The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fear stalls AIDS centre
- Residents refuse to take part in NGO initiative

Siliguri, Nov. 14: The ignorance and apparent fear of a few residents, two of whom owe allegiance to the local CPM unit, have stopped the opening of a counselling centre and short-stay home for AIDS-affected persons in Dhupguri, 80 km from here.

Everything was ready: the invitation cards announced Jalpaiguri sabhadhipati Banamali Roy as the chief guest and named the chief medical officer of health and the chairman of Dhupguri Municipality among the guests supposed to be present at the inauguration tomorrow.

The landlord of the premises in Vivekanandapara, Krishna Deb, was more than willing to rent out the house in ward no 6 for the noble cause. Deb, who is the editor of a vernacular fortnightly, had even renovated the place and made it ready for the purpose.

But yesterday, two days before the inauguration, three residents of the neighbourhood — Manik and Uttam Kar (both members of the local CPM unit) and Jiban De Sarkar told members of the NGO organising the centre, that they would not allow it in the neighbourhood.

“They did not listen to our explanations and merely told us that the centre could not be set up there. They believe the disease would spread in the neighbourhood if the project was located in it,” said Sachidananda Das, secretary of Sangabaddho, now an 800-member network of positive (HIV-infected) persons in north Bengal.

“We were setting up the centre with assistance from West Bengal State AIDS Prevention and Control Society and had the full backing of the district health department and Dhupguri Municipality. It would have helped over 200 and more affected persons from Dinhata, Cooch Behar, Alipurduar, Haldibari, Toofanganj and other places east of Dhupguri,” Das explained. “Two doctors were to have been available and patients would have got some treatment here instead of going all the way to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. The patients would have benefited quite a lot,” he said.

CPM zonal committee member Manik Chakraborty, however, washed his hands off the affair. “The residents should have been approached earlier. Now nothing can be done as we are busy with the Citu strike on December 14.”

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