Site suspense on tech schools
Shalimar to be spruced up as Howrah heir
Heritage spotlight turns on old shops
Refresher classes for city sleuths
Advani headed for Tripura
Elephant kills six in Assam
5 Ulfa activists gunned down
Ex-Nagaland chief minister passes away

March 22 
With the blessings of US President Bill Clinton, Calcutta-based Purnendu Chatterjee of the Soros-Chatterjee Fund is planning to set up six science and technology campuseses across the country, in association with University of California, Berkeley.

A formal announcement is expected to be made by the US President in the next few days. The project has also received a pat on the back from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The project is expected to be kick-started within the next six months and the first batch of students should be enrolled in three years’ time.

But it is not yet known whether Calcutta figures on the campuses map of the Global Institute of Science & Technology (GIST). Several state governments have approached the group to set up colleges in their cities. “We propose to set up six campuses across the country but we will start with just one or two initially,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph, choosing not to name names.

“It’s a welcome development. We in the government would like to be associated with the initiative because it relates to development of education, which is one of our prime concerns. We will try to find out how best we can help him,” said Satya Sadhan Chakraborty, minister for higher education.

A few years ago, the government’s procrastination had cost the city a national law school project, which was shifted to Bangalore. GIST has already tied up sponsorship of about $300 million from various Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The list of sponsors includes Desh Deshpande of Sycamore Networks; Arjun Malhotra of HCL; Vinod Khosla of Kleiner Perkins and Vinod Gupta of InfoUSA, besides Dr Purnendu Chatterjee of the Chatterjee group. Infosys chief N.R. Narayanamurthy is also said to be “enthusiastic about the project”. Talks are on with Rajat Gupta of McKinsey & Co as well.

Besides tying up with Berkeley, GIST is trying to enlist the support of the Massachusetts of Technology (MIT) and the University of Stanford.

The campuses are expected to be research-centric and will work in collaboration with the industry in the fields of IT, e-commerce, materials and science engineering and life science.

Chatterjee said that there is a vast amount of raw talent available in the country, which has to be shaped.

“Just one per cent of the student population gets into the IIT,” he observed, adding that it was Indian talent which had made US dominance in the new economy sector possible.

“India could become the Saudi Arabia of the new economy businesses,” said Chatterjee, stating that GIST would also have collaborations with Indian institutes like the IITs and IIMs.

Entrepreneurship will be encouraged through business plan contests, help in company formation and funding and assistance in patent filing.

Corporate sponsorship for research will be institutionalised, for which arrangements will be worked out through various aid agencies and universities.    

Calcutta, March 22 
With passenger pressure on Howrah station mounting by the minute, the railways have decided to develop adjoining Shalimar into a full-fledged terminal, handling all South Eastern Railway passenger trains.

A detailed plan with all logistical information has been submitted to the Railway Board and is awaiting phase-wise clearance in the next railway budget.

Shalimar station, five km from Howrah station, now has a single platform and handles only one passenger train, the newly-introduced Howrah-Haldia Azad Hind Express, apart from goods traffic.

The 150-year-old Howrah station, on the other hand, plays host to 262 trains a day, with about a 100 from the SER alone.

Passenger traffic has been increasing at an average rate of 8 to 10 per cent annually, and even the recent addition of four new platforms has not eased the pressure substantially.

The station currently handles over 600,000 passengers daily.

“There is certainly a need for an additional station to handle increased passenger traffic and we are now working out the detailed costing,” Union railway minister Mamata Banerjee said in Delhi on Wednesday.

“I am working towards allocating funds for it in the next railway budget,” she added.

The single platform at Shalimar, which was commissioned last year and marks the first phase of construction of the new terminal, was built at a cost of Rs 23 crore.

With no separate platform for suburban and long-distance trains, the mouth of the station is invariably clogged, with local and long-distance trains vying for place.

“With both Eastern and South Eastern Railways adding to their fleet of long-distance as well as suburban trains every year, the creation of another station has become inevitable,” said the additional general manager of SER, Swastik Mishra.

“Howrah station is already handling more traffic than it was designed to, so we hope the response of the Railway Board to our proposal will be very positive,” Mishra added.

With the Vidyasagar Setu and the Kona Expressway providing an alternate road network, Shalimar station has emerged as a viable alternative.

Two surveys, one in 1976 and the other in 1987, have already been carried out on the viability of developing Shalimar as a station for all SER trains. A masterplan on the basis of these surveys was drawn up and submitted to the rail board in January this year.

Some of the highlights of the plan are:

A full-fledged passenger terminal with 8 platforms for long-distance trains, as well as two “double discharge” platforms for suburban trains, to be completed in four phases;

The terminal building to have reservation counters, waiting room facilities and car parks linked to Foreshore Road;

Developing the existing Sankrail goods terminal to handle all goods traffic now being taken care of by Shalimar station;

A coach maintenance centre to be set up at Padmapukur, two km from Shalimar;

Construction of two jetties for use by passengers crossing over to Babughat or Hastings.

“We have also given the Railway Board an optional proposal of developing Padmapukur into a terminal for long-distance trains, while keeping Shalimar for suburban trains as well as maintenance work,” added Mishra.    

Calcutta, March 22 
Century-old shops and business establishments in and around the city will soon get heritage status. After awarding heritage status to 83 buildings, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) is now drafting a proposal for conferring a similar honour on ancient shops and establishments here.

“Some traditional shops deserve heritage status, since eminent people once visited them,” observed S.M.Ghosh, chief municipal architect and town planner. Ghosh said a city-based research body, Heritage Calcutta, approached him with the proposal for traditional shops in the Chowringhee area. “We will place the proposal before the Heritage Committee for its approval,” he added.

Officials said the civic body will soon interact with shop-owners to verify their records. If a shop is awarded heritage status, the owner of the building in which the shop is located can neither sell the property nor alter its architectural design without CMC permission.

Shop-owner members of Heritage Calcutta have agreed to adhere to CMC laws.

“Our objective is to restore the original look of the shops,” said Ashoke Roychowdhury, project director of the research body. He said a survey was made of shops and restaurants housed in the century-old Dharamtala market at 1, Chowringhee Road. British Social Life in Ancient Calcutta, by James Long and J.H. Stocqueler, says Chowringhee market belonged to Babu Hira Lal Sil, one of the wealthiest men in Calcutta. The market was also mentioned in the Gazette of 1841.

The research body said the following shops in Chowringhee market deserve heritage status:

Established in 1872, ‘Chhota Bristol’ is perhaps the only existent Calcutta pub.

Though Rabindranath Tagore never visited it, G.C.Laha, a century-old shop that specialises in drawing and painting materials, used to supply him with art material.

East India Arms and Company is said to be the oldest arms and ammunition shop in the city.    

Calcutta, March 22 
It’s back to the blackboard for city cops. Calcutta Police is conducting a five-day crash course for its officers to “improve their investigation skills” and to tutor them on presenting “properly-framed chargesheets”.

The deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said about 400 officers from various police stations and the detective department are busy attending classes at the Lalbazar police headquarters.

“Classes are needed for improving their knowledge of investigation, as we have seen that, sometimes, investigators fail to collect evidence on the spot due to lack of knowledge,” explained Ghosh.

Senior forensic experts — director of Forensic Science Laboratory N. K. Nag and Dr Apurba Nandi of R G Kar Medical College and Hospital — and senior IPS officers — ACP Sujoy Chakrabory; ACP (II) S. I. S Ahmed; and ACP (III) D. Sarengi — are conducting classes on subjects like collection of evidence, investigation of murder, dacoity, cheating, fraud and kidnapping for ransom cases.

Special emphasis is being laid on the need to improve techniques and skills of handling kidnapping cases as abductions are on the rise in the city. Sub-inspectors attending the course are being taught the basics of forensic science as well.

The cops are also being tutored by the chief public prosecutor of the city sessions court to know how to frame proper chargesheets and to handle cases at the trial stage.

“The chief public prosecutor is explaining how to file a fool-proof chargesheet to ensure conviction,” said Ghosh.

This comes in the wake of several cases having falling through in court due to faulty charge-sheets.    

Agartala, March 22 
National Liberation Front of Tripura militants abducted two persons and assaulted an Autonomous District Council official in separate incidents in Tripura over the past 24 hours.

Sources said a group of rebels stormed the council complex at Khumlung in Sadar (east) subdivision today and opened fire at zonal development officer Sanjib Purkayastha. The latter was seriously injured in the incident.

Security forces deployed at the council complex tried to apprehend the rebels, but to no avail. In another incident, NLFT militants abducted 11-year-old Sankar Malla from a house in Debdaru village under Baikhora police station in South Tripura district.

The militants had come looking for Sankar’s uncle Narayan Sen. One Manik Das of Uttar Padmabil village under Panisagar police station in North Tripura district was also taken hostage by the militants yesterday. Alarmed by the deterioration in the state’s law and order, Union home minister L.K. Advani has decided to visit the state on Monday to take stock of the situation.

Advani’s visit was confirmed in a letter to the Left Front government, which has been demanding deployment of additional security forces in the state in view of elections to the Autonomous District Council. Sources said Advani would hold discussions with chief minister Manik Sarkar and visit at least one insurgency-affected area in the state. He is also likely be the chief guest at a function organised to mark the inauguration of the state’s new capital complex at Lichubagan on the northern fringes of this capital town.

A team of Left Front MPs, led by CPM Lok Sabha member Somnath Chatterjee, had met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee recently to press for deployment of additional security forces in the state.    

Jorhat, March 22 
Villagers yesterday blocked National Highway 37 for five hours after a rogue elephant went on a rampage killing six persons along the Jokai Reserve Forest area under Borbora police station in Dibrugarh.

The elephant, which went berserk, trampled four villagers at Kutuha Naujan on Monday. The next day, it crushed to death another person in Natungaon.

Two others were injured in Naujan village when the tusker attacked them. One of them died later in the Assam Medical College Hospital.    

Guwahati, March 22 
The Army achieved a major breakthrough after it busted the mobile headquarters of the Saraighat Anchalik Parishad of the banned Ulfa in the city outskirts near Changsari this morning. Five hardcore activists were also gunned down. A woman died of a bullet injury after one of the militants fired at her accidentally.

Col. A.K. Singh of the 21 mountain division, who led the operation, said the Army cordoned off the Banmajha village where the militants were holed up. “The militants were caught off guard and they started firing. We fired back and finally killed them,” Col. Singh said.

The encounter lasted more than 30 minutes. Those killed include self-styled finance secretary of the parishad Amulya Patowari alias Tariq Ali. The other four militants have been identified as self-styled action group commander of Hardatta Bir Datta Shakha of the outfit, Mukut Deka, recruiting officer of the parishad Govinda Deka alias Bullet, and two central committee members, Lakhikant Rabha and Mihir Deka.

Sources said the woman, a local resident, died when Rabha’s automatic gun went off while he was trying to flee.

Two AK-56 assault rifles, a 9 mm Browning pistol, a US-made revolver, a .303 pistol and a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from the slain rebels. Singh said the Army also recovered several incriminating documents and some books — A Soldier Recalls by Assam Governor Lt. Gen. (retd.) S.K.Sinha, Assignment Jaffna by Lt. Gen. S.S Sandesh Pandey and Indian Army After Independence by Maj. Gen. K.C. Parwal from them.

Singh said Amulya Patowari was the banned outfit’s main link with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). “He also masterminded the extortions in Kamrup and Darrang districts,” Singh said. The militants were also involved in extortion in the capital, he added.

“Amulya Patowari’s death will deal a blow to the Ulfa’s extortion drive as well as its links with the ISI,” he said.

Kamrup superintendent of police B.K.Mishra said preliminary investigations show the group was planning to launch a major offensive before the Ulfa raising day on April 7.    

Kohima, March 22 
Former Nagaland chief minister and Nagaland People’s Council leader Vamuzo Phesao died of a heart attack at his residence here today, aged 62.

Vamuzo, who was not keeping well for the past four days, complained of chest pain and backache early today, sources said.

Four doctors rushed to his residence, but failed to bring any relief to the former chief minister. He passed away at 9.30 am.

Born in 1938, Vamuzo joined the underground Naga movement in 1956, but returned to the mainstream in the early Sixties. As a member of the seven-man Naga Public Conference Committee, he mediated between the Centre and the underground leadership in 1968 in a bid to solve the Naga problem.

Vamuzo was first elected to the Assembly on a United Democratic Front ticket the following year. After serving as a key member of the Opposition till 1974, the former underground activist was away from the limelight for a brief period. However, he was re-elected to the Assembly in 1977.

Vamuzo won the next three elections as well — in 1982, 1987 and 1993. The Naga leader’s finest moment in politics was becoming chief minister in 1990. During the two years he was at the helm of affairs, Vamuzo launched the Compact Area Development Scheme and the Village Development Board for the welfare of the state’s predominantly rural population.

Regarded as one of the pioneers of the regional political movement, Vamuzo formed the United Forum of Regional Parties of the Northeast. He also served as advisor to the Nagaland People’s Council till his last breath.

All state government offices and educational institutions remained closed today as a mark of respect to Vamuzo. His body will be laid to rest at his ancestral home in Yaroba village in Phek district on Friday.

Announcing a state funeral for Vamuzo, Nagaland chief minister S.C. Jamir said at a Cabinet meeting that the region had lost one of its finest political leaders. Jamir was among the first to go to Vamuzo’s residence.

Governor Om Prakash Sharma also paid tributes to the former chief minister, saying, “History will remember him as one of the architects of modern Nagaland. His departure from the scene at this juncture is too great a loss to describe in words.”

Nagaland People’s Council chief Shurhozelie said Vamuzo’s demise was a blow to his party. “The vacuum created by his death will be difficult to fill,” he said.    


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