Ranks swell for death by dignity
Suitor stabbed, rivals lynched
Registrars� suit quashed
Food-tasters for Ansari
Lip service for arm of law
The City Diary
Official�s assault grounds flyover
Deuba Sagar trip faces security axe
Brakes on budgetary support
Jail for nursing home rapist

Calcutta, March 22: 
For the past three years, I have suffered a lot. I, too, had wanted to live, but now I have reached a stage where no supportive therapy can save me. I want to commit euthanasia to end my suffering � Sunil Bhattacharjee (65), a prostrate cancer patient from Beleghata.

I know all about euthanasia. I know the recorded cases worldwide. I will write to the human rights commission to obtain a permission to die. Doctor, if you can�t provide me any relief, then please release me

Aloke Tikku (72), a lung cancer patient from Ritchie Road

With an increasing number of terminally-ill people choosing to liaise with three groups in the country � one of them from the city � that have come out as crusaders for �mercy killing�, the city goes to host its first seminar on the subject on Saturday.

For the record, at least 30,000 people die from fatal diseases every year in West Bengal. Calcutta accounts for more than half the figure, say physicians, while admitting that an exact figure will be difficult to ascertain, in the absence of any official study.

Motor-neuron disease (degenerative neurological disease), dementia, malignancy, Alzheimer�s, hormonal disorders and chronic mental illness are some of the commonest diseases that lead to a high fatality rate in most pro-euthanasia Calcuttans.

With what was allowed only in some Western nations, like the United States, Denmark and Greece, gaining so many lobbyists in Calcutta, a concerted effort is underway by leading physicians and organisations advocating euthanasia to press for legalising mercy killing.

The move has not come too soon. The Calcutta Society for the Right to Die with Dignity, according to its secretary Uma Bhatia, already has 80 members. Bhatia is now trying to bring together organisations like hers under a common umbrella.

�Most of our members are suffering from some fatal disease or the other,� Bhatia said. �They prefer euthanasia and we are fighting to get it legalised in our country,� she added.

Like Bhatia, members of the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS) are engaged in building up a consensus before pressing for the legalisation of euthanasia. �The matter will be placed before Parliament once we reach an agreement,� said IPS organising secretary Ranadip Ghosh Roy. �We believe that if we cannot provide relief, we don�t have a right to increase suffering,� he added.

But there are some who would advise patience. Critical care specialist Subhas Todi feels �a psychiatric assessment is of paramount importance� before deciding who qualifies for euthanasia and who does not.

But there are many who feel that euthanasia needs to be legalised, and soon. Relatives of Samir Ganguly of Entally have appealed to Prabir Pal, his physician, to employ euthanasia. �We can�t watch him die every minute like this in front of our eyes,� said his wife, Anuradha.

Unlike Pal, another doctor � an onchologist, who wished to remain anonymous � decided last month to use euthanasia on a 45-year-old woman. �She was suffering and had bedsores all over her body,� he said. �Deliberations with a psychologist led me to decide that euthanasia was the best way out, but she died before I could speak to her family on the ethico-legal issues,� the doctor added.


Calcutta, March 22: 
Two is company, three is definitely a crowd. Puja Das, a Burtola woman of 32, was wooed and showered with gifts by three suitors, hoping that a day would come when she would sway towards any one of them. Destiny had other plans.

On Thursday, two of the youths � Amitava Biswas and Gautam Biswas � decided to cut the competition and eliminate the third suitor, Biltu Das.

They slashed Biltu in the abdomen with a razor and attempted to flee on a motorcycle. They were, however, chased by a mob, caught and lynched. Puja was handed over to the police.

The two Biswas boys from Agarpara were initially unaware of Biltu�s involvement with Puja. �While she was with them, Puja blamed Biltu for the mess and showed no qualms over him being eliminated,� said Rahul Srivastav, additional superintendent of police, Barasat.

The trio hatched the plot and decided to carry out the murder near the Lokenath Baba temple at Deganga, in Barasat sub-division. �Biltu is a Barasat resident,� said Srivastav.

According to the police, Puja arrived in Barasat, along with Amitava and Gautam, on Thursday afternoon. She proceeded to Biltu�s house and asked him to escort her to the temple.

�The trio had planned to eliminate Biltu near the temple,� said Srivastav. �Biltu took Puja to the temple on his motorcycle, while Amitava and Gautam followed them on their two-wheeler,� he added.

While the couple was returning around 10 pm, Amitava and Gautam intercepted their motorcycle. �They pounced on Biltu and slashed his stomach with a razor. Amitava and Puja attempted to flee on his motorcycle, while Gautam rode off on another route,� the police said.

Hearing Biltu�s cries, residents rushed to the spot. They managed to catch the trio at an intersection. Amitava and Gautam bore the brunt of their ire, as iron rods and lathis rained blows on them.

A force from Deganga police station rushed to the spot but by then, the Biswas duo had succumbed to their injuries. Biltu has been admitted to R.G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, where his condition is critical.


Calcutta, March 22: 
Calcutta High Court has rejected a petition, filed by the West Bengal Non-Official Marriage Officers� Association.

The petition on Friday challenged a state notification asking registrars over 60 years of age to hand over all documents relating to the marriages they had registered after February 12, 2002.

The association claimed the notice was against the Hindu Marriage Act and ultra vires to the Constitution of India.

On Thursday, state law minister Nisith Adhikari said at Writers� Buildings that 21 marriage registrars who had crossed 60 years of age had been asked to proceed on retirement.

The minister also declared that his government was taking steps to legalise the marriages registered after February 12, when the Supreme Court had upheld the decision of the state fixing the retirement age of the registrars at 60 years.

The state, in a notification in 1996, had reduced the retirement age of marriage registrars from 65 to 60 years.

The association had challenged the notice of the state and obtained a status quo order from the high court. But the Supreme Court�s order went against them.


Calcutta, March 22: 
The police have deputed two constables of the reserve force to taste the food served to Dubai don Aftab Ansari in Lalbazar�s central lock up. Besides, two senior doctors from National Medical College and Hospital will check him on Friday night and every morning and evening, till he remains in police custody.

Ansari will be kept in solitary confinment in his cell. Four armed policemen will stand guard outside round the clock.

Earlier on Friday, Ansari was produced in Alipore court and Bankshal court. The judges remanded him in city police custody for the next 14 days.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra, said Ansari was a �special prisoner� and his force was �taking no chances�.

Detective department sources cited two reasons for it � one, a Special Branch report that Ansari�s patrons might try to kill him. Second, Ansari might try to escape, like Manjit Singh Munge, the criminal associate of Uttar Pradesh don Babloo Srivastava.

Detective department officials said during the initial hours of interrogation, Ansari admitted to planning the January 22 strike on the American Center.


Calcutta, March 22: 
Sealed it with a kiss. That is what an intrepid youth has done to the effort of the city�s lawmen to keep eve-teasers at bay.

In an incident that has left the police fraternity shaken and stirred, a woman constable of Calcutta Police fell victim to a crime she was posted to prevent on a busy fair ground in Kidderpore late on Thursday.

The South Port constable was on sentinel duty, unaccompanied, at a corner of the fair when a youth walked up and kissed her.

The incident occurred around 10 pm, when the crowd peaks at the fair, held annually on the Rajbari ground, along Bhukailash Road. A strong contingent was deployed this year after complaints poured in from local people about eve-teasers who had made the fair their �hunting ground�, officials said.

B.M. (initials used to protect the constable�s identity) was on duty at one corner of the ground. �We deployed a large number of women to keep an eye on eve-teasers,� a official of the South Port police station said. B.M. was one of the additional policewomen posted to ensure a �safer ambience� for women visiting the fair.

The youth, Chhotka, walked up to B.M, hugged her and then proceeded to kiss her in full view of hundreds of people who had gathered there from the neighbouring areas of Kidderpore, Garden Reach and Metiabruz.

Initially taken aback, B.M. soon gathered her wits and raised an alarm. Her colleagues rushed to her aid and nabbed the 30-year-old youth, hailing from a lower-middle class family of the Kidderpore area.

He was arrested and booked on charges of outraging the modesty of a woman, on the basis of a complaint lodged by B.M. After a night of �grilling�, the youth was produced in court on Friday and granted bail, as the offence fell under a bailable section. Officials, however, said Chhotka did not have any case against him.

The incident has stunned the force. �If this is what a policewoman in uniform is subjected to, then one can well understand how safe ordinary women are in certain pockets of the city,� one of the accosted constable�s male colleagues said. �This is a very sad day for us (the police force) and the entire city,� he admitted.

The lawmen got cracking on Friday morning. The patrol team at the fair was strengthened and officials said they were thinking of issuing a warning, via a public address system, against indecent behaviour.



�Provisional� tag on tannery applications

The state pollution control board (PCB) on Friday issued a notification stating that all applications made by tanneries for relocation were being treated as �provisional.� The PCB took this decision after more than 200 applications for relocation to the Bantala Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC) almost overshot the production limit as well as the daily quota of groundwater. In all, 531 tanneries are up for relocation in the CLC under a Supreme Court order. At a meeting on Thursday, the state industries department took note of the fact that many tanneries had recorded capacities far in excess to their production level, which had led to the problem.

The industries department is trying to complete the formalities of getting the PCB nod, as well as sanctioning buildings plans for relocating the tanneries, before April 2, when the Supreme Court reviews the case.

Cong bandh in Dum Dum

The Congress has called a 12-hour bandh in Dum Dum on Saturday to protest the privatisation of Jessop and Company. The Dum Dum bandh will not affect flights to and from Calcutta, according to airport sources. However, passengers have been requested to reach the airport early. Necessary steps will be taken to prevent roadblocks on VIP Road, the official added.

Park petition

The green bench of Calcutta High Court on Friday directed the Howrah Municipal Corporation to file an affidavit, stating what steps it had taken for the beautification of Belilious Park, in Howrah town. The bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice S.K. Mukherjee, passed the directive on the basis of a writ filed by Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity 15 years ago. The petition had alleged that the HMC had decided to hand over a portion of park to promoters to construct a business complex. Environmental activist Subhas Dutta alleged that a portion of the park had already been sold out. He informed the court that the park, spread over 100 bighas, had turned into a piggery and a portion was occupied by illegal settlers.

Man lynched

A 27-year-old man, suspected to be a dacoit, was beaten to death at Sonarpur on Friday. Residents of Champahati spotted four youths lurking in the area on Thursday evening, carrying small bags. While three managed to escape, one was caught and beaten up. A team from the Sonarpur police station took the injured man to the hospital, where he died. A revolver was found in his bag.

Three held

Two autorickshaw-drivers and another man were arrested on Girish Dutta Ghosh Road, in Bally, Howrah, on Friday on charges of manhandling the personal assistant of Hashim Abdul Halim, Speaker of the Assembly.

Cyber venture

Happy Group of Industries, which runs 22 cyber cafes in the city under the brand name Happy eZon, has hit the market with branded computers after a tie-up with Intel.

Aurobindo meet

The West Bengal Sri Aurobindo Centre meet will be held at Aurobindo Bhavan from 10.30 am on Saturday to discuss plans for the Mother�s 125th birth anniversary.    

Calcutta, March 22: 
The government has ordered a probe into Thursday�s attack on Hooghly River Bridge Commissioner�s (HRBC) vice-chairman Anil Pal. Pal was manhandled by a mob led by a CPM functionary. The incident has cast a shadow on the construction of flyovers in Calcutta.

Pal put in his papers on Thursday, hours after the mob, led by local CPM councillor Faiyaaz Khan, manhandled him and ransacked his office to protest the HRBC delay in completing repairs on Kidderpore Bridge.

�The police commissioner has been asked to submit a report,� said chief secretary Sourin Roy, reflecting the government�s concern at the likely impact of the incident on the programme for construction of flyovers with Japanese aid.

The mob reportedly tore up files and engineering books. �They broke Pal�s glasses and even aimed a blow at his face, which he managed to ward off,� sources said. No arrests have been made.

A shocked Pal, former chief engineer with the PWD, said on Friday: �I took over only two months ago and I told the councillor and the accompanying mob that I did not know the status of the flyover. But they wouldn�t listen. They even threatened that they would throw me into the Hooghly.�

Sources in HRBC said the inauguration of the Gariahat flyover, lined up for Poila Baisakh, could also be delayed due to Pal�s resignation.

Transport secretary D.M. Kanwar contacted Pal over the telephone on Thursday morning and requested him to withdraw his resignation.

Sources in the transport department said Kanwar condemned the incident and expressed his concern over the completion of the four major flyover projects in the city.

The flyovers, funded by the Japanese Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) at Gariahat, AJC Bose Road, Park Street and Cossipore Lock Gate, are slated for completion by November 2003. Pal did not attend office on Friday.

�I am demoralised after what happened on Thursday,� he said.


Calcutta, March 22: 
�Security concerns� and �the sensitive situation on the ground� have cast a shadow on Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba�s trip to Bengal, leading to the striking off of the Sagar Island � one of the high points of his visit to India � from the itinerary.

The original list of Deuba�s movements in Bengal � he arrives in Calcutta on Saturday and is scheduled to leave on Monday � released to security and intelligence agencies here kept a slot free for a hurried visit to Sagar, the island located at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal, on Sunday morning.

The final list, however, does not mention Sagar at all and has a wide gap with the Sunday schedule, which, officials say, is not an �oversight�. �There are far too many risks involved in taking the Nepalese Prime Minister there,� a senior Union home department official posted here said.

�Unless there is a last-minute decision to hang on to the original schedule � possible only if there is a lot of insistence from the Nepalese side � Deuba�s visit to Sagar stands cancelled,� he added.

The Indian agencies, officials said, had kept in mind the importance of the Sagar trip to Deuba, leader of the world�s only Hindu nation. But security worries, coupled with the island�s relative inaccessibility, had forced their hands, they explained.

Though there is no report of Nepal�s Maoist terrorists having any base in the southern part of the state, intelligence agencies do not want to take any risk considering the prevailing situation in Nepal and the �definite knowledge� of the ultra-Left Nepal group�s links with similar outfits in north Bengal close to the Indo-Nepalese border, say officials.

According to the original schedule, Deuba was supposed to reach Sagar by a chopper �some time around noon on Sunday�. The unreliability of the weather during this time of the year, besides the sensitive situation now, played a considerable part in the modification of that schedule, officials added.

The Nepalese consulate here corroborated the state and Central security agencies� version. �No, as of now, our Prime Minister is not scheduled to go to Sagar,� D.P. Bhandari, a senior consulate official, said.

�We were told that there would be something on the lines of a copter-trip to Sagar,� another senior Nepalese official said. �The island�s importance as a pilgrimage for Hindus cannot be underlined,� he added, admitting that the latest schedule received from the state home department did not mention it.


Calcutta, March 22: 
With the finance department making no bones about the paucity of funds, most departments of the Bengal government will have to do without their full budgetary allocations for 2001-02.

It is the usual practice to release pending budgetary allocations just before the end of each financial year on March 31. �But this year, we received verbal instructions from the finance department not to expect pending amounts under the budget heads,� a senior official said at Writers� Buildings today.

The news has sent resentment running among non-CPM ministers, who hold key departments that have been particularly affected. �In all probability, the finance minister will explain that we have not been able to spend the funds, a contention we cannot dispute being members of the Left Front Cabinet,� a senior minister said.

Sources said that about a fourth of the budgetary allocations would now be frozen for departments with higher allocations like agriculture, irrigation, power and public works.


Behrampore, March 22: 
An employee of a local nursing home was sentenced to seven years� imprisonment and fined Rs 10,000 today on charges of raping a patient.

On March 31, 1997, a housewife from Rezinagar was admitted to the nursing home with gynaecological problems. The next day, the employee, Mahadeb Hazra, took her to the operation theatre on the pretext of giving her some special treatment. Once inside the operation theatre, he raped the patient.

When the victim�s husband learnt of the incident the next day, he took her home and lodged a complaint with the Behrampore police. Now, after five years, second additional sessions judge Prasenjit Mondal sentenced the accused to jail and imposed a fine. Hazra was taken into custody and sent to the Behrampore central jail.

The court has also ordered that the nursing home be closed down.

Saviour rickshaw-puller

A rickshaw-puller�s presence of mind saved a girl in Malda.

Mita Mondal, a resident of Harinbari village in South 24-Parganas, had left home to study in Santiniketan. The daughter of a cycle-shop owner, Mita, who had passed the Madhyamik examinations last year with star marks, wanted to enrol in a �good educational institution�.

On reaching Calcutta, the girl boarded a Malda-bound bus. A youth introduced himself as a popular singer, saying he, too, intended to go to Santiniketan. At Malda, the duo hired a rickshaw, but could not find accommodation.

Mita, who had became suspicious of the youth, then took the rickshaw-puller into confidence. The rickshaw-puller took her to the Sahapur panchayat pradhan.

Residents of the area contacted Mita�s father, who rushed to Malda.


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