Net sales versus gate sales
Schools hike cut-off grade for HS entry
Pay cut for pen-down
Yesterday scoffs at today’s indifference
Series of snags cripple local trains, Metro
Black flags for PM over shutdown
Ranchi V-C clamps ban on ‘loitering’ in colleges
Murder accused serve notices on Bihar govt
Assam firm on greater autonomy
Mithi stresses rural welfare

 
 
NET SALES VERSUS GATE SALES 
 
 
BY AVIJIT NANDI MAJUMDAR
 
Calcutta, July 6 
There is no refuge for Abhishek Bachchan at Priya, the south Calcutta cinema, just seven days after Refugee launched him. The film was yanked off on Thursday because its sellers prefer the bustle of a sabzi mandi to the sophistication of e-commerce.

The film’s distributor in Calcutta, Pritam Jalan, has objected to ticket sales over the Net because it replaces the crazed mobbing of ticket counters with the sanitised sophistication of a mouse-click.

Priya’s owner, Arijit Dutta, replaced the film with the Sharon Stone sizzler, Basic Instinct, disappointing teenage fans of the Little B, who protested in front of the cinema.

On Thursday afternoon, Sanjana Churiwal, Mitali Khawar, Monica Gupta, Subhas Sarkar and their friends were dejected after finding that Refugee was not showing.

A notice in the foyer tersely announced that Refugee is being replaced with the Michael Douglas-Sharon Stone starrer from Friday.

“Abhishek is so cute. He and Kareena are a very good pair. It’s a fantastic movie. Why is Priya taking it off?’’ wondered Shefali Majumdar.

Refugee has been running to packed houses in most of the 32 halls where it is showing in the city and suburbs.

“I cannot run at his (Jalan’s) whim and fancy. I have withdrawn the film, although it broke all records in the first week,” said Dutta.

Jalan argues that Dutta has been charging a premium on tickets that he sells over the Net through two websites.

But, more important, he says, if a film is a hit, it shows in the chaos and the crowds that assemble at the theatre.

Jalan objected on the technical ground that Priya did not state in the agreement to screen the film that it will sell tickets over the Internet. Besides, he said, they were charging Rs 15 over the price of the ticket for its delivery.

“Why should they overcharge? This is blackmarketing. In our trade, tickets are sold only at counters,” said Jalan, defying the growing trend to do business on the Net.

The distributor cited the West Bengal Cinema Regulations Act to justify his stand.

Putting the blame squarely on Dutta of Priya for the impasse, Jalan said: “He is not co-operating. Dutta’s attitude is bad. What would have gone wrong if he stopped selling tickets on the Net. Other cinema halls like Metro have adhered to our request,’’ he said.

In a letter to Dutta, Jalan wrote: “You are requested to immediately disclose your arrangement on the Internet, since the same was not disclosed at the time of negotiation of the contract... (if we find it unacceptable we will) terminate the agreement of screening without further reference to you.’’

Dutta argues that the websites have actually helped Priya reach out to audiences faster at the cost of blackmarketeers.

“We offer online movie tickets and a movie-goer pays Rs 15 extra per ticket for having the ticket delivered at his doorstep.

“Jalan objected to it and directed me to stop it immediately or else he would terminate the agreement. I cannot run at his whim and fancy, so I thought it wise to withdraw the film,” Dutta said.

The controversy is a microcosm of the larger conflict between old mechanisms and new technologies. But such high-falutin’ ideas are far from the minds of the Abhishek fan brigade.    


 
 
SCHOOLS HIKE CUT-OFF GRADE FOR HS ENTRY 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 6 
Barely a week after the Madhyamik results were announced, thousands of successful students in the city are now looking around in desperation for a seat in Class XI in an institution of their choice.

Since most schools are distributing admission forms, anxious parents and students are queueing up from the morning in front of schools offering Higher Secondary courses.

Pressure on well-known schools is higher this year because more Madhyamik examinees have passed with first division marks this time than previous years.

Now that colleges are debarred from teaching Higher Secondary (HS) courses, there is a greater demand for seats in the good and middling schools of Calcutta.

West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education officers said the government has taken measures to ensure that not a single successful Madhyamik student is deprived of an opportunity to study HS courses.

“We have upgraded 250 schools throughout the state this year and introduced the HS courses. So there should not be any shortage of seats,” said Sudin Chattopadhay, president, HS Council.

He attributed the crisis to the craze among parents and students to seek admission in a handful of elite institutions in Calcutta and nowhere else.

Prithwis Basu of the West Bengal Headmasters’ Association, however, said many new HS institutions were not up to the mark. This drove candidates to seek admission in well-known and middle-ranking schools in the city.

So the management of these schools set a higher cut-off percentage for admission to Class XI, particularly for those who wanted to study science.

For instance, for admission to the science stream in South Point School, Madhyamik-qualified students are required to secure a minimum of 700 out of 800 marks, which is nearly 86 per cent in aggregate. In the arts and commerce streams of the same school, the admission criteria are 520 and 620 marks, respectively.

Sources at the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education said of the 82,000 candidates, who passed in first division this year, 30,000 are believed to be from city schools.    


 
 
PAY CUT FOR PEN-DOWN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 6 
The authorities of La Martiniere have threatened to take “disciplinary action” against the schools’ staff association members for going on a pen-down strike on July 4. In a notice issued on Thursday, the authorities have called the strike “illegal” and said the staff would not be paid the day’s salary for participating in the strike.    

 
 
YESTERDAY SCOFFS AT TODAY’S INDIFFERENCE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, July 6 
It was the meeting of two old men — one excited about leading the country into the 21st Century, the other disgusted with where the country is headed.

The younger of the two, 77-year-old Atal Behari Vajpayee, was presented with a silver model of the Andaman Cellular Jail by 93-year-old Jyotish Mazumder, at Raj Bhavan on Thursday.

Adakar, a social-service organisation, had chosen Mazumder for the occasion because the patriot, standing firm in spotless white dhoti-kurta, had spent 13 years of his life behind bars, three of those in Cellular Jail.

Today, five decades after Independence, the freedom fighter is an angry old man, disillusioned with the polity, disdainful of generatioNext.

Escorted by Vinay Goenka and Naval Joshi, patrons of Adakar, Mazumder had to wait for over 40 minutes, and then negotiate high-security hurdles, for his 10-minute tryst with the Prime Minister.

“Today’s generation knows nothing about the freedom struggle and the sacrifice made by the freedom fighters. This was just another step in my ongoing struggle to rouse national spirit by focusing attention on the freedom movement,” said Mazumder, who is also general secretary of the Ex-Andaman Political Prisoners’ Fraternity Circle.

“I requested him (Vajpayee) to grant special status to Andaman Cellular Jail, which will remind our countrymen of the imperial oppression and the cruelty. I also urged him to kick off a nationwide programme to revive the nationalistic spirit, using this institution as a symbol,” he added.

Jyotish Mazumder had left his Chandpur home (now in Bangladesh) to plunge into the freedom movement at the age of 18 with Anushilan Samiti. He was imprisoned for the first time in 1930. Then, he spent 1932 to 1945 being shunted from one jail to another.

Now, his eyesight is failing but his memory is sharp and the love for his motherland as intense as ever. Age has not dimmed the spirit of revolution, either.

“If there is one leader I believe in, it was Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose after he left the Congress. The fact that he has not been given due recognition is a reflection of the rot that has set in,” thunders Mazumder, firm fingers gripping his walking stick.

Though upset with the present state of affairs, Mazumder refuses to lose touch with the times. “I can’t read newspapers due to my poor eyesight, but I switch on the television regularly to keep track of the news, sitting in a rented house in my free country,” says the old man, with a twinkle in his bespectacled eyes.

Topping the old man’s hate list are politicians “for their failure to formulate pro-poor policies and just look at selfish gains”, and today’s citizens, “who don’t feel for their motherland and know nothing about the country’s freedom struggle, especially because the history they read is nothing but a collection of distorted tales”.

Take a trip down memory lane with the nonagenarian and his contempt for today’s India comes shining through: “This is not the free India for which we gave our blood, sacrificed everything... We need a revolutionary change in this country,”    


 
 
SERIES OF SNAGS CRIPPLE LOCAL TRAINS, METRO 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 6 
On the day of the Prime Minister’s whirlwind tour of the city, train services— Metro, suburban and long-distance — were disrupted.

A series of disruptions occurred on the Metro due to “technical snags” at various stations throughout Thursday. This compounded matters for commuters already struggling to avoid roads sealed off for Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit.

“With traffic grinding to a halt on the streets, we had no option but to go underground. But with the Metro not running on schedule, we had nothing to do but fret and fume,” declared an office-goer.

Both Sealdah and Howrah divisions were badly hit on Thursday morning. According to Eastern Railway sources, services were affected due to a signalling snag at Rishra station, on the Howrah-Burdwan main line.

As a result, long-distance and suburban trains on the main line of Howrah division were held up at various stations.

From early on Thursday, suburban train services ground to a halt for over three hours in this section. After that, services resumed gradually, with suburban trains taking over two hours to traverse the 45-minute stretch from Bandel to Howrah.

Long-distance trains, too, crawled from one small station to another. Services on the section were restored after 2 pm, according to an Eastern Railway spokesperson.

In Sealdah division’s South section, train services were affected due to ongoing repair of overheard wires.

According to Eastern Railway sources, work, which began on Wednesday night, was expected to be completed before the trains started plying in the morning. But the repairs carried on till Thursday afternoon, affecting suburban services south of Santoshpur.

Dacoity at station: Seven armed dacoits raided the booking-office of Jagaddal station, in North 24-Parganas, and fled with Rs 23 lakh. Railway police said the incident took place late on Wednesday night. The gang broke open the door of the office and beat up the booking clerk.

They then forced the employee to open the the cashbox and fled with the booty. No arrest had been carried out in this connection till Thursday night.    


 
 
BLACK FLAGS FOR PM OVER SHUTDOWN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, July 6 
Citu and other Leftist trade unions held a black-flag demonstration on Rani Rashmoni Road during the Prime Minister’s visit to the city on Thursday. The unions were protesting the Centre’s decision to close down six public sector undertakings (PSUs), four of them in West Bengal.

Citu leader Kali Ghosh and Aituc leader Gurudas Dasgupta criticised the Prime Minister for his refusal to meet a union delegation during his short stay in the city. Prime Minister Vajpayee received a memorandum from CPM parliamentarian Dipankar Mukherjee and four employees of the closed PSUs in the state.

“He gave us just five minutes while receiving the memorandum, but refused to meet any union delegation,” Mukherjee said.

The Aituc leader said: “He (the Prime Minister) visited Mamata Banerjee’s residence, but couldn’t make time for the workers of closed factories, who haven’t received their salary cheques for the past few months.”

He added: “Vajpayee is paying a visit to Banerjee’s house to congratulate her for her party’s successful rigging of the polls to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and in Panskura.”

Ghosh alleged that the Centre had not sought the consent of the state government before closing down the public sector undertakings.    


 
 
RANCHI V-C CLAMPS BAN ON ‘LOITERING’ IN COLLEGES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, July 6 
Phul Singh, South Chottanagpur commissioner, currently the acting pro tem vice-chancellor of Ranchi University, has ordered a ban on “loitering” by teachers, students, non-teaching staff and even principals of colleges spread over the south Bihar districts and affiliated to Ranchi University.

Previous vice-chancellor L.C.C.N. Shahdeo was suspended on charges of corruption.

Students, teachers as well as all non-teaching staff entering Ranchi University campus have been strictly instructed to carry authorisation letters from their respective principals. Heads of colleges visiting the university offices have been instructed to enter all particulars of their visit in a separate register.

Addressing 38 college principals at the Ranchi University Syndicate Hall here today, Phul Singh, in his maiden address, said university holidays, which currently stands at around 171 days a year, would be trimmed by at least 10 days.

Singh ordered all teachers to spend at least four hours every day on campus, irrespective of whether they have classes or not. He stipulated that teachers spending their time at home or elsewhere on days when they had no classes to take, as was the case earlier, “would not be tolerated”.

On the demand for funds raised by the principals, Singh said steps would be taken to release the required developmental funds to spruce up all laboratories under their control to speed up research and development activities in every college and also to enable them to undertake necessary repairs of the crumbling buildings.

However, Singh emphasised that all colleges would have to submit utilisation certificates for all funds received by them from all sources. He added that all examinations conducted by the university would be scheduled after 1 pm for the benefit of students.

Singh said annual confidential reports of all principals would be documented either by the vice-chancellor himself or by the pro tem vice-chancellor.

Bodies found: Police recovered two bodies, one that of an escapee and accused in a political leader’s murder case, from the Lodhma forest area under Karra police station in Ranchi yesterday, adds UNI. The body of Lalji Das, who escaped from police custody, was an accused in the murder of Congress leader Vijay Singh Soy.    


 
 
MURDER ACCUSED SERVE NOTICES ON BIHAR GOVT 
 
 
FROM SALMAN RAVI
 
Dhanbad, July 6 
Those accused in the murder of Marxist Co-ordination Committee legislator Gurudas Chatterjee have served legal notices on the Bihar government and the district administration. They have also filed complaints against the district police even as investigating officers are preparing to file chargesheets this week.

Coal trader Narmadeshwar Singh, who has been named as one of the conspirators in the case, has issued notices to special secretary (home) and the district administration challenging his transfer to Bhagalpur central jail from Dhanbad. Singh, who was lodged at the divisional jail here before Chatterjee’s murder, was shifted to Bhagalpur by authorities.

The district administration feared that “his presence in Dhanbad could trigger a possible mafia gang war”.

The authorities felt that Singh could also create “law and order problem” in the district as well. So it urged the home department to shift Singh as soon as possible to Bhagalpur jail.

But Singh’s counsel, Vijay Bahadur Rai, has challenged the state government and the district administration’s move. He has also objected to Singh being branded a “hardcore criminal” by authorities.

“It is illegal to brand someone a hardcore criminal without authentic proof to justify it”, Rai said, adding that his client was a trader and not a hardened criminal. “The authorities wanted to harass him by shifting him to Bhagalpur ,’’ he said.

Five complaint petitions have also been filed on behalf of the accused with the lower Dhanbad court against the police while the wife of another accused has moved the National Human Right’s Commission (NHRC).

Of the five cases, three have been forwarded to the deputy inspector-general of police (coal range) by the chief judicial magistrate for probe into the charges levelled against the police while the fourth case has been handed over to first class judicial magistrate Vivekananda Banerjee for inquiry.

Those petitioners — Narmadeshwar Singh, Uma Shankar, Premjeet, Rajesh Kumar and Manoj Singh — alleged that the Dhanbad police had demanded bribes from them. Besides they also alleged torture in lock-up.

Gayatri Devi, wife of an accused, moved the National Human Rights Commission alleging that her husband was not only tortured in police custody but also forced to drink urine. The NHRC is yet to act on her petition.

Singh’s counsel said his client was an “established businessman” and had been awarded a certificate by the state finance corporation (BSFC) for “repaying loans he had taken for various projects on time.” Narmadeshwar Singh has also served legal notice on a section of the local Press.    


 
 
ASSAM FIRM ON GREATER AUTONOMY 
 
 
BY ZIA HAQ
 
Calcutta, July 6 
The Centre’s rejection of the Jammu and Kashmir autonomy resolution has come as a damper to the AGP-led government which has always been harping on more autonomy to the state, state minister for co-operation and AGP spokesman Nurul Hussain told The Telegraph here today.

“We will take up the issue with like-minded chief ministers like Chandrababu Naidu,” he said, adding that the AGP will always stand for greater autonomy within the constitutional framework.

He said if autonomy to districts under autonomous councils like the Bodo and Karbi Anglong councils was permissible, there was no harm in devoluting more power to the state within the federal set-up, he added.

Hussain, who attended the just concluded national conference on co-operation in New Delhi , said the Northeast co-operation ministers have moved a resolution seeking lower interest rates for funding of rural co-operatives by banks like NABARD citing underdevelopment due to insurgency.

He said that the Tripti Vanaspati plant of the state co-operative, Statfed, which is now in the red, has been revived and would be functional within two weeks. The once profit-making vanaspati plant was in dire straits following rampant corruption and losses.

The 300 employees of the enterprise have since been drawing salaries without any work. Nurul Hussain said the government is planning to grant the plant autonomy from the Statfed.

Regarding any electoral alliance with the BJP, the minister said that there have been “no feelers” from the state BJP unit in this regard but said his party would “look into the matter if the need arises.”

He hinted that the AGP has not closed doors to the BJP. The AGP’s stand on the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act that it should be repealed is not new and the party went to the hustings with the issue on its agenda.

“The Left didn’t object then. It has not officially objected even now. Personal opinions of party leaders regarding public issues don’t count,” he said adding that the present coalition is “well-knitted”. Asked why the government has not moved a resolution regarding the scrapping of the IM(DT) Act if it was really serious to see it go, the minister said that a broad-based political and apolitical consensus was needed for the purpose.    


 
 
MITHI STRESSES RURAL WELFARE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Itanagar, July 6 
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Mukut Mithi has said speedy economic development of rural areas and assured employment to rural youth would provide a lasting solution to the insurgency problem in the northeastern states.

Inaugurating the second conference of rural development ministers of the northeastern states here today, Mithi stressed the need to ensure proper and effective utilisation of funds meant for rural development in the region.

The chief minister also emphasised that the credit:deposit ratio of the northeastern states has to be improved by emulating the system propagated and implemented through Gramin Bank by Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh,.

He also urged the North East Regional Committee of Rural Development members to seek restoration of the earlier criteria for allocation of funds under rural development programmes.

Mizoram rural development minister R. Lalthangliana, who is also chairman of the committee, said insurgency has affected development in the Northeast for the past two decades.    

 

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