and the uniqueness of platinum jewellery lie in the delicate designs and the fact that it can be worn “anytime, anywhere, with anything”. Intergold, which has been selling platinum jewellery in the city since April, has already had business “beyond all expectations”. Sanjay Modi of Intergold elaborates: “The fact that the there is quality assurance and every individual piece is not just branded but comes with a guarantee certificate is very reassuring for customers. Sale of platinum is strictly controlled to maintain its exclusivity and that has been attracting a lot of buyers.”

Simplicity is the key in designs and quality is what the Calcutta consumer will get for prices ranging upwards of Rs 3,000. As Rajiv Beri of Josh Diamonds, a manufacturer of platinum jewellery, put it: “If indications are right, Calcutta in six months will be on the same level as Mumbai and Delhi today.”


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
For employers, ethical consideration ranks higher than scent of profit

For employees, the importance of the company’s profitability far outweighs other considerations

For a leader, showing too much confidence in subordinates lowers employee confidence

For a leader, authority over subordinates is an index of effectiveness

These are some of the findings of a survey conducted by the Eastern Institute for Integrated Learning in Management (EIILM) for the Global Leadership and Organisational Effectiveness (GLOBE) research programme of the University of Pennsylvania. The objective of the research programme is to “identify and predict” the impact of cultural variables on effective leadership across the world.

The research findings from various parts of the world will be collated in a book on leadership, which would also contain case studies to link specific leadership traits to various cultural variables.

“We have analysed the findings, which deviate significantly from the outcomes in other parts of the country. And the divergence can be attributed to the industrial relations environment in the state and government policies,” said Amit Sengupta, director, EIILM.

Researchers from the behavioural sciences department of the fledgling B-school on Waterloo Street interviewed 40 leaders — from the manufacturing sector to the service industry and even academic institutions — in West Bengal to identify the leadership pattern in this part of the country.

The list of leaders included Exide chief S. B. Ganguly, P.K. Dutta of Coates of India, WBIDC executive director Atri Bhattacharya, former Haldia Petrochemical managing director Richard Saldanha and Sanjib Lamba of BOC India.

To understand the impact of a leader on the organisation and the effectiveness of the leadership style, a structured questionnaire was sent to nine employees of each organisation. A leader’s views about his company and its goals were matched with those of the people working with him.

And the exercise threw up some “interesting” results, claims Kumkum Mukherjee, head of the behavioural sciences department at EIILM. “Almost all the employees gave highest rank to profitability on a scale of one to seven when asked about the priority of the company. But CEOs ranked ethical consideration over profit motives,” she cites one.

The one-year study, which went down to the factories, also looked into industrial relations in the organisation and produced “startling results”. For example: case studies of industrial relations at some of the biggest manufacturing set-ups in the state found the existence of “hand-holding” between trade unions with different political affiliations.

The researchers also didn’t find “significant divergence” of organisational objectives between the CEOs and the representatives of the unions. Both CEOs and employees were found placing customer satisfaction and cost control at the higher end of their priority lists. “This convergence of opinions and hand-holding can be explained by the competitive pressure on the industry. Everyone understands that the survival of the organisation is of paramount importance and hence, there is a need for alignment of interests and efforts,” explains Mukherjee.

But the employee perception on leadership style deviated significantly from how the leaders rated themselves. The employees also made clear their preference for leaders with goal-setting capabilities and the ability to define the role for their employees. According to the respondents, doling out favours to under-performers diluted effectiveness.

“We observed in a number of cases that the leaders claimed to be open to suggestions and approachable, but the employees didn’t find any democratic traits in their leaders,” adds Mukherjee.


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
A recent Calcutta University (CU) decision to defer a post-graduate examination, in the absence of the head of the department concerned, under pressure from students, has annoyed a section of the teachers belonging to the CPM-controlled Calcutta University Teachers’ Association (CUTA).

The M.Sc Part I (electronic science) examinations of 2002, scheduled to begin from August 6, has been deferred to August 28 after several students demanded more time to prepare for the test.

The teachers are irked with the university as they claim the postponement decision was taken while the head of the electronic science department is on a two-week leave. The controller of examinations, however, said the decision had been taken after carefully going through the demand of the students.

Sources in the university’s Rajabazar Science College, where the electronic science department is located, said the teachers are concerned about the manner in which the university has bowed to the students’ demand without giving them an opportunity to deliberate on the issue.

In the existing system practised by the university, the authorities finalise the dates of all post-graduate examinations after consulting the respective teachers and heads of departments.

Sources alleged that as soon the departmental head went on leave, a section of the students approached the examination department, demanding that the date be deferred.

“The students complained that they had to attend classes till mid-July, as most of the teachers had not completed the syllabi. Their complaint was placed before the university students’ welfare committee, which forwarded it to the higher authorities,” they added.

Piyush Sarkar, spokesperson for the SFI-controlled students’ union, said the demand was justified and they were happy that the authorities had agreed to hold the examinations three weeks later.

“The students are entitled to a grace period before the final examinations and the authorities have rightly accepted their proposal,” he said.

Members of CUTA, however, opposed the decision, saying: “The move has set a bad precedent. The authorities should not have taken the decision in the absence of the head of the department. At least, they should have consulted us.”


Calcutta, Aug. 13: 
When young Yuvraj and Kaif were powering their way to that near-impossible target at Lord’s, it set millions of hearts pounding at jet-speed back home. Such tense moments are anything but uncommon in our lives. We feel our heart racing while waiting for our first interview, or during a sprint in the inter-collegiate sports meet. If these palpitations are caused by coffee, smoking, exertion, anxiety or excitement, they are usually benign.

But if such symptoms occur without any external cause, then the root of the problem may be the heart. The warning comes in the form of symptoms like rapid heartbeats (palpitations), light-headedness, momentary senselessness (syncope), shortness of breath or chest pain (angina).

For the diagnosis of these episodic rhythm disturbances, or paroxysmal arrhythmia, till recently Holter monitoring was the only test available, where the patient has to wear a tape-recorder-sized gadget attached to numerous electrodes and wires for a period of 24, 48 or 72 hours. This monitors the heartbeat round the clock. Now, a new solution — the transtelephonic ECG — promises to be less cumbersome and can equip doctors with more relevant data.

“The patient is given a mobile phone-sized gadget, called the event recorder, which can be slipped into the pocket or a handbag and carried around, without the hassle of wires and electrodes,” says Panchanan Sahoo, cardiologist at Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS). The super-speciality Bypass hospital, which just concluded one year of telemedicine, has introduced transtelephonic ECG. Whenever the patient senses irregular heartbeats or experiences symptoms like lightheadedness, palpitations, shortness of breath or chest pain, he/she places the machine in front of the chest and activates it by pressing a switch. The machine records the ECG for a minute. Unlike Holter monitoring, this recorded ECG can be sent to the telecardiology department of the hospital from any part of the world in just a minute over telephone.

The cardiologists analyse the ECG immediately and get back to the patient with necessary instructions. Depending on the seriousness of the rhythm abnormality, doctors may advise the patient to take medication or to get admitted to the hospital. “This technique has many advantages over Holter monitoring. Long-term monitoring of a patient can be done outside the hospital and medical advice and treatment can be provided immediately. Quite often, this makes the difference between life and death,” explains Sahoo.

The process of recording and transmitting the ECG by this device is very simple and can be done from anywhere in the world. Unlike in Holter monitoring, where the patient is prevented from taking a bath and has to be very careful not to dislodge any wires, the event recorder allows complete freedom, as the patient doesn’t have to wear it round the clock. “The event recorder is useful for confirmed diagnosis of arrhythmia in patients with symptoms like paroxysmal (episodic) palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, syncope, etc. We are urging all GPs with ECG facility at their clinics to avail of this technology. They can transmit the ECG to RTIICS and we will provide immediate consultation and free advice,” says Alok Roy, vice-chairman of the hospital.


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