Health education diagnosed sick
Lifestyle shift to keep your heart in shape
School for the future
Nights of neglect after matinee mishap
The City Diary
Red-light rights for civic chiefs
Streetcar Sunset, and miles to go
State press gives govt labour pains
Chinks in blockade ban
Puja push to CPM campaign

Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
Forget about critical cases, think twice before approaching a recent passout from the medical colleges of Bengal for even �a simple medical emergency�. That�s the healthcare alarm sounded by minister Surya Kanta Mishra on Monday.

�The students are not even trained to become effective general physicians these days. The doctors who man primary healthcare centres cannot even tackle an emergency, like conducting a normal delivery or fixing a fracture,� said Mishra, a doctor by qualification.

The minister criticised the tendency among students to aspire for specialised degrees. �This trend makes them neglect clinical classes and ward duties during internship. So, when they leave the hospital, they lack practical treatment skills.�

This is resulting in �simple cases� crowding hospitals. �Cases that can be tackled in a clinic are being referred to hospitals, creating increased load and delay in treatment,� Mishra added.

With medicare being marked as priority sector by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Mishra had, last Saturday, decided to ban gheraos and sit-ins at all state-run hospitals.

He also granted sweeping powers to principals of teaching hospitals to ensure that students concentrate on �nothing other than classes and patient care.�

It is not that the syllabus in West Bengal�s medical colleges is inferior to other states, the minister said. �Our syllabus is drawn up under the strict norms of the Medical Council of India. So, the problem does not lie there. It is neglect of classes that is causing the problem,� Mishra asserted.

The health department has already instructed colleges to begin classes from 7.30 am and lay special emphasis on clinical classes, medicine and surgery, which were being neglected.

Having diagnosed the malady, the health minister has now turned to experts for a prescription.

Mishra, who leaves on Tuesday to attend an international congress on AIDS in Melbourne, announced a four-member team of doctors that will inspect the seven teaching hospitals and SSKM to help implement the government�s new health policy.

The members of this special committee are Dr D. Sen, former director of the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Research; Dr Ranabir Chakraborty, eye specialist; Dr Subhas Mukherjee, former director of medical education; and pathologist Dr Subir Dutta.

This team will be provided office space at either NRS Medical College or SSKM Hospital and given all administrative support from the director of medical education and the joint secretary of the health department.

�We have to plug the loopholes in the medical training process and underscore the importance of hands-on training during a student�s internship. The panel of experts will tell us how to achieve this,� Mishra explained.

Neurologist R.N. Basu has also been entrusted with the task of setting up super-speciality centres in leading hospitals of the state.

The health department feels that there is a need to develop �centres of excellence� in specialised fields of treatment and diagnostics in the teaching hospitals.

Cardiologist P.K. Sen welcomed the move. �The government must review the system and find out why good doctors do not go to health centres,� he said.

But Tulsidas Bhattacharya, former medical director of B.R. Singh Hospital, observed: �The present students are intelligent enough to become good doctors, provided they are given the right exposure and infrastructure.�


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
Like the rest of the country, Calcutta runs the risk of falling in the grip of a cardiac crisis that will affect every third person in the city by 2010 unless corrective measures are taken now, leading cardiologists warn.

Participating in a seminar in the city, under the aegis of the Cardiology Society of India, they said only a positive change in lifestyle could help the average Calcuttan keep heart diseases at bay.

�Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, a fat and cholestrol-rich diet, a stressful life � all these are dangerous trends that have become increasingly common among Calcuttans,� points out cardiologist A.K. Khan, secretary of the society�s state chapter.

�These lifetsyles must change if you want a heart that is strong,� Khan and other speakers said at the seminar. A large number of people participated in the seminar, at which questions on heartcare were thrown to the experts.

The society had also organised a �march-for-a-good heart�, which had drawn participation, among others, from transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and city police chief Sujoy Chakraborty.

On Monday, mayor Subrata Mukherjee announced that Calcutta Municipal Corporation would observe World Heart Day to create awareness about the impending heart disease scare.

�I will ask the state government to come forward and do something positive about it. If we do not act now, the city�s future is in danger,� Mukherjee said.

The mayor and other participants at the seminar referred to the World Health Organisation�s prediction that, at present trends, 60 per cent of the world�s heart patients will be Indians by the end of the decade. Majority of them will suffer from ischaemic heart disease, leading to heart attacks.

On the flip side, said the specialists, almost all the causes of this alarming situation could be controlled.

The sole factor that is beyond control is the genetic predisposition of Indians, who are three times more vulnerable to heart disease than westerners.

When he declared these findings, India-born director of the Coronary Artery Disease Institute in the US Enas K. Enas had said: �Indians face the highest risk (of heart disease). Genetics loads the gun, while lifestyle pulls the trigger.� Over the past 15 years, the lifestyles of people, especially from urban settings, have changed. And most of these changes lead to a damaged heart.

Women, who are also susceptible to ischaemic heart disease, are at a disadvantage. Inhibitions prevent them from seeking treatment. Many suppress or ignore their complaints until it is too late. �This practice must end. Women must be encouraged to speak up and seek treatment,� the mayor said.


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
Spacious, centrally air-conditioned classrooms; an Olympic-size swimming pool; a 3,000-seater auditorium; a bank and a medical store on campus.�

A school for the future is fast coming up on a 23-bigha compound, two km from Rajarhat New Township. North Point Senior Secondary Boarding School will ring the bell for students in April 2002.

The Rs 5.5-crore project is being funded by the North Point Education Trust. �We want to build a school where kids can get everything they want, and more,� says trustee Meena Sethi Mondol. �Hudco has approved a Rs 60-lakh loan for Phase I, to be completed next April. We target full completion within four years. A hospital and an orphanage will come up behind the school.�

Admission for academic session 2002 is scheduled to open after the Pujas, as is recruitment of teachers. The four-storeyed school building school at Langalpota, in Matiagacha, 10 km from the Baguiati-VIP Road crossing, will accommodate up to 10,000 students. A glass-capsule lift will take them to AC classes. �Special labs for geography, physics, chemistry and biology are also on the anvil. For instance, the geography lab will resemble a globe,� says Mondol.

The CBSE school will boast of �world-class sports facilities�, including a mega swimming pool, cricket oval, football field, two tennis courts, a basketball court, a volleyball court and a gymnasium. Hostels, to accommodate 6,000, will be divided into dormitories for younger children and rooms for the seniors. The hostel basement will house an indoor-games room, a library and computers with Internet connections. Three guest huts will accommodate boarders� guardians, with a bungalow reserved for trustees and board officials.

Currently, the Trust runs North Point Senior Secondary Boarding School in Teghoria. �This is the only CBSE school in the area and we have students from all over the city,� says Mondol. �For the new school, we expect a much wider response from boarders, especially from the Northeast, Bihar and north Bengal.�

The Trust aims to keep fees �on par with other private schools� to give an opportunity to local children. Social projects will be a priority at North Point. �We are promoting educational awareness among local people, who mainly work in the nearby fisheries. We plan to start evening classes for them with National Open School affiliation.�


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
On September 10 afternoon, Md Naushad was among those who had slipped into Society cinema to catch a matinee. He decided to leave the hall minutes before the end of the show. But that was not to be. Trapped under the rubble of the portico that collapsed, the 22-year-old was listed as �critically injured�.

Three weeks later, lying on bed no. 84 in the emergency ward of NRS Medical College and Hospital, Naushad has only one question: �Babu, can I walk again?� He has lost his left leg and three toes on the right foot. And the civic authorities who had rushed to offer him �all help� are nowhere to be seen.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee had been prompt in announcing financial support for the treatment of the injured and employment to the next of kin of those killed and maimed. But Naushad, who works for a small slipper-manufacturing unit in east Calcutta, is yet to receive any compensation.

None of the members of the three�man civic committee appointed to look into �all aspects of the collapse� has paid him a visit. Committee chairman and MLA Partha Chattopadhyay, however, justified what appears to be the neglect of Naushad. �The terms of reference of the committee do not call for looking after the victims� families or treatment of the injured,� he said, when contacted on Monday.

Another member of the committee, legislator Tapas Roy, added: �Medicare is the state government�s affair.�

Criticising the indifferent attitude of the Trinamul Congress civic board, leader of the Opposition Nirmal Mukherjee said: �Isn�t it funny that while the mayor is spending lakhs to organise pujas in the city, the victims of the Society portico collapse are struggling to make ends meet, with no financial support?�

Naushad�s father, Md. Mohiz, earns Rs 30 daily by rolling bidis at a local paan shop in Gabtala, beyond Tangra. Naushad was the �only other breadwinner� in the nine-member family, till the tragedy struck. With Naushad in hospital, the weekly income of the family has dropped from Rs 1,380 to Rs 180. Mohiz cannot afford the bus fare to visit his son in hospital.

Soon after the amputation, the hospital authorities ordered costly injections and medicines to save Naushad�s life. �I had to get medicines and injections worth Rs 10,000. Those who loaned me money were generous enough not to charge any interest, but how can I ever repay them?� wondered Mohiz.

Naushad�s father has tried to meet the mayor with an appeal for financial help and for a job for his second son. But �the mayor�s men� did not let him through. They asked him to give a written application, which he submitted to the mayor�s office on September 20. The letter is yet to reach Mukherjee�s table.



SC rejects Nullah petition

The Supreme Court has rejected the petition filed by the Trinamul Congress seeking to stop the eviction drive along Tolly�s Nullah, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee informed on Monday. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the eviction was completed before the Supreme Court�s rejection of the appeal. Quizmaster Barry O� Brien with participants at the advertising and marketing quiz, SAQs, on Monday evening. The quiz was organised by Advertising Club Calcutta, in association with The Telegraph and HHI. Usha Communications, HTA and Eveready bagged the first three prizes. Picture by Pradip Sanyal

Building collapse

Two persons were injured after a portion of a building in Amratala Street, in the Burrabazar police station area, collapsed on Monday. There were no casualties, member, mayor-in-council, building, Swapan Samaddar, said.

Govt worker held

An employee of the information and cultural affairs department was arrested on charges of fraud on Monday. Police said Gautam Chatterjee, the employee, had produced a certificate by forging the director�s signature and took Rs 50,000 from a photo studio with the promise of securing a contract of supplying photography material for them, police said.

Check on idols

The police inspected the idols of eight major puja organisers on Monday. Banibrata Basu, DC (headquarters) said the idol of Simla Byam Samity would create problems during the immersion procession. As the height of the idol is above 21 feet, it will touch the overhead wires of Circular Railway. �We have requested the organisers to reduce the height of the idol. If they do not conform to the regulations, they will have to change their immersion venue,� Basu said.

Yoga session

The Siddha Yoga Meditation Programme will be held at Bharatiya Bhasha Parishad, on Shakespeare Sarani, on Tuesday from 5.30 pm to 7.30 pm. Thumbs up to life insurance corporation of India for donating Aquaguards to Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy    

Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
The high court on Monday ruled that mayors, deputy mayors and chairmen of civic bodies have the liberty to use red lights atop their vehicles. The ruling came on the basis of a petition by the state government, asking the court to allow the mayors, deputy mayors and the chairmen of different Corporations to enjoy the privilege.

The court heard a petition filed by Calcutta-36 , a social organisation, alleging that an earlier order on red lights atop VIP cars was not being followed by the state and the police. In the order, the high court had directed the police to follow the guidelines framed by a state gazette and take action against violators. It enumerated the government officials and VIPs entitled to red lights atop their cars.

The petitioner alleged that government officials, private car-ownersand even taxis were now using red lights.


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
For Patsy Locke, who has spent the last 78 years in Calcutta, the streetcar has been the only way to move around. On Monday, the diminutive 80-year-old in a flaming red dress had to be carried on to a tram, but get on it she would.

It was World Elders Day for some. It was Dadu Dimmar Din for others. Whatever they called it, October 1 was a day on the town for the senior citizen across the city. First stop: The HelpAge India Tramyatra. Around 60 men and women from city old-age homes assembled at the Esplanade tram depot, where transport minister Subhas Chakraborty inaugurated the day�s events.

The tram, in its own twilight, soon set off. At hand were kids from Future Foundation, Assembly of God Church and National Gems High School, while band Cactus rode along for a live gig. Some were silent, enjoying the ride; others, like Patsy, were basking in the glory of popping flashbulbs, capturing her melting mood. For Sunil Modi, a Class XII student of Assembly of God Church, being able to catch it all up close was privilege enough. �My grandfather died while I was in nursery, and I have been helping out the aged ever since,� smiled the 18-year-old.

At Rotary Sadan, there was more fun in store. The children of Rotary Club of Calcutta�s cultural wing put up a show for elderly ladies from Nabanir. Song, dance and a small skit captured the ladies� attention for the course of the morning. �Most of these women hardly ever leave the home, so we wanted to do something just for them,� said club member Hirak Ray.

Dadu Dimmar Din was the flavour of the evening. A contest organised by Prayasam saw grandparents and grandkids walk the ramp in the fashion of 60s and 70s stars, like Suchitra Sen and Uttam Kumar.

Four generations turned out from one family. Freedom fighter Sukumar Chakraborty strode the ramp with grandson Soumyashree Chatterjee, while his daughter Susmita Chatterjee stood by granddaughter Sanghati Sinha. Said Susmita: �It is a wonderful feeling to be here with my father, son and granddaughter� At times like this, I understand the true meaning of being a family.�


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
More pay, yes. But more work, no way.

That seems to be the message emanating from the labour wing of the CPM at the 78-year-old Saraswaty Press, one of the rare instances of a turnaround by a state government-controlled public undertaking in West Bengal.

Despite repeated sermons by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his senior Cabinet colleagues to trade unions � especially the Left-backed ones � about the need to create a more industry-friendly atmosphere and assurances by the CPM top brass about its changed priorities in the often-uneasy labour-industry relationship in the state, old habits seem to die hard.

The union at Saraswaty Press, which has units at Dunlop and Sealdah and employs 640 people, has asked the state government to �actively reconsider� some proposals of the new Pay Commission introduced earlier this year.

Most of the proposals, that the Citu unit has �serious reservations� about, involve an increase in working hours at the press � which has been regularly making profits for the last few years � and a decrease in holidays for the workers.

The impasse assumed proportions serious enough to demand a meeting between the Citu leadership and state public undertakings and industrial reconstruction department minister Nirupam Sen, also the unofficial number two in the pecking order in the Bhattacharjee Cabinet, at Writers� Buildings a few days ago.

Sen, officials said, tried his best to make the union see reason. �The union leadership was told in no uncertain terms that the situation was changing very fast throughout the world and they would have to change as well,� a senior official said.

Though Saraswaty Press managing director Subodh Majumdar said he was �hopeful� of support from the union in implementing the new rules, union president Lakshmi Chatterjee said the Citu unit would ask the Left Front government to �rectify� some �errors of judgment� in the new Pay Commission.

�They require an urgent second thought on part of the state government and we have already approached it to incorporate our suggestions,� Chatterjee added. The �rectifications� should definitely involve rules increasing working hours and decreasing holidays and some �allowances� for workers, he said.

The new Pay Commission has recommended that �maximum allowable� working hours be stretched to 48 hours every week; the labour wing of the CPM wants that to be pegged at the earlier figure of 40 hours.

The recently-introduced commission recommends earned leave of 15 days every year; but the union wants the present earned-leave figure of 30 days to stay.


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
Almost all the state�s mainline political parties today agreed to build consensus over ending the bane of Bengal: wildcat road or rail rokos

But at the end of an hour-long meeting that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had called at Writers� Buildings this morning to discuss ways to end rail and road blockades, there were several key aspects that had not been addressed. The Trinamul Congress, as promised, stayed away from the meeting.

The government, while favouring a ban on wildcat strikes and agitation on �flimsy grounds�, said it would not stand in the way of notified agitations or agitations for �legitimate� demands. But this leaves many questions unanswered.

�I appealed to those present at the meeting to ensure that common people do not unnecessarily suffer from wildcat blockades. Almost every one agreed to the proposal,� the chief minister said after the meeting.

But, contacted separately, a few of the political parties said they differed with the chief minister on the approach and would not give up the right to agitate.

At today�s meeting, the SUCI, known in local political circles as �the god of small strikes�, not only opposed the move but also organised blockades during the day on railway tracks at stations like Dum Dum, Barasat, Ranaghat, Krishnagar, Hasnabad and Budge Budge.

Forward Bloc, a Left Front constituent, spoke against the move.

Mamata Banerjee, whose party boycotted the meeting, said: �We will not give up our right to agitate to amplify people�s legitimate demands.�

However, suspended party MP Ajit Panja sent two of his representatives. Leaders from both the state Congress and the BJP were present.

Bhattacharjee said he tried to convince members of all political parties that the government would not interfere in any movements for any legitimate demands.

He told newspersons that a draft proposal on this score will be sent to all political parties within a week and they were all requested to send their observations at the earliest.

�While the political parties have the right to organise programmed movements, no one has the right to infringe on others� rights. Serious patients, examinees and others become victims when blockades on roads and railway tracks are put up without any prior information. There should be an end to such harassment,� Bhattacharjee said.

During the meeting SUCI�s Manik Mukherjee voiced his protest and said his party was against the move.

�I opposed the government�s move to do away with political parties� right to block roads and railway tracks because such things are necessary to launch political agitations,� he said.

Sankar Dutta, the lone Forward Bloc representative, pointed out that blockades due to political reasons should not be done away with.


Calcutta, Oct. 1: 
The party does not believe in Pujas, but that won�t stop its leaders from visiting pandals to canvass against the saffronisation of education.

The campaign will be based on seven articles to be written by senior leaders, including chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

�The Puja will give us an opportunity to mix with common people and know their views on political issues,� said a senior CPM leader. The party has already published four articles by veteran Marxists � Sukomal Sen, Kanti Biswas, Dinesh Dakua and Shyamal Chakraborty.

Releasing the documents, CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said: �We have to motivate the people both politically and ideologically against the BJP government�s anti-people policies � their efforts to saffronise the education system, the communal line they are following and their move to introduce astronomy at the under-graduate level.�

These documents will be available from the stalls the CPM routinely sets up in front of Puja pandals to sell Marxist literature and periodicals.

Bhattacharjee will write on the Left Front � how the Front was constituted and how its partners have been running the government for the past 25 years.

CPM politburo member Biman Bose will write on the history of the Front. �The Front was not constituted in a day. It was formed on the basis of a long understanding among the partners who struggled together before the common platform (Left Front) came into existence,� Biswas said before leaving for Delhi to attend the politburo and central committee meetings of the party.

Funds jolt

The state government has slapped a showcause notice on the district administration in Malda for not using Rs 1 crore for the renovation of nearly 100 school buildings. The buildings had been badly damaged during last year�s floods. District administration officials admitted that they had received a strongly-worded caution from the finance department, which threatened to withdraw the funds.


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