Smart school with a view
Surf, bank, take the Metro
Pen-down at La Martiniere
Catch ’em young, watch them croon, says Usha
Doctors & clerks in disability card racket
Inquiry into Iskcon rape charge
Bombs after ballot battle
Rebels take Tripura planter hostage
Dynasty, priest tug-of-war for temple rights
N-E minister denies rebel extortion note

 
 
SMART SCHOOL WITH A VIEW 
 
 
BY SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, July 3 
Move over mediocrity. Here comes Heritage. That’s the message conveyed by Kalyan Bharti Trust, comprising 15 city-based industrialists, which promises to “change the way the city views schools”.

Come 2001, Calcutta will have The Heritage School (“schooling for tomorrow, schooling from tradition”) off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass. A sprawling 9.4-acre plot, 1.5 km from Ruby General Hospital, will house the day-boarding, co-educational institution for students from kindergarten to Class XII.

Driven by the dream of being a “centre of excellence to prepare dynamic and caring citizens”, the school, to be funded and managed by the Trust, will have a “complete array of academic, sports and talent development facilities” — from environmental studies laboratory to infotech centre; from tennis court to swimming pool.

Says Mahendra Swarup, chairman of the trust: “We expect two good things from this project. One, a school like this will enhance the city’s stature in the eyes of potential investors. Two, other big schools, which have fallen behind the times in terms of facilities offered, will pull up their socks, leading to overall improvement in educational standards here.”

S.R. (Shomie) Das, former headmaster of Doon School, and R.S. Lugani, former principal of Delhi Public School, are advisers to the Trust. “The school aims to ensure all-round development through a well-rounded curriculum and create compassionate, responsible and innovative students committed to change and progress in the development of India and the global environment,” states Shomie Das.

The management wants to peg the number of students in a classroom down to 25, “to ensure individual attention”. With five sections in each class, the total strength up to Class X will be 125 each. “We plan to introduce the ‘smart school’ technique, made popular in Australia. Instead of depending solely on the chalk-and-talk method, teachers can use the latest audio-visual aids to explain details,” said H.K. Choudhary, one of the trustees.

“We will ensure that students do not have to take private tuitions. At the end of the day, which will stretch from early morning to late evening, they will complete their ‘homework’ under the supervision of teachers at the school itself,” he adds.

For weak students, time for remedial instruction will be set aside within school hours. In fact, at the junior level, students will be discouraged from taking their satchels home. There will be a career counselling centre for senior students and the entire system will be geared towards preparing students for admission to the best universities in India and abroad.

The sports arena will boast of facilities to host a state-level championship. On the cards are football and cricket fields, tennis, volleyball and basketball courts, a 200m athletics track and a multigym.

A separate building have facilities for yoga, pranayam and meditation, which will be made compulsory. There will be a state-of-the art music and dance centre for Indian and Western pursuits.

The art and crafts centre will train students in carpentry, pottery, weaving, metal casting and computer-aided designing.

“We also want to inculcate a sense of social responsibility in our boys and girls. Therefore, students will be encouraged to take part in gardening, road-cleaning, work with challenged children and in public dispensaries,” says trustee S.S. Kejriwal.

There are plans of an affiliation with the Central Board of Secondary Education. Classes are expected to start from April 2001, once the first building is ready.    


 
 
SURF, BANK, TAKE THE METRO 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, July 3 
Didn’t have time to check your e-mail in office? Don’t worry. Forgot to withdraw cash from your bank? No problem. All you have to do is go underground.

After soft drink counters, water coolers and benches on the platforms, Metro Rail is planning to introduce cybercafes and automatic teller machines (ATMs) before the Pujas.

Jayanta Kumar Mitra, chief operations manager, Metro Railway, said: “We will rent out space in the non-paid areas of the station to cybercafes and will allow them to use our optical fibre cable network, which is already in place.”

Banks like SBI, ICICI and Vysya Bank have approached the Metro authorities with proposals for ATM counters at the stations. “We are studying the proposals and will soon work out the modalities,” added Mitra.

There’s more value-addition in store for Metro commuters. They will soon be able to grab a quick bite at the station food-kiosk and top it off with ice-cream, chocolate or maybe mishti doi.

“We are talking to Mother Dairy, Metro Dairy, Perfetti, Nestlé, Hindustan Lever and Britannia, who are all keen to set up shop underground,” said Mitra.

STD and ISD booths will be opened on the station premises. And the Metro management is also open to the idea of renting out space for short-duration launch promos, etc.

“Passengers waiting for a train can watch various programmes on video after a gap of six years, as television sets are being installed on the platforms again,” added Mitra.

All this is part of Metro Rail’s plans to explore non-traditional methods of revenue-generation. “Saddled with mounting operational losses, we had to look to alternative areas to mop up funds,” admitted Mitra.

In the last financial year, the operational loss touched an all-time high of Rs 51.5 crore, as expenditure mounted to Rs 78.5 crore.

“For this financial year, we have set a target of around Rs 2.5 crore from commercial utilisation of Metro space,” said Mitra.

To boost demand for space, the authorities are rationalising the rent structure, making it more attractive for shop-owners.

The authorities now charge a flat rate of Rs 5,000 as monthly rent for a stall. But, on the request of some companies, Metro bosses are reviewing the existing rates to reach a realistic structure, which will take into account both floor space and passenger flow in a particular station.

Metro Bhavan is confident that the new facilities will not only reduce operational losses, but increase passenger traffic as well.

“The traffic was just 54 million in 1999-2000 and this year, we hope to surpass the record figure of 1997-98, when it touched 69.1 million,” said Mitra.    


 
 
PEN-DOWN AT LA MARTINIERE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3 
Classes at La Martiniere Schools are likely to be disrupted on Tuesday because of a pen-down strike by the staff associations.

This is the first time that teachers of La Martiniere for Boys’ and Girls’ are confronting the management. Trouble has been brewing for quite some time over revised pay-scales that have not been implemented for a year in the two schools run by a trust headed by the Bishop of the Church of North India (CNI) in Calcutta.

“We are left with no option but to go on strike as a mark of protest to press our legitimate demands,” said Dilip Bhattacharya and J. Dasgupta, general secretary and president of the association.    


 
 
CATCH ’EM YOUNG, WATCH THEM CROON, SAYS USHA 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, July 3 
If yesterday was wonderful, today has to be great and tomorrow even better. Buoyed by this belief and keen to weave her magic with kids “who never let you down”, pop diva Usha Uthup is joining hands with the Emami Landmark in a unique talent-search programme for six to 10-year-olds in the city.

Catch ’em young and watch them croon seems to be the motto of the novel, six-part ‘fun to learn’ series, to be held on the store premises.

It will be calling all children from city schools to pen songs, which will then be set to tune by Usha, before the kids can belt out the numbers. A select few, who top the talent scale, will get to sing along with Usha in a grand concert before going on to cut a disc with her.

“We will invite applications from schoolchildren, giving them a topic like, say ‘Rain’, and ask them to write songs on that topic,” explained Landmark CEO Gautam Jatia. Seventy-two kids will be picked to participate in the project, 12 each for the six shows starting July-end.

“At each show, I will probably sing a couple of popular numbers, which the children can sing along with me before they move on to their own songs. The idea is to help kids shed their inhibition and boost their creative instincts,” said Usha.

The shows, to be co-sponsored by Coke, will offer attractive prizes to each participant.

“Although this is in no way a singing contest, we will still pick two kids from each show for a bumper round where the 12 children, with a little coaching from Usha, will all sing their own songs,” explained Jatia.

The best tracks will then be recorded at Usha’s Studio Vibrations.

“The idea is to give them the best and get the best out of them as well. I would also like to have a live show exclusively for the kids where they can sing original numbers and I can sing along,” smiled Usha.

She hopes this effort will spur other artists into similar “projects to share some magic moments with children”.

For Usha, founder-member of The Delta Study, a school in Kochi, children have always provided unalloyed fun.

“I know deep in my heart this is going to work and I thank Landmark for creating this opportunity for the kids,” she added.

The Landmark CEO, while admitting the project will provide good branding for his store, said: “We aim to give the kids a good time and tell the parents that ours is not just a fun shop.”

Usha herself would like to take the show’s objective a step further. “This project will provide the children a healthy alternative to television, and by driving them into the bookstore, will also have a cascading effect as far as inculcating reading habit is concerned,” she hoped.    


 
 
DOCTORS & CLERKS IN DISABILITY CARD RACKET 
 
 
BY MADHUSHREE C. BHOWMIK
 
Calcutta, July 3 
The state social welfare department is grappling with the menace posed by the spate of fake disability cards in the city. The cards, priced at Rs 200 to Rs 400, depending upon the nature of disability, are being issued by a nexus of touts, private physicians and lower division government employees to “gullible” applicants.

Over the past three months, the office of the commissioner of disabilities seized more than 50 such cards from the city and its fringe areas. It has alerted all government hospitals and police stations within the jurisdiction of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation against fake card-holders and “recommended stringent action” under the Persons with Disability Act, 1995. Most of the fake cards were identified at the time of renewal. A cardholder, Budhan Shaw of 4, Ramesh Dutta Street, Calcutta-700 006, who wanted to renew his card on June 6, confessed to paying Rs 400 to a tout, who issued him a card at “Mother Tereja’s House on Park Street”.

“The card bore the signature of the ‘director, social and welfare,’ which is not the sanctioned post. It should have been ‘director, social welfare’. The forgers apparently had no idea of the issuing authority’s designation,’’ said assistant commissioner, disabilities, K.S. Adhikaree. Moreover, the card was full of spelling errors, which further confirmed the department’s suspicion.

Inquiries revealed that there was no ‘Mother Tereja’s House on Park Street’ from where the card could have been issued.

Matters, however, came to a head when another fake card-holder, Rajesh Kumar Lal, a resident of 33/57, Jyotish Roy Road, came to the department to verify his card. Lal, whose card was bought by Shaw from ‘Mother Tereja’s House’ for Rs 200, was alerted by Manoj Gupta, a genuine card-holder. Sensing foul play, the youth landed up at the commissioner’s office with Shaw in tow.

Adhikaree interrogated Shaw, who broke down and admitted to a “well-organised nexus.” In a written statement, Shaw alleged that Bishnu Deb, a lower division employee of Gosaba police station and a resident of Barrackpore Police Lines, was the middleman. The department has impounded Lal’s card.

According to Adhikaree, punishment for fraudulent cardholders can range from a prison term of two years to a fine of Rs 20,000.

Similarly, the deputy commissioner of police, detective department, in a letter to the commissioner on May 5, said: “....Inquiries made by this department revealed that identity cards issued to Shahnaz Begum and Bijoy Kr. Saraogi are fake. The RG Kar and SSKM Medical Colleges have been informed of such incidents by our department.’’

According to Adhikaree, a bulk of the fake card-holders have produced “medical certificates from RG Kar Medical College.” The four state-run hospitals, RG Kar, Calcutta Medical College, NRS Medical College and the National Medical College, are empowered to issue disability certificates to applicants. “The medical board meets twice a month at any of these hospitals to examine the disabled and the touts usually hang around the hospitals during the meetings,’’ said a department official.

To identify fake cards, the department is liaising with the detective department and is planning to “attach a government doctor to the social welfare department on a full-time basis for certifying applicants.’’ This will deter forgers from issuing fake medical certificates, an official said.    


 
 
INQUIRY INTO ISKCON RAPE CHARGE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3 
Police commissioner D.C Vajpai has ordered a detective department investigation into a charge by a section of Iskcon employees that a 38-year-old woman had been raped by an inmate of the Calcutta establishment on June 29.

The head of Iskcon’s mission in Calcutta has denied the charge. Adridharan Das, who was named in the FIR, said: “We have a medical report which proves the rape charge is false.”

In a meeting with deputy commissioner, DD, Narayan Ghosh, the employees alleged that a group of inmates and the local police were hushing up the incident.

Six other inmates and the victim met Ghosh and urged him to bring the guilty to book. They alleged that the inmate had tortured the woman — a widow — for more than two hours in his residential quarter on Gurusaday Dutt Road.

“We will conduct an inquiry on the basis of the complaint lodged by the widow and question the Iskcon officials,” said Ghosh.

The victim’s husband was an employee of Iskcon. She had come from her village in Orissa’s Jajpur district to collect her dues.

In a complaint at Shakespeare Sarani police station, she said she visited the Albert Road office of Iskcon, where the authorities promised her Rs 2 lakh as compensation.

She first met Das, who asked her to collect the money from Gurusaday Dutt Road. “As soon as I entered, (the man) shut the door. Then he raped me and detained me in the room for two hours. I managed to flee and lodged a complaint,” she said.    


 
 
BOMBS AFTER BALLOT BATTLE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 3 
Many areas of Salt Lake and Calcutta witnessed post-poll violence as skirmishes broke out between supporters of the CPM and the Trinamul Congress during the past 24 hours.

The warring groups used powerful bombs, firearms and other weapons. Outside Calcutta, Congress and Trinamul supporters clashed.

Trinamul leaders in Salt Lake alleged that some armed CPM cadre raided the house of their leader Arun Chowdhury in Sukanta Nagar on Sunday night. The cadre reportedly assaulted Chowdhury and some members of his family and ransacked his house. Amitava Nandy of the CPM denied the charge. He, in turn, alleged that Trinamul activists tried to terrorise voters in Salt Lake on Sunday.

On Monday, supporters of Trinamul and the CPM clashed in differents areas under wards 9 and 15 in Salt Lake.

Trinamul leaders in Salt Lake said they would gherao the office of the sub-divisional police officers in Barrackpore and Salt Lake on Friday as the “police have failed to check the increasing number of attacks on Trinamul supporters.”

Trinamul leader and lawyer Arunava Ghosh urged the state government to take action against those who had resorted to violence during Sunday’s bypoll in Salt Lake. He alleged that CPM cadre attacked many Trinamul candidates during polling.

The sub-divisional police officer (Salt Lake), Sugata Sen, claimed that the antisocials behind the poll violence were “outsiders”, who came into Salt Lake to terrorise the people. Sen said police had received specific complaints against those involved. “We will take action against those named in the FIR,” he added.

The police are conducting raids in Salt Lake and the adjoining Rajarhat area to arrest the trouble-makers. Salt Lake police have requested police stations in Rajarhat, Lake Town and Tiljala to keep an eye on criminals in their respective areas.

Clash at Ashoknagar: Congress and Trinamul supporters clashed at Ashoknagar, in North 24-Parganas, on Monday. The Left Front has reportedly formed the board in Ashoknagar, though it had secured 11 seats, the same as Congress and Trinamul together.

Turf war: In another spurt of violence, two groups of antisocials clashed near Charu Market, in south Calcutta. The battle over turf, in which bombs and firearms were used freely, began on Sunday night and continued till Monday afternoon. One person was arrested.    


 
 
REBELS TAKE TRIPURA PLANTER HOSTAGE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, July 3 
NLFT rebels abducted the manager of North Tripura’s Golokpur tea estate, Bipin Bihari Tandon, from his bungalow inside the garden last night.

Tandon’s abduction was a blow to the ailing estate, whose assistant manager C. K. Thakur and supervisor Bipad Bhanjan Das were abducted by NLFT in May. They are still in captivity. The militants broke into Tandon’s residence by scaling the barbed wire fence at 11.30 pm.

His wife Sanira, who resisted the militants, was shoved aside aside by the rebels. Police sources said the militants took Tandon to their hide-out in Bangladesh.

The manager was beaten up by militants, who even ignored his wife’s plea to “take her husband’s medicine as he was a heart patient.” Senior police officials rushed to the spot with reinforcements and launched combing operations.

Sources said Tandon was abducted because the garden management refused to pay ransom for the assistant manager’s release. The NLFT had initially demanded a ransom of Rs 30 lakh for the assistant manager’s release but later scaled it down to Rs 6 lakh. But the garden management refused to comply.

The NLFT abducted Tandon after the deadline set by the outfit expired yesterday.

Altogether 13 tea executives have been abducted by militants so far. Earlier, Yogabrata Chakraborty died in Tiger Force custody in July 1996. Besides, 10 other officials including planter Mrinal Kanti Chowdhury and his son Anjan Chowdhury were also gunned down by rebels.

Tea Association of India secretary P.K. Sarkar said militancy has hit the ailing tea industry. He said over the past year Tripura tea was unable to fetch “proper” prices at auction centres and unsold stock had piled up. Besides drought conditions and erratic rainfall were also affecting output. “Far from granting relief to the sick industry, the state government is unable to provide us even the basic security,’’ Sarkar lamented.

In separate incidents, militants released four hostages, including a 10-year-old girl from captivity yesterday.

The girl, Rakhi Patwari, who was abducted by NLFT from Kalsi village under Baikhora police station in South Tripura on May 14 returned home last night, police said. Two passengers, abducted by NLFT from a bus at Hejacherra on Manu-Chhawmanu road in Dhalai district on June 15 were also released. The outfit yesterday released another person abducted from Sanicherra in North Tripura district on May 23.

A tribal woman was injured when a CRPF jawan fired at her at Fisheryghat in South Tripura district yesterday, police said. The jawan fired in an inebriated condition following an altercation with the woman, police said.    


 
 
DYNASTY, PRIEST TUG-OF-WAR FOR TEMPLE RIGHTS 
 
 
FROM RUDRA BISWAS
 
Ranchi, July 3 
Thousands of devotees from South Bihar thronged the nearly 350-year-old Jagannathpur temple here today to witness the Rathyatra.

However, the descendants of former Maharaja of Barkagarh Estate, Ranchi, and hero of the 1857 war of Independence Thakur Bishwanath Shahdeo and the Jagannathpur Temple Nyas Samity are fighting for control of temple rights. In a letter to the Bihar Religious Nyas Samity, Patna, the descendants of the Maharaja claimed that the temple, founded by Maharaja Anne Nath Shahdeo in 1650, was a part of the Barkagarh Estate which was seized by the British from Bishwanath Shahdeo for rebelling against the Empire in 1857. They alleged that though they were the rightful sevayats by birth, they had been kept outside the Jagannathpur Nyas Samity.

On the other hand, the present samity members claimed that the temple was formed as a public trust in 1650 and as such could not be treated as a personal property of the Shahdeo family.

A spokesman for the Thakur Bishwanath Shahdeo Trust, Lal Prabir Nath Shahdeo, said of the 92 villages of the Maharaja’s estate seized by the British, the Jagannathpur village housing the Jagannath temple was later released and given to the Maharaja’s descendants though the remaining 91 villages continued to be in the possession of the state.

Prabir Shahdeo said in 1933, the then deputy commissioner of Ranchi, in his order number N/141/R27A/1932-33, had upheld the rights of the Shahdeo family, conferring the rights of sevayats on the then head of the Shahdeo family Thakur Devendranath Shahdeo.

Till the death of Thakur Devendranath Shahdeo in 1975, the rights of the temple continued to be held by the Shahdeo family. But after his death, certain people, including the temple priest, conspired to oust the Shahdeo family from the temple and even usurped the role of sevayats of the temple, he alleged.

Prabir Shahdeo said the Jagannathpur Temple Nyas Samity at present did not contain any of the legal descendants of the founder of the temple. He alleged that since the formation of the Nyas Samity, plunder of precious temple artefacts have been rampant with a number of antique idols and stone structures either removed or destroyed.

Prabir Shahdeo said a conspiracy had been hatched to pull down the entire temple and to construct a new one in its place to destroy all historical evidence. He said they had set up a parallel committee to protect the temple and prevent any further destruction. However, representatives of the Jagannathpur Temple Trust, in a souvenir, claimed that Maharaja Anna Nath Shahdeo had set up the temple as a public trust in 1650.    


 
 
N-E MINISTER DENIES REBEL EXTORTION NOTE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Shillong, July 3 
Meghalaya planning minister Lotsing A. Sangma today said he has not received any extortion notice from underground outfits in the recent past.

Denying media reports that the banned People’s Liberation Front had demanded money from some MLAs and ministers, including the social welfare minister Admiral K. Sangma, the planning minister said, “No, it is not true. There was no such demand.”

Highly-placed sources, however, said the planning minister has indeed received an extortion note of Rs 30,000 from the PLF. A case in this connection has been registered at Sadar police station.

Reacting to the report on militants serving extortion notices to ministers in The Telegraph today, leader of the Opposition D.D. Lapang said it was a “very bad signal” for the government. “This shows that even the ministers’ lives are in danger,” he said.

He said the Meghalaya government should “stop making tall claims” about an improved law and order situation and try to gear up the machinery to “protect” lives and property of the people.“What security can the common men expect from the government when the even ministers’ lives are insecure?” asked the former chief minister.

The two arrested militants, Alden Marak and Balkhos Marak, revealed before the police that the outfit’s self-styled commander-in-chief Vincent A. Sangma was “hiding” in Shillong. The duo was wanted in several criminal cases in East Khasi Hills district, the sources said.

“Balkhos’s elder brother, Markhos, is also a dreaded A’chik National Volunteer Council (ANVC) militant,” an intelligence official said. The militants used a telephone in the MLA hostel to threaten one of the ministers, he added. The security forces have launched a hunt in the city to nab the PLF leader.    

 

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