Left women want beauty show ban
STREETS CLOGGED as �ATTACK� sparks counter-siege
UP contract killers to train local goons
Old school remembers �role model� student
Court puts big cats back in ring
Eye doctors take stock of tasks
Used syringe dump sealed
Techno thrust to hospital services
Killing blows security claim
Row over Tripura convictions

Calcutta, Jan 4: 
Taking a leaf out of the BJP�s book of morality, the ruling Leftists on Thursday decided to launch a campaign against beauty pageants and fashion shows in Bengal.

The Leftists� line was articulated by two women leaders, Aparajita Goppi of Forward Bloc and Rekha Goswami of CPM.

Goppi, leader of the Agragami Mahila Samity, womens� wing of the All-India Forward Bloc, said on Thursday that a �statewide campaign would be launched against any kind of show exhibiting nudity of female body�. She added that a resolution to the effect would be adopted during the Mahila Samity state conference at Madhyamgram from January 6.

�Beauty pageants are nothing but sex auction marts,� Goswami thundered.

The move has been opposed by even those against beauty pageants �in principle�. Women�s rights activist Maitreyee Chatterjee said: �Personally, I am totally against beauty pageants... But banning them is not the answer. It�s a free country, and if some people want to walk the ramp or take part in pageants, it�s their choice.�

Denouncing the BJP�s role as �moral police� in Uttar Pradesh, she added: �Who are political parties to decide what we are to do? Bengal will not take kindly to such measures. I think we all remember what happened in Ashutosh College...�

Filmmaker and actress Aparna Sen said: �They are again playing our moral guardians, like when they tried to ban Water, Usha Uthup, Godse... It is irrelevant whether you approve or disapprove. You don�t have the right to place a ban on anything like this. In a democracy, you can protest, you can�t ban.�

But Goppi and her mahila brigade appear determined to take the fight to �organisers of beauty pageants that demean women�. They claim that unless voices are raised against this �extreme form of commodification of women�, this trend will vitiate our society. �It is high time for us to protest against such shows,� she added.

�We are fortunate enough that Calcutta does not host too many such contests or shows. But we are determined to put a check on such shows. We will force the organisers to close down their shows,� said Goppi.

Such a ban may mean less opportunities for girls from the city to make it big. Celina Jaitley, model and Miss India finalist, 2001, was discovered at such a pagaent herself. �Many models and actresses start out at pageants. It is a great platform. The Indian woman now has a pedestal, people internationally can now identify with her,� she says. �A ban would be childish. When we can appreciate art, why can�t we appreciate beauty?� she asked.

Similarly, for last year�s winner of the Sananda Lakme Tilottama crown, Meghna Das: �It�s more important that we have freedom of choice�.

But there�s no stopping the likes of Rekha Goswami, state secretary of Paschimbanga Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, the CPM women�s wing. She said: �We have already organised a number of seminars and workshops to make women aware of this evil. We will raise our voice against all such shows which undermine womanhood.�

Goswami also said that she will attend the state conference of the Agragami Mahila Samity as an �invitee� and then take up the issue again with her party leadership. �I want to see how Goppi and her association draft the resolution on the issue first. But I can assert that we never supported such shows or competitions because the concept of organising such shows originated from the West.�

But that�s just one side of the story. Says Rashmi Choudhury, guest faculty, NIFT Calcutta: �The Miss Worlds and Universes have given an impetus to the fashion industry, by increasing beauty and fashion consciousness. Many young people have been inspired to pursue this line for a living.�


Calcutta, Jan 4: 
Life was disrupted on Thursday by Trinamul Congress supporters, who blocked major intersections in Calcutta, throwing traffic out of gear. They were demonstrating against the �attack� on their leader Mamata Banerjee. At the meetings, local Trinamul leaders lambasted the police and the CPM government for their �inefficiency.��

The police stood mutely while the Trinamul activists took over the streets from 11.30 am to 1 pm. Police said south Calcutta was worst hit, as Mamata�s supporters decided to take the law into their own hands to protest the �CPM�s high-handedness in Keshpur��.

Hundreds of Trinamul workers gathered at Gol Park on Thursday morning. It was peak office hour but they decided to hold a meeting in the middle of the road. A handful of them, holding aloft party flags, went up to Gariahat police station, a few yards away, and shouted slogans against the police. Vehicles were diverted down Southern Avenue, but the rush led to massive snarls.

Another group of Trinamul workers blocked Ashutosh Mukherjee Road, Puddapukur Road and the Hazra crossing, stalling vehicles. The activists also squatted at the crossing of Durga Road and New Park Street, inconveniencing airport-bound traffic, and blocked vehicles at the crossing of Diamond Harbour Road and Circular Garden Reach Road.

The police on Thursday warned political leaders against indulging in violence on Friday�s bandh. Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Narayan Ghosh, said elaborate security arrangements have been made to maintain order on Friday.

About 12,000 policemen will be deployed on the streets from early on Friday to prevent any untoward incident.

Police will be deployed in �sensitive areas� like Park Circus, College Street, Belgachhia and Park Street.

In addition, police will be present at Howrah Maidan, Sonarpur and Kasba and at all government bus depots.


Calcutta, Jan 4: 
They are, suddenly, Calcutta�s �most wanted�. Six clean-shaven, well-built men in their mid-30s, camping in town for the past 10 days.

They are �supari (contract) killers� from the Azamgarh-Gorakhpur crime belt in Uttar Pradesh. In the police circles of Mumbai and Delhi, they are being hunted for the trail of blood they have left in Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Thane, Surat and Mumbai.

Officers of the Criminal Investigation Department and the detective department said the six killers are in the city to �guide local criminals� in pulling off their �small-time suparis��.

Investigations have revealed that hired killers in the city, who use sophisticated .303 pistols and improvised explosive devices (IED), are paid anything between Rs 50,000 and Rs 3,00,000.

According to statistics available with the police, there have been six murders and three attempts on rival gang members in Calcutta, Howrah and nearby areas in the past one month.

Detectives said Krishna Rao, who had bagged railway contracts worth several crores of rupees, was gunned down at Orphangunge Market on Tuesday night by local crimelord Rajesh Shaw. Investigations revealed that Shaw had been paid Rs 2,00,000, half the amount in advance, to pull the trigger on Rao by a rival contractor who lost the bid.

A contract killer had been paid Rs 45,000 to gun down crimelord-turned-businessman Bapi Dhara on Dharmatala lane in Howrah recently, police added.

A sleuth identified the six men as Ravi Tiwari, Ajay Singh, Bahupratap Singh, Sheikh Aslauddin, Arvind Contractor and Fiasul Islam, alias Fiza. �We are not sure whether these are their actual names, as we have got them from the police records of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra,�� a CID officer said. All six are �wanted� in connection with several cases registered in Mumbai, Delhi and the crime branch of the UP police.

An additional commissioner of Mumbai police said over telephone that Tiwari, Contractor and Aslauddin are �sharp-shooters� owing allegiance to a Dubai-based ganglord. Sources said a senior joint commissioner of police in Mumbai and deputy inspector-general of police in Uttar Pradesh had tipped off sleuths in Calcutta about these men.

�They informed their counterparts here that they had specific information about these men having come to Calcutta to help gangsters to pull off supari killings,� said a senior deputy inspector-general of police of the CID, monitoring investigations.

According to information with the police, Ravi Tiwari, Ajay Singh and Bahupratap Singh had arrived by the Gorakhpur Express in mid-December and put up in a central Calcutta hotel. The three others arrived in Calcutta a few days later.

CID officers said Feroz, Melia, Naushad, Shahbaz, Mintu Hazra and Pintu, all criminals from the central, east and port areas of the city, had met the contract killers in the hotel. Police sources added that Munsef Mullah and Chola Rashid, criminals from the South 24-Parganas, had contacted these men as well. Among these goons, Mintu, Munsef, Bhola and Pintu are notorious sharp-shooters.

The police are struggling to keep track of the whereabouts of the six men from UP and Mumbai. There is some uncertainty over whether they are still camping together in the city, or whether they have split up into groups of twos or threes.

�We have to rely on underworld sources for information... There are no recent photographs of them, and so it is proving to be extremely difficult for the detectives to track them down,�� a senior police officer admitted.


Calcutta, Jan 4: 
The Trinamul Congress� call for a dawn-to-dusk strike on Friday is not going to hold up at least one event in Calcutta. Sailendra Sircar Vidyalaya, on Shyampukur Street, is determined to felicitate its most illustrious student, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, bandh or no bandh.

�As far as we are concerned, our programme is scheduled for 4.30 pm,� said headmaster Prasanta Kumar Roy Chowdhury. The bandh call did nothing to dampen the spirit of students, laying out a giant alpana in the school yard for Friday�s function.

The chief minister, during his visit to the school, will pay homage to his headmaster, Jyotirbikash Mitra, on his birth centenary. Mitra had left �a lasting impression� on Bhattacharjee. He will also inaugurate a library named after Mitra.

During his school days, the Bhattacharjees would live in a rented house on Ramdhan Mitra Lane, from where Buddhadeb would walk to school. He passed his Higher Secondary examination from the school in 1961 after studying there for 11 years.

Other distinguished students of the school include former Bengal Governor Shyamal Kumar Sen, cricketers Shute Banerjee and Ambar Roy, and Purnendu Sengupta, chairman of the former Calcutta civic board.

�I project Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as a role model to my students. He was a very good student. Honesty and politeness were his hallmark. I tell my boys to be like him and cultivate a similar strength of character,� Roy Chowdhury said.

The chief minister�s classmates fondly remember their days with �Buddha� � playing cricket, gearing up for debate and essay-writing competitions.

�I still remember the inter-class match between Class X A and Class X B. Buddha, who opened for X A, was given out by the umpire, but the catch appeared doubtful. Buddha did not argue with the umpire and in his typical polite way, walked off unperturbed... He played cricket in the true spirit of the game,� remembered Tapan Bhattacharya, a classmate who�s now a school teacher.

The chief minister, his classmates say, was a fine gymnast, besides being a good cricketer. �He was a deft gymnast and played a pivotal role during where we made formations of a �lotus� or �Sailendra�, the name of our school,� said Bhattacharya.

Other classmates, like Diptendu Ghosh, remembered the long adda sessions at Jagat Mukherjee Park, near Shyambazar, after their Higher Secondary exams.

�We have very fond memories of a group of friends which included Buddha... Like the mad scramble for the two most popular children�s magazines of our times � Shuktara and Mouchak,� smiled Ghosh.

Punctuality, recall peers, was another of Buddha�s traits. �He would enter with the chime of the huge, imposing iron bell in our school five minutes before classes began at 11 am... That sense of punctuality is something you see even today,� said Bhattacharya.

Netai Pada Kapat, one of the few teachers around who taught Bhattacharjee in school, recounted memories of �an upright and honest student�.

�He often brought flowers for the teachers from his terrace-garden... He had such a kind heart that he could not bear to see his friends being punished in school. Whenever I punished someone from his class, Buddha would come rushing and say, �Sir, please don�t punish him, he is my friend�...,� recalled Kapat.


Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
The high court on Thursday directed the government to lift the ban on circus shows involving tigers and several other four-legged animals. Justice Barin Ghosh issued the directive on a status quo order passed by the apex court on a petition challenging the Centre�s notification banning performances with tigers, lions, panthers, monkeys and bears.

The government had brought the Union notification in effect after a performer was mauled by three tigers during a circus show on Howrah Maidan on December 15. General manager of Ajanta Circus, Khandekar Abbu Ali, had filed a petition in the high court challenging the government�s order.

Petitioner�s counsel Anindya Mitra told the high court that the government�s order was illegal as the apex court had passed an interim status quo order on the issue.

Union counsel Manasi Bhattacharya argued that animals were tortured during training and before performances.

�The Centre�s notification was based on the Prevention of Cruelty on Animals Act, 1996, and state governments were requested to bring the order in effect,� she said.


Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
Ophthalmologists on Thursday asserted that they had �overcome their only lacuna... the inability to keep pace with fast-developing technology.� Hundreds of centres in the country are providing all types of advanced treatment to the needy. But even then, they are too few.

Dr J.K. Pasricha, the new president of the All-India Ophthalmological Society, who took over the reins from Dr Ranabir Mukherjee, said: �We still have several challenges before us.� Among them were the backlog of a million cataract operations nationwide, inadequate diagnostic and therapeutic care for children, and vitreo-retinal diseases and glaucoma, where early detection and treatment were of vital importance.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the 59th annual meet of the Society, the second largest ophthalmological conference in the world. The venue at Science City was teeming with about 2,500 eye doctors. �Only the annual eye conference in the US beats this,� said Dr Abhijit Ghosh, organising secretary.

After opening the four-day meet, Governor Viren Shah urged the doctors to shift their service ethos. �The need of the hour is to ensure not just individualised health care for those who can afford it but also a community-directed approach for preventive and curative care for the marginalised and deprived as well.�

Several solutions would be sought at the conference, said Dr P.K. Bakshi, the meet�s working chairman. Sessions on community medicine would discuss how the latest technology could be taken to the rural masses.

Interactions would be held on the latest techniques of corneal grafting, intra-ocular lens (IOL) implants, phaco-emulsification and LASIK. Society president Pasricha set a target for the 6,800 enrolled ophthalmologists: IOL for all by 2010.

The conference is being jointly organised by the Bangladesh Ophthalmological Society. Over 220 participants have arrived from across the border.

The meet also has a trade exhibition, with 200 stalls that have the latest equipment from the US, UK, Japan and Germany.


Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
The civic authorities on Thursday undertook a drive against recycled syringes, saline bottles and other disposable items in medical use. This move comes in the wake of a report in Metro, on January 3, on such a racket thriving in the city.

The CMC health and conservancy departments conducted joint raids in east Calcutta and seized a huge load of used disposable syringes and empty saline bottles from a scrap vendor at Bibirbagan.

Member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Ahmed Khan, said raids would continue in scrap vendors� godowns in different parts of the city.

He said the health department would conduct an awareness campaign among the scrap vendors, persuading them not to purchase used medical items from ragpickers.

Conservancy chief Mala Roy said the seized syringes and saline bottles are dumped at the bio-medical waste disposal set-up at Dhapa.

Both Khan and Roy stressed the need for an awareness campaign, as most handlers of these items were ignorant of the risk of contracting diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis-B.


Calcutta, Jan. 4: 
The Apollo group of hospitals is introducing several new aspects in healthcare services in Calcutta, following its tie-up with the Advanced Medicare and Research Institute (AMRI) about eight months ago.

Apollo is providing its expertise, both in management and hospital systems, to streamline day-to-day functions and provide better services, both in the 160-bed indoor and outdoor departments.

�Our aim is to stem the need for patients to go outside Bengal for super-speciality treatment,� said AMRI-Apollo�s chief executive officer John Punnoose on Tuesday, a day after two new techno-savvy services were launched.

�We are in an era of customer-driven markets, and healthcare should be no exception,� he said.

Apollo expertise will be important in the execution and functioning of the second, Rs 50-crore phase that AMRI is going in for. �Emphasis is being given to a change from specialist-based treatment to institutionalised services,� said Punnoose.

Already, the visiting specialists strength has been reduced to 140 from 200, while full-time doctors are being appointed. �We have had a good response from NRI doctors to our adverstisement in the British Medical Journal,� he said.

The two services launched on Monday are:

Lifestyle health scan, by which a special software, developed by Dr Adrian Kennedy of Apollo, Hyderabad, will provide guidance on what safety measures a person has to take once some parameters of that person, like height, weight, blood pressure are supplied to the computer.

Advancedmedicare.com, a website, with information on services and facilities available, the rates charged, bed availability and the list of all the doctors working at the hospital, has been launched. It also has a �babysite� where tips on babycare can be accessed.

In addition, the hospital has tied up with Spice Telecom, whereby subscribers to the mobile service will get all details as well as facilities, like preferential bed-booking and information on patients round the clock.

�Medicine will also be delivered to the residence of a subscriber, provided the quantity bought exceeds a certain amount,� said R. Mahesh, Spice�s marketing manager.

The hospital has already tied up with National Insurance for a counter at the premises from where medical insurance policies can be taken out.

In future, AMRI-Apollo plans to set up touchscreen kiosks at Howrah and Sealdah stations as well as at the airport, to provide ready information to passengers arriving in the city for treatment.

The Apollo group will also be setting up 24-hour drug shops at six Indian Oil petrol pumps in Calcutta. The group has already started this facility in other cities.

Some patients, however, point out that the charges at the hospital are �quite excessive.� Some even allege that unnecessary procedures and diagnostic tests are undertaken. To this, the management said costs could be relatively higher, compared to a nursing home, because of the overheads involved.

�Even then, we provide a pacemaker implantation package for just Rs 12,000, and this covers the cost of the pacemaker as well,� a hospital source said.


Guwahati, Dec. 4: 
If not anything else, the killing of Ulfa deputy commander Raju Baruah�s kin proves that the state government�s tall claims of providing security to the family-members of militants is merely an eyewash.

After the fratricidal killings resumed last year, both chief minister Prafulla Mahanta and Governor Lt. Gen. (retd.) S.K. Sinha claimed more than once that the police were providing security to the families of the Ulfa rebels.

While 11 relatives of the militants have been killed so far since the �war� began on November 9, eight have been gunned down after the Governor announced on December 7 that security cover would be provided to the families of the insurgents.

Despite the much-touted security cover, innocent people, whose only crime was that they were the relatives of the militants, have been hounded to death in a bizzare manner, often in front of their children or parents.

But according to an Opposition Congress leader, the state government has also kept an �easy escape route open.� Mahanta has already announced that it is not possible to provide security to �each and every� relative of the militants. �But he is conveniently forgetting that as an elected representative, he has pledged to protect the lives and property of the citizens,� the Congress MP said.

The chief minister, who is also in charge of home affairs, has no dearth of scapegoats � changing and chopping police heads whenever disaster strikes. �Mahanta�s aim is simple: As the home minister, he is trying to give the idea that he will not tolerate any failure on the law and order front,� the Congress leader added.

The state government carried out yet another police reshuffle yesterday, shifting the superintendents of police in six districts. Some top portfolios in the department were also re-allocated. Yesterday�s reshuffle comes within a month of the previous revamp.

What has surprised many is the failure of the police to identify the assailants targeting the family members of the Ulfa. They contend that within minutes of an incident taking place, the police are sure about Ulfa�s involvement. �But even after so many relatives of the militants have been killed, why have the police been not able to identify the culprits?� the Opposition leader asked.

This is the reason why many in the state share Ulfa�s conviction that a section of the Sulfa is being used by the police to target relatives of Ulfa members to counter the killing spree.

Apprehension is rife that that the �secret killing� tactic may boomerang in the form of renewed public support for the Ulfa. Thousands of people in Nalbari today demanded disarming of the Sulfa men. The Sulfa, they claimed, was behind the attack on Raju Baruah�s family and on another Ulfa cadre. The same people, however, were not so vocal when three Sulfa men were shot dead on Tuesday night.

Extortionist held

A Nagaon irrigation department worker was arrested by the police today for allegedly slapping extortion notices on Hindi-speaking people here, reports our correspondent. The accused has been identified as Dharani Bora from Anil Bora Path of Dimogni area.


Agartala, Jan. 4: 
Tripura lawyers are concerned over the spurt in interaction between the judicial and administrative officials to improve the dismal conviction rate in criminal offences.

Over the past two years, the state law department organised two conventions attended by judicial officers, government officials and government lawyers to improve conviction rate in the state.

A section of lawyers cited the convention as �dangerous for democracy� because the judiciary in this country was independent and �such hobnobbing of the executive and the judiciary could lead to erosion of faith in the judiciary�. Former judge of Gauhati High Court Justice P.K. Sarkar also attended one of the conventions, sources added.

However, fresh controversy has erupted over the recently-held district-level co-ordination committee meeting in Ambasa, headquarters of Dhalai district.

The co-ordination committee meeting was presided over by officiating law secretary Alak Baran Pal and was attended by district magistrate Bimal Bhowmik, superintendent of police Kshatrajay Reang, the sub-divisional officer and other high-ranking civic and administrative officials.

Sources in Ambasa said the judicial officers in the district also attended the meeting where law secretary Alak Baran Pal furnished details of the �pathetic� conviction rate in the state. He said compared to other states in the Northeast as well as in other parts of the country, conviction rate in Tripura was poor.

Pal said conviction rate in Tripura was only four per cent whereas in Assam, it was 75 per cent. Nagaland topped the list with 82 per cent followed by Mizoram with 70 per cent.

Even in the crime-prone heartland states, the conviction rate was much higher, Pal said quoting statistics. According to him, the district administration and the police were not taking any initiative to improve the conviction rate. He alleged that they were not even aware of the status of convictions.

Pal stressed on regular meetings of the district and sub-divisional level co-ordination committees and asked the police and civil administration to ensure that investigation into criminal cases were �accelerated and foolproof chargesheets filed.�

Sources here in the law department said filing of chargesheets and securing convictions had slowed down following the amendment of CrPC in 1973 and the subsequent introduction of the system of appointing public prosecutors and assistant public prosecutors for representing government in criminal cases.

�There is no effective government mechanism to control functioning of public prosecutors and assistant public prosecutors as you can appoint and dismiss them,�� sources added.

Meanwhile, the meeting convened by the officiating law secretary sparked protests as lawyers resented the joint move by the administration and the judiciary.

Advocate Purushottam Roy Barman described the move as �harmful to democracy as judiciary in our country is independent.� He attributed the low rate of conviction to �tardy investigation and delay in filing of chargesheets.

�A separate enforcement directorate manned by skilled officers can be formed to improve standard of investigation and boost conviction rates,�� Roy Barman said.


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