Deposition debut for docs
Broadway blueprint for theatre beat
Bribe shadow on prison van �big fight�
Preservation push to wonder workshop
The City Diary
Shah frowns on state apathy to heritage
Fabric with a rich past
Nightlong cop drive nets 1000
Students threaten agitation over Urdu
Jana blames party for Buddha backtrack

Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
One of the three eminent city doctors who, for the first time, deposed before the chief judicial magistrate, Alipore, in the Anuradha Saha case, said on Friday he was �confused� by the records on the patient�s bed ticket at AMRI on the dosage of Depomedrol administered to her.

The case was started by Kunal Saha, Anuradha�s husband and US-based doctor, and Moloy Ganguly, her brother, against three doctors � Abani Roy Choudhury, Sukumar Mukherjee (both senior consultants in medicine) and Baidyanath Haldar (consultant dermatologist) � two years ago. They had alleged that Anuradha had died in Mumbai on May 28, 1998, due to the negligence of these Calcutta doctors.

Haldar, who appeared before chief judicial magistrate Ananda Raha and answered a marathon 48 questions based on allegations made by witnesses, said he was requested to see the patient on May 12, 1998. �After I examined the patient, I diagnosed her to be suffering from toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).�

TEN is a severe drug allergy that leads to skin rash. �As a consultant, I prescribed my drugs and expected my advice to be carried out. But, unfortunately, this did not happen.� On the basis of prosecution witness Saha�s allegation that 880 mg of Depomedrol, a long-acting steroid drug, had been consumed by her, Justice Raha asked the dermatologist whether this was true.

�I was not convinced, as I had found that only three injections of Depomedrol had been administerd when I saw her. A note by attending physician at AMRI Dr Balram Prasad just said that the drug had been administered for four days. Their was no mention of the dosage or intervals. The bed ticket said �started for four days,� which I could not understand,� Haldar deposed.

Asked if he had advised 40 mg of Prednisolone (a quick-acting steroid) three times a day to replace Depomedrol, and that too without any supportive therapy, Haldar said: �There is no universal protocol for the treatment of TEN. It is not true that I had not taken care of the electrolyte imbalance that the patient was going through then. These were noted in the margin of my prescription.�

He said he did not know by whose directive the patient had been asked to continue with 40 mg Prednisolone three times a day. �I had given this prescription for one day,� he claimed. He also denied as �absolutely false� the allegation that he, along with Mukherjee, had advised that the patient be taken to Mumbai �for better treatment.� He, however, admitted to issuing a certificate to Saha, to enable the hiring of a chartered plane and a nurse to take the patient to Mumbai.

Justice Raha could record the statements of only one of the doctors on Friday. Abani Roy Choudhury will depose on February 14.


Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
Busy theatre halls, comedians and mime artistes on sidewalks, artisans weaving a colourful pattern on the pavement, street furniture of the Sixties, steaming tea in bhars and jalebis in shal pata� That�s the sort of magic walk down Grey Street, Bidhan Sarani or Kali Krishna Street that can resurrect north Calcutta and revive the romance of theatre in the city.

And it�s no flight of fantasy. The concept of �theatrescape� had been submitted to Writers� Buildings in the early Seventies. Conceptualised by Prof Santosh Ghosh, then chief architect, Calcutta Metropolitan Planning Organisation (CMPO), the basic idea was to use theatre, �an integral part of Calcutta�s tradition�, to create a tourist destination and an avenue for �economic regeneration�.

Now, 30 years since the CMDA was entrusted with the task of making such a theatre district happen, the stage is set for Ghosh to make a final pitch for his dream project. The president of the Centre For Built Environment (CBE), enthused by the government move to restore Star Theatre and convert the Sovabazar Natmandir into a theatre house, has decided to approach chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee soon.

It�s now or never, for a revival of theatre in Calcutta. �By stringing together the cluster of theatres dotting the area like a garland through an array of related activities, we can revitalise the place and the industry. We can create a theatrescape, on the lines of Broadway or the French Quarters of New Orleans, with its jazz and blues bars,� explains the architect.

The theatre district project was part of the Urban Renewal Programme proposed in 1972 by CMPO, designed �to make Calcutta a great city once again�. An allocation of Rs 1 crore for �planning and improvement of the north Calcutta theatres� had been suggested for the period 1974-84.

�We can recreate the old Calcutta flavour with theatre as the main theme, just like jazz is in the French Quarters of New Orleans. We can have koutuk nakshas (comedy kiosks), mime shows, performing arts centres, typically Bengali knick-knacks� to give visitors a real feel of the Bengali stage,� says architect Unmesh Kirtikar of CBE.

The �basic spine� of the theatre district plan is Bidhan Sarani and Grey Street, with the Sovabazar Metro station providing easy access. �It is equally important to consolidate the theatre district with the neighbouring jatra para in Chitpur,� stresses Ghosh.

Stage veteran Rudraprasad Sengupta, however, adds a note of caution. �Before such a theatre district, it�s important to create good professional theatre and revive the theatre-going habit.�


Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
The �showdown� in the prison van on Thursday could well have been a sham. In a bid to escape from custody, Sheikh Vinod and Gudda had conspired to attack each other in the van on way to Alipore court from Presidency jail, according to preliminary investigations by the police

A deputy commissioner (DC) probing the incident told Metro that two private cars were waiting for Gudda on Baker Road, about 100 yards from the court.

�We have evidence that another car and two jeeps were waiting for Vinod and his associates near the Alipore horticulture gardens,�� the officer said. �Henchmen were waiting for Vinod and Gudda in the vehicles. They sped away when the police arrived,�� he added.

Gudda and Vinod had bribed jail staff and some policemen to stage-manage the fight in the van, the DC said. �We are working on information that both paid Rs 10,000 to the jail staff and policemen,�� he added.

Inspector-general, jails, Anil Kumar, on Friday directed his department to probe the matter.

Additional commissioner of police Kiriti Sengupta said his officers were investigating the incident. �Policemen found guilty of dereliction of duty will be punished,�� he asserted.

On Thursday, 19 undertrials, including Sheikh Vinod, five associates and Gudda, had boarded the prison van in Presidency jail for Alipore court. As the van crossed Bhabani Bhavan and approached the court, Vinod and Seukumar Razzak attacked Gudda with a razor and knives.

Gudda fought back and a free-for-all ensued in the prison van. Guards in the van were beaten up by the criminals. The driver, sensing trouble, drove into the court compound and alerted the police control room over wireless.

Three mobile police patrol cars and officer-in-charge of Alipore police station, Pinaki Mondol, converged on the spot before the criminals could open the door and jump out of the vehicle.

Both Gudda and Razzak were severely injured and could not be produced in court.

Investigators cited three reasons that had raised their suspicion that the jail staff had been bribed and the fight stage-managed:

Vinod and Gudda have different areas of operation. Why would they draw daggers over turf?

If Vinod had wanted to attack Gudda, he could have done so in jail. Why did he choose the van?

An officer saw Gudda winking at Vinod after the cops arrived. �Gudda and Vinod smirked and winked at each other,�� claimed the officer-in-charge of Alipore police station.

The criminals were searched before being put into the prison van. How did they get hold of razors and knives?

A senior inspector and a deputy commissioner of police interrogated under-trials on Friday afternoon.


Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
A physics workshop, on the ground floor of one of the buildings on the northern side of the Rajabazar Science College campus, resembles a dumping yard these days. Instruments lie scattered, draped in dust and disregard. Not so long ago, this was the room where C.V. Raman, Satyen Bose and Meghnad Saha would spend hours in. Some of these rusty, ravaged instruments were the ones they used for their path-breaking experiments.

Now, the Calcutta University authorities � backed by a section of teachers � have decided to try and protect the instruments, preserve the past and highlight the most glorious chapters in the college�s history. Varsity officials recently turned down a demand by the Students Federation Of India (SFI) union to convert the dilapidated physics workshop into a conference hall to expand the students� placement cell. A move will now be initiated to remodel the old room and set up a special laboratory.

�We don�t want to close the workshop. For the first time, the university will be setting up a separate enclosure for preserving the old instruments used by world-famous scientists. We are also considering a proposal to set up a new seminar hall, to be named after C.V. Raman,� said Manab Kumar Sengupta, science secretary, Calcutta University. The campus already has a building named after Meghnad Saha and an auditorium after Satyen Bose.

Teachers of the physics department, while admitting that some of the old machines had become obsolete with the invention of more sophisticated instruments, urged the authorities to take all necessary steps for their proper maintenance.

�Most of the instruments are very old and were used by the most eminent physicists. But the authorities have remained strangely apathetic towards their maintenance till now,� said a member of the faculty. �There are lathe machines which are more than 50 years old but still in working condition. It is true that some other instruments are not required by students during experiments, but all the machines are needed for research.�

Sengupta, meanwhile, ruled out the possibility of discarding any of the machines. �Those that are still in working condition will be used by the students, while the rest will be preserved.�

The SFI-controlled students� union, however, stuck to its stand: �We want a modern, well-equipped space for group discussions as part of the placement cell. The authorities will have to find a suitable place for that.�



Six teenagers held for car theft

Six teenagers, including the mastermind, were arrested in north Calcutta late on Thursday on charges of car theft. Police have recovered four cars from them. Investigations revealed that the boys, all residents of Maniktala and Bagmari, had stolen five cars in the past two months from Gariahat, Posta, Phoolbagan and Maniktala. They would sell off the cars in Bihar, said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department. Four of them were caught with the car they had stolen last Wednesday from Gariahat. �Acting on a tip-off, we netted the boys at Belgachhia. They explained their modus operandi during interrogation,� said Mitra. The police then raided a hideout in Ghola, in North 24-Parganas, and picked up Happy Das, the mastermind, and another associate, Sushanta Mukherjee.

Consulate security

The State Intelligence Bureau has submitted a list of consulates and diplomatic establishments where security has not been provided even after the attack on the American Center on January 22. The list mentions at least 30 offices. Among them are the French Consulate Cultural Centre at 3, West Range, the Australian Trading Commission on 2C, Dover Road, and the Consulate of Burkina Faso on 186, Sarat Bose Road.

Kidnap arrests

A woman and a man were arrested in Barrackpore for abducting a child on Friday. Police said the duo planned to hold the child to ransom, but sleuths traced their phone call and rescued the child.

Book Fair debut

The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) has put up a stall at Calcutta Book Fair. This is the first time the social science journal, now in its 52nd year, has taken part in the Book Fair. Special rates and subscriptions, back issues and special issues are on offer.

Barrister dies

Calcutta High Court on Friday mourned the death of Urmibala Mukherjee, 68, a practising barrister and wife of Union minister for state of chemicals and fertilisers Satyabrata Mukherjee. Judges were at work, but on the basis of a resolution adopted by the Bar Library Club, proceedings were dropped for the day. The judges will meet in a Full Court Reference to condole the death on Monday at 3.15 pm in Chief Justice A.K. Mathur�s room.

Iskcon stand

The Mayapur Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple will not be affected by the decision taken by chapters in the US to file for bankruptcy over a $400-million sexual harassment lawsuit. All branches of Iskcon are registered separately and decisions taken elsewhere have no impact here, said an Iskcon Calcutta spokesperson on Friday.


A programme of discourses and songs will be held at Sri Aurobindo Bhavan from 4 pm on Saturday. MP Karan Singh and Sanskrit scholar Gobindo Gopal Mukhopadhyay will participate. Governor Viren J. Shah will attend.

Shanties removed

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation, with help from local police, demolished unauthorised structures and shops on pavements between the high court and Fairlie Place on Thursday.    

Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
The Left Front government has drawn flak from Governor Viren J. Shah for its failure to provide infrastructural support to the state heritage commission.

Inaugurating a seminar � Heritage at Risk � organised by the Indian chapter of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) at Victoria Memorial on Friday, Shah said: �We were quick to form a commission, but lack the initiative to make it functional. Bengal was a seat of historical and cultural renaissance and the starting point of many social and national movements. Unfortunately, even six months after the formation of the commission, it does not have a room, leave alone infrastructure.�

The Governor released two books � Heritage at Risk 2001-2002 and Essence of Art and Culture � at the seminar.

Shah said he failed to understand why municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya and his secretary had failed to meet the requirements of the commission. He deplored the �painfully slow� progress in conservation of heritage sites.

�For example, the Heritage Building Rules and Regulations of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) are yet to be approved, although the draft was ready two years ago. There is a need to expedite decision-making on such vital issues,� he said.

State heritage commission chief P.C. Chunder said: �Delay in framing rules and regulations is also hampering work. Till the rules and regulations are framed, it is our duty to preserve the heritage structures.�

Chunder also felt that terrorism, ecological degradation, unplanned tourism and lack of awareness were posing a threat to culture and heritage. �It is shameful that terrorists have targeted structures like the Taj Mahal and destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan,� he said.

Michael Petzet, president of ICOMOS International, also agreed with the Governor on state apathy towards the heritage commission. �Adequate funds from the government, as well as the corporate sector, are essential to conserve heritage sites,� he said.

M.G.S. Narayanan, chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, M.R. Agnihotri, chairman, India ICOMOS, and Mohd Salim, minister in charge of technical education and youth affairs, attended the seminar.

The Governor felt that merely according heritage status to a building did not mean much. �It has to be followed by concrete conservation projects, which may require funds support. The buildings� owners should be motivated to take care of them and restore them,� he added.

Molestation: Two men were arrested in Barasat for molesting a teenager. The incident took place on February 1 but the girl had initially failed to lodge a complaint. She is in hospital.


Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
Clad in a spotless white dhoti-kurta, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee spoke at length on the heritage of handloom in West Bengal while inaugurating Tantavi, a week-long exhibition of exclusive handloom fabrics, on Friday. Present on the occasion was Union minister of state for textiles V. Dhananjaya Kumar.

The exhibition, aimed at promoting awareness in industries, designers and weavers, displayed over 200 handloom varieties, made from natural fibres like cotton, wool, silk and jute.

Bhattacharjee, along with cottage and small-scale industries minister Bansagopal Chowdhury, went around the exhibition with Kumar.

�We have introduced vegetable dyes instead of chemicals to colour our fabrics, since the process is more eco-friendly,� Bhattacharjee told Kumar. According to Kumar, the Union textile ministry, too, had been laying a lot of emphasis on vegetable dyes.

Mannequins in tussar, silk and pure cotton displayed exquisite designer garments, besides hand-woven bags, cushion covers and bedspreads, at the exhibition organised by the National Centre for Textile Design and Central Cottage Industries Corporation of India.

The exhibition has been named Tantavi, based on the subject of �fabric structures�, showcasing a complete new range of handloom fabrics imbibing age-old traditions of classic warp and weft combinations, imparting modern characteristics of convenience, like wrinkle-free and anti-shrink properties.

Kumar later said the country exported Rs 6,000-crore-worth of handloom products in the last financial year. �Our target is to export Rs 2,500-crore-worth of cotton handloom products alone this year,� he added.

�The handloom industry involves a workforce of 93 million and comprises 28 per cent of the total industrial production. There is talent in the handloom industry across the country, with each region maintaining its own speciality. We are trying our best to sustain the talent and develop it,� Kumar added.

He said the exhibition would be held next in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.


Calcutta, Feb, 8: 
In a nightlong raid, more than 1,000 criminals have been arrested from the eastern fringes of the city and some areas in South 24-Parganas. A huge cache of arms has been seized from those arrested.

Most of the criminals were picked up from Tiljala, Kasba and Regent Park, in Tollygunge. The police are verifying their links to the Khadim�s abduction case in August and the American Center attack last month.

A police officer said: �Initially, we are interrogating those arrested from Tiljala, because most of them worked as informers of Chunnu Mian, alias Taslim, and Jamaluddin Nasir.�

Chunnu was arrested for his involvement in the Khadim�s abduction case, while Nasir was held recently in connection with the American Center attack.

Some of the criminals had even demonstrated over the arrest of Chunnu, demanding his release from jail.

�We had been tipped off that some of these criminals were back in action and have renewed their links with Chunnu after he was released on bail,� an officer said.

�Criminals have also migrated from Bihar. They are involved in various crimes, which include kidnapping, peddling of drugs and murder,� the officer added.

Additional superintendent of police (industrial) Rajesh Kumar Singh said on Friday: �Senior officers were also present in last night�s raid. We plan to carry similar raids in the near future.�

He added that in a change of strategy, the local police stations were informed about the raids at the last minute.

�Sometimes, such information is leaked to the criminals, and they flee before we arrive on the spot. Now, we have changed our strategy, informing the local police only at the eleventh hour,� Singh said.

In the course of Thursday night�s raid, the police recovered five revolvers, several rounds of cartridges and a rich haul of explosives.

Of the 1,000 held, 200 were slapped with specific charges, said a police officer.


Calcutta, Feb. 8: 
The Students� Struggle Committee today threatened to launch an agitation to press its demand for more Urdu-medium Higher Secondary schools and question papers in Urdu in the Madhyamik examinations.

At present, Urdu-speaking students are given question papers in English in the Madhyamik but are allowed to answer in Urdu. Many students of Urdu-medium schools met West Bengal Board of Secondary Education officials and demanded that question papers in Urdu be introduced next year.

�We have received their charter of demands and are discussing it with the school education department,� said board secretary Amar Patra. Board sources said a small percentage of candidates was Urdu-speaking, compared with the six lakh examinees every year.

�So, it is not feasible to arrange question papers in Urdu. They get question papers in English, printed for non-Bengali candidates,� the sources added. Moreover, the board has been flooded with requests from Hindi-speaking students for papers in Hindi. �If we concede the demand of Urdu-speaking students, we will have to consider the request of Hindi-speaking students first as they are more in number,� said an official.

However, there is no rule that the Urdu-speaking students cannot be provided with question papers in Urdu.

Students� Struggle Committee secretary Imtiaz Alam said the body would launch a �massive movement� at all Urdu-medium schools in the state.


Calcutta, Feb. 8: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and other senior CPM leaders today crossed swords with BJP president Jana Krishnamurthi after he criticised the Left Front government for changing its stance on the madarsa issue in the face of Muslim protest.

Krishnamurthi supported Bhattacharjee for his initial �bold stand� on madarsas, but described his sudden shift as �most unfortunate�.

�He (the chief minister) must have retracted his statement under great pressure from the state CPM leadership,� he told reporters at the Calcutta airport during a brief stopover on his way to Delhi from Imphal after a whirlwind poll campaign.

Minutes after Krishnamurthi�s news conference, Bhattacharjee said: �I am not ready to learn governance or democracy from the BJP.�

Bhattacharjee, along with CPM state secretary Anil Biswas and Left Front chairman Biman Bose, later left for Delhi in the same plane as the BJP chief to attend a two-day politburo meeting beginning tomorrow.

A few days back, Bhattacharjee had said he had definite information about some madarsas indulging in �anti-national activities�. But he retracted his statement after being subjected to severe criticism by Left Front partners as well as his own party leaders at Wednesday�s Left Front meeting.

Denying Krishnamurthi�s charges, Biswas maintained that there was no pressure from the party on the chief minister over the issue. �All this is your interpretation,� he told reporters.

Echoing Biswas, an agitated Bose said: �As far as I know, there has been no shift in his stand.� He said Bhattacharjee has already held a �fruitful� meeting with 22 leading Muslim intellectuals and clerics to clear the misgivings of the minority community.

According to the BJP chief, Bhattacharjee�s initial assessment about some madarsas harbouring �anti-national� elements was �correct� as he had definite information from intelligence sources. �I wonder why Bhattacharjee backtracked on the madarsa issue when all right-thinking people were on his side,� Krishnamurthi said.

Asked if the Centre had any plans to intervene in the madarsa issue and curb reported anti-national activities in some of them, he replied in the negative. �Law and order is a state subject. But if the state government seeks any help from the Centre, we are ready to cooperate,� he said, adding that Union home minister L.K. Advani had already backed Bhattacharjee on this score.

�We want all state governments to stand by the Centre in its fight against terrorism,� he said.

Bhattacharjee�s stand on madarsas has also come under fire from the Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee. �Bhattacharjee is now trying to cover up his government�s failure to curb terrorism in the state. Initially, he blamed madarsas for indulging in anti-national activities. But he was quick to deny his statement after representatives of the Muslim community severely criticised his stand,� Mamata told a public rally in Burdwan this afternoon.


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