Archive for the ‘Press Clippings’ Category

How we lied to see the truth – Calcutta Times

May 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Times News Network, Calcutta Oct 22, 2002

Perplexed by reports of child deaths at the BC Roy Memorial Hospital, four young students — Namit Agarwal, Barkha Sharda, Shayoni Sarkar and Uttaran Das Gupta — hid their identities to check out the ground realities on September 14. Here goes Namit’s account.
The environment around the hospital was grey. Shayoni called herself Jhumki and Uttaran, Raja and entered the hospital as villagers. We knew the authorities had banned the entry of media personnels within the hospital premises. Near the main gate a few policemen were stationed. However, they didn’t bother to check our identities.
With a crumbling boundary, the compound was free passage for stray dogs and any passerby. The centre of the compound housed an ill-maintained garden with a circular pavement around it, which the relatives of the patients used as a place to sit and relax. We waited for an opportunity to interact with them. The first opportunity came our way when the parents of nine-month-old Bula Roy confided in us, “No one in the city cares about the welfare of us villagers.
We have no other choice but to admit our infants here in spite of whatever is happening. We are even more concerned since three infants died yesterday.” For those who didn’t find place on the pavement, they made themselves comfortable under a dilapidated portico. We were shocked to hear that most of the parents had no idea about what disease their children were suffering from. Meanwhile, Barkha and I approached the main gate as officers from a false NGO Smriti Seva Pratisthan. Barkha had managed to smuggle in a camera underneath her clothes.
We entered the pediatric ward which was empty except for a stray dog. The walls were stained with betel leaf spits and the doors and locks were rusted. Then we went to meet the ward officer. We showed him our fake letter stating fund raising purposes and asked for permission to see the superintendent. Pretending that we were on our way to meet the super, we actually turned to the staircase leading to the ward. On the first floor the scene was bad. Oxygen cylinders, used bandages, and blood stained cotton lay around on the watery floor. Walking into the wards revealed an even more grey picture.
For one, there were no doctors or nurses attending to the patients. The window panes were broken thus making it easy for sunlight, or rainwater to pour in any time of the day. The beds were rusted and squeaky, and the rusted fans hardly moved. The parents of the children seemed to be spending most of their time in the wards as we found wet clothes on lines across the rooms, and food items and blankets piled up in every possible corner. Each of the beds were being shared by at least three children. The parents themselves were guarding the doors of the ward with no one from the hospital around.
The condition on the second floor was much better with a few nurses and one or two doctors around though the corridors were as unclean as the rest of the hospital. The biggest shock came when we climbed up to the terrace and saw six children lying on broken beds with the sky as their roof. Neither hospital authorities nor parents were with them. We came back from there with heavy hearts but with our curiosity satiated. Can’t the health department of the government see what we could?

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Categories: Press Clippings

Man of letters wants to script world peace

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment


Man of letters wants to script world peace

Rakhi Chakraborty in Kolkata
Feb. 16. — He could well be called a “man of letters”. Nineteen-year-old Namit Agarwal, a first-year BCom student of Bhowanipore Gujarati Education Society, has collected about 40 letters from dignitaries and heads of state from across the globe.
Namit boasts of letters from Pakistan prime minister Mr Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, Australian premier Mr John Howard, Egyptian president Mr Hosni Mubarak, Mr Nelson Mandela as well as former Indian president Mr KR Narayanan and prime minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee.
In a letter, Mr Jamali wrote to him, “The times of achieving national glory through war are over. Modern war is not a conflict between armies only; entire peoples of the battling countries are involved and suffer infinite misery, destruction and a halt to progress and all that is good in life (sic).”
“After I wrote to Mr Jamali, there was an enquiry from an intelligence agency at my house. But when the officer heard the details, he praised me,” said Namit.
As a class VIII student of St Thomas Church School, he wanted to take up an unusual hobby. So, in 1998, he decided to shoot off a letter to Ms Cherie Blair, wife of the British premier Mr Tony Blair. He requested for her autograph and photograph. “I did not have her address. So, I just wrote “London, UK”, and sent it off,” he said. About a month later, he received a reply from her.
Overjoyed at his success, he wrote to 53 persons across the world in a week. “I did not receive any reply. Then a month later, I got a letter from Mr Mandela with 500 stamps of South Africa, magazines, and a book,” he said.
His impressive collection of letters from dignitaries has boosted his confidence and now he wishes to take up world peace as a cause. “I want to spread the message of peace all over the world. Besides, I also want to collect peace messages from students,” said Namit.

Categories: Press Clippings

Comity Tracks on amity mail

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Comity tracks for amity mail

Namit Agarwal: A love for the letters

Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, The Hon. Prime Minister, Islamabad, Pakistan.

That was the address on the envelope that Namit Agarwal, 19, sent by ordinary mail on November 20, 2003. Inside was a letter requesting a few words from the Pakistani leader “on peace and a message to the youth of the nation (India)”. This earned him a police inquiry — a call from Delhi, followed by a Calcutta Police sleuth at his Jodhpur Park door (who was bowled over by Namit’s “collection”). The reply from Islamabad, on February 12, more than made up for the trouble.

“The times of achieving national glory through war are over… It is only through peace and mutual amity, as good neighbours, that an atmosphere can be created in which youth… can draw the maximum advantage…” The two paragraphs penned by Prime Minister Jamali have inspired the student of Bhawanipur Gujarati Education Society to spread the word of friendship.

It all began in 1998, when the numismatic and philatelist decided to pursue another hobby — collecting autographs and pictures of world leaders. His first letter, to then US President Bill Clinton, went unanswered. His second attempt, to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and wife Cherie, turned into a lasting relationship (“The Prime Minister and Cherie are always very touched by the expression of such warm feelings and support,” wrote 10 Downing Street).

In the past five years, Namit has written to, and received replies from, the likes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Queen Elizabeth of England, Australian Prime Minister John Howard and President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. His favourite ‘pen pal’ is none other than Nelson Mandela (“Your message gives me strength and hope and I cannot imagine a birthday without it!”).

“I started with asking for stamps at first, and then autographed photographs. Nelson Mandela has sent me books, posters and stamps,” smiles the Ist year B.Com student. “But in the subsequent letters, I ask them for their views on various matters, more recently peace. Now, I am going to collect messages from my school and friends and send them to Prime Minister Jamali, to show him that we understand.”

The envelopes, with just the illustrious name, the city and country on the envelope, unerringly find their target. And the replies renew Namit’s faith. “My teachers are very excited about the letter from Pakistan. And my parents, who have supported me but didn’t want me to send a letter to Pakistan, are also very happy,” adds Namit.

Categories: Press Clippings