Net grounds Silicon trips
Monitor panel to budget water
Fish vanish on wet weekend
Fish vanish on wet weekend
Dead monk’s ccell warder suspended for absence
Freeze on new gun licences
Cardiac centre ‘adopts’ locals
Tension over level crossing
20 injured in Dhanbad clash
Orissa port rides rough weather

 
 
NET GROUNDS SILICON TRIPS 
 
 
BY MADHUSHREE C. BHOWMIK
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
Body shopping is out, offshore is in. That’s the latest buzz in the city’s software sector.

Winds of change ruffling the IT world bring disquieting tidings for eager-beavers headed for the Silicon Valley. Bulk of the software development firms in the city’s “cyber hotspot,’’ the Salt Lake Electronics Complex (Saltlec), are switching over to the more profitable “offshore model”. Though “on-site” consultancy is still very much in, uplinking is fast becoming the order of the day.

Four city-based software professionals, hired by a local body shopper on behalf of a US-based firm, were recently left high and dry after their dream dollar deal fell through.

“There was not even enough money for the flight back,’’ complains 24-year-old Purushottam Mukherjee, who dialled helpline home from Wisconsin to arrange for his passage back.

Mukherjee still has his job with the city-based firm, with his employer waking up to the advantages of “data communication links’’ and working from “home base”.

Software consultants are now increasingly adopting the “mix-and-match’’ model with the emphasis on offshore projects. City-based units like PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizent Technologies Solutions, TCG, CATCG and the Sema Group are spearheading the offshore revolution.

“Body shopping certainly generates quick cash for the hiring agency brokering on behalf of headhunters. But it must not be encouraged, as the companies have no liability towards the hired hands and they just pocket the profits,’’ says Chiranjeeb Rudra, director-in-charge of the Software Technology Park (STP), which has nearly 200 software export units registered under it.

Rudra attributes the offshore surge to better connectivity: “Even a decade ago, satellite technology was poor and it was difficult to liaise with global clients, but the Internet has changed that. Now, units can interface with clients from local workstations, instead of sending expensive on-site teams, which is also time-consuming.”

Today, deals are clinched over the Net and the software developed indigenously. They are exported over the satellite and a small onshore agency, sometimes a third party, oversees the implementation. Says Debojyoti Das of Insync, an STP unit engaged in offshore projects alone: “Companies these days do not want to burden themselves with visa formalities and block capital. And sending a professional for a long spell incurs a capital expenditure of US$ 16,000 to $18,000 and the returns are not commensurate. If a project takes time, the profit margin on the initial working capital dwindles and, sometimes, it can kill smaller firms.” The offshore model, feels Das, is a “collective effort”, unlike body shopping, which is an “individual feat”.

The change, which began in mid-Nineties, is being viewed with scepticism by a section of professionals whose “H1 stints’’ in the US are being replaced by “project-specific” whistlestop visits. “Earlier, we could stay on site for three to six years, depending on our H1 visas. But now, we barely get to stay a few months and lose out on vital exposure in the process,’’ rues Amitava Pal, a data analyst.

Industry leaders, however, welcome the trend. Says Siddharth Mukherjee, chief executive officer (CEO) of Cognizent Technologies Solutions: “From a business perspective, the offshore model is profitable and from an individual point of view, professionals posted abroad do not always get the opportunity to deal with cutting-edge technology... Now, the place of work is inconsequential, thanks to the Internet blitz.”    


 
 
MONITOR PANEL TO BUDGET WATER 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
Waking up to the threat of an acute water scarcity in Calcutta, the government is planning a new agency to map the various water zones and budget the use of water in the city and elsewhere in Bengal over the next five years.

The proposed agency will have powers to determine extraction of groundwater, sinking of deep tubewells, shallow pumps and handpumps and filling up of waterbodies.

As envisaged by the recently-passed West Bengal Water Resources Conservation, Protection and Development (Management, Control and Regulation) Bill, 2000, a committee, led by the mayor, will be entrusted with the task in Calcutta.

“The idea is to check indiscriminate extraction of ground water, misuse of surface water and filling up of waterbodies,” the officials said.

The government move comes in the wake of a report submitted by the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the CMDA, stating that the ground water table in the city and the districts is gradually receding. Some areas have become virtually dry, following excessive extraction of groundwater, the report said.

Heeding the report, the government issued an order prohibiting installation of deep tubewells in the city. The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had also initiated a move to dismantle a number of deep tubewells illegally installed in several highrises, but failed in its effort, in the absence of a law in this regard.

“The new law will stop random installation of deep tubewells and save the city from an acute scarcity of groundwater,” said urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya.

According to the Bill, Calcutta and other areas in the state will be earmarked with a number of zones where an intensive survey will be conducted by a team of experts to determine the quantity and quality of ground water.

After the survey, an area-wise detailed map of the water table will be prepared, showing the level at various points underground, as well as the soil quality.

On the basis of the report, a five-year water budget will be prepared, which will clearly mentioned how many deep tubewells will be permitted in which areas.

To supervise and monitor the entire exercise, a separate directorate under the state water resources development ministry will be formed.    


 
 
FISH VANISH ON WET WEEKEND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
It was Sunday morning blues for Calcuttans waking up to cloudy skies and, far worse, the prospect of a holiday without fish on the lunch table. The transporters’ strike in Andhra Pradesh hit fish markets in the city and its suburbs hard on Sunday, with stocks running dry and prices sky-rocketing.

“The fish markets suffered a loss of more than Rs 10 crore on Sunday as there was no fresh supply from Andhra since Friday,” said Osman, of Naaz fish company, at the Howrah wholesale market.

To add to the Sunday morning fish-buyer’s woes, the supply of sea fish from Orissa was also cut off because of heavy rain there.

But things are expected to get back to normal within the next few days, as the Andhra transporters have withdrawn their strike. According to fish merchants of Howrah and Sealdah, regular supplies to city markets should resume from Tuesday.

Fish markets in the city and its suburbs consume more than a million kg of fish every day. About 90 per cent of this comprises supplies from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

There are three major wholesale fish markets for the city: Howrah, Sealdah and Patipukur. The Howrah market is the largest, with 100 truckloads of fish being dumped there every day from the two coastal states.

The last three days saw hardly a dozen trucks entering the market. The story was much the same in the other two markets.

Tempers ran high as morning shoppers, braving the rain, searched in vain for their favourite fish. In the mad scramble, prices at some retail markets shot through the roof.

The coveted silvery hilsa, too, was conspicuous by its absence. The precious few sold at exorbitant rates. “Hilsa sold at Rs 250 a kg at the wholesale market here on Sunday,” said Adhir Biswas of the Sealdah Fish Merchants Association. Traders at the Howrah and Patipukur markets attributed the high price tag on the hilsa to “scanty catch from the Hooghly and Rupnarayan rivers”.

The supply from Bangladesh continues to be sporadic. Abhoy Bhotika, a prominent importer of the fish, said: “Insufficient netting of hilsa is the main reason behind its short supply from Bangladesh.” About 10 trucks of hilsa are reaching the city markets every day from Bangladesh, as opposed to the 55 trucks that used to arrive this time last year.    


 
 
FISH VANISH ON WET WEEKEND 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
It was Sunday morning blues for Calcuttans waking up to cloudy skies and, far worse, the prospect of a holiday without fish on the lunch table. The transporters’ strike in Andhra Pradesh hit fish markets in the city and its suburbs hard on Sunday, with stocks running dry and prices sky-rocketing.

“The fish markets suffered a loss of more than Rs 10 crore on Sunday as there was no fresh supply from Andhra since Friday,” said Osman, of Naaz fish company, at the Howrah wholesale market.

To add to the Sunday morning fish-buyer’s woes, the supply of sea fish from Orissa was also cut off because of heavy rain there.

But things are expected to get back to normal within the next few days, as the Andhra transporters have withdrawn their strike. According to fish merchants of Howrah and Sealdah, regular supplies to city markets should resume from Tuesday.

Fish markets in the city and its suburbs consume more than a million kg of fish every day. About 90 per cent of this comprises supplies from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

There are three major wholesale fish markets for the city: Howrah, Sealdah and Patipukur. The Howrah market is the largest, with 100 truckloads of fish being dumped there every day from the two coastal states.

The last three days saw hardly a dozen trucks entering the market. The story was much the same in the other two markets.

Tempers ran high as morning shoppers, braving the rain, searched in vain for their favourite fish. In the mad scramble, prices at some retail markets shot through the roof.

The coveted silvery hilsa, too, was conspicuous by its absence. The precious few sold at exorbitant rates. “Hilsa sold at Rs 250 a kg at the wholesale market here on Sunday,” said Adhir Biswas of the Sealdah Fish Merchants Association. Traders at the Howrah and Patipukur markets attributed the high price tag on the hilsa to “scanty catch from the Hooghly and Rupnarayan rivers”.

The supply from Bangladesh continues to be sporadic. Abhoy Bhotika, a prominent importer of the fish, said: “Insufficient netting of hilsa is the main reason behind its short supply from Bangladesh.” About 10 trucks of hilsa are reaching the city markets every day from Bangladesh, as opposed to the 55 trucks that used to arrive this time last year.    


 
 
DEAD MONK’S CCELL WARDER SUSPENDED FOR ABSENCE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
The Presidency Jail authorities at Alipore have slapped a showcause notice on a warder for “dereliction of duty” in connection with the suicide of an Iskcon monk.

Sureshwar Das, lodged in jail on a rape charge since June 29, hanged himself in his cell last Thursday morning. He was cremated at Nimtala burning ghat on Sunday.

A joint investigation by the additional inspector-general, prisons, Dilip Chowdhury, and DIG P.D. Mondal revealed that the warder assigned to watch on Das’ cell was “absent” when the monk committed suicide. “The warder could have prevented Das from ending his life if he had been on duty at the cell,” said a senior jail official on Sunday, confirming that he would, therefore, be placed “under suspension”.

“We will not allow the jail officials to go scot free if they are found to have been callous,” said Mondal.

Meanwhile, the state human rights commission has ordered a separate probe into Das’ “unusual death in custody.”

Chairman Mukul Gopal Mukherjee said on Sunday that a team comprising senior officials from the rights panel will visit the jail soon.

“We are treating this as a special case, since we have already received a complaint from Iskcon members suspecting foul play in Das’ death in custody,” he said.

Earlier, the police had registered a case against the eight Iskcon monks who Das had accused in his diary of hatching a conspiracy against him.    


 
 
FREEZE ON NEW GUN LICENCES 
 
 
BY CHARLES NANDI
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
The police have stopped issuing fresh gun licences to cap the number of firearms in the city, ahead of the Assembly elections, scheduled next year.

Senior officials said on Sunday that the spurt in violence at Keshpur, Garbeta, Pingla and Arambagh has served as an “eye-opener” and prompted the move. Investigations revealed that large stocks of licensed firearms fuelled violence in these areas.

Figures show that Calcutta is sitting on a tinder box of over 25,000 licensed guns, revolvers and pistols . Deputy commissioner of police, reserve force, Kundan Lal Tamta, said his department has stopped issuing fresh licences for big and small arms.

“Besides, we have reserved the right to seize firearms and can do so before the elections,” he added.

Officials said on an average, 20 applications seeking firearms licences are received by the Lalbazar headquarters every month.

Senior officials, while interviewing the applicants, tell them about the decision and about 50 licence-seekers have been turned down over the past two months. According to rules, only police commissioner Dinesh Vajpai and Tamta can issue gun licences in the city.

Apart from putting new licences on hold, the police are also reviewing the credentials, whereabouts and activities of those granted licences in the recent past. “Anybody whose movements arouse suspicion will be asked to meet senior officers at Lalbazar,” police sources said.

The police will also ascertain whether the licencee actually needs a gun. They may even ask those with a licence for years why they still need to have a gun.    


 
 
CARDIAC CENTRE ‘ADOPTS’ LOCALS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
The three-month-old Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences has ‘adopted’ the residents of Mukundapur, where the institute is situated, on the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.

The institute, conceived by and established under supervision of cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty, will provide free cardiac consultation and at-cost treatment to all residents of Mukundapur above their Hriday Tomar, Bhabna Aamar cards,” said clinic director and cardiac surgeon Ashutosh Raghuvanshi on Saturday. “We plan to extend this facility to all residents of Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s ward 109,” he added. He estimates that the project will benefit up to a lakh of people. The cardiac health cards, targeted at low-income-group families, will entitle the holder to examinations by specialists twice a week or as required. No doctors’ fee or registration fee will be charged.

Diagnostic investigations will billed at cost price. If a card-holder requires surgery or hospitalisation, his stay in the general ward will be free and only treatment costs will be charged.

Also, in keeping with the institute’s aim to run “not for profit, but for social welfare”, is a school service scheme, whereby students can avail of free check-ups, Raghuvanshi added.    


 
 
TENSION OVER LEVEL CROSSING 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Aug.6: 
The closure of a railway crossing near Jadavpur station has sparked trouble over the weekend, with residents of the area and political parties threatening to go an agitation.

The crossing has been closed since July 26, when the switchman on duty, Bibhuti Baidya, was assaulted by some auto-rickshaw drivers for stopping a local train, blocking the level crossing, after a crack was detected on the tracks.    


 
 
20 INJURED IN DHANBAD CLASH 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Dhanbad, Aug. 6: 
The district convention of the Dalit Sena at the railway club here turned violent over the issue of a change of leadership resulting in injuries to 20 party activists today.

President of the Yuva Janata Dal (U) and Dalit Sena official Naresh Paswan was critically wounded and has been admitted to a local government hospital.

Things came to such a pass that state Dalit Sena president Puneet Rai had to flee from the venue. Later, Dhanbad police intervened to bring the situation under control.

According to sources, there was resentment in the state Dalit Sena over the alleged “arbitrary functioning” of the district president, Mundrika Paswan, who had been recently nominated to the National Telephone Users’ Advisory Committee by the Union communications minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

The sources said when a section of party workers raised the matter of the district president’s “arbitrary functioning”, hoodlums from Mundrika used force to drive the workers away from the convention.

This resulted in a scuffle, with members exchanging blows. Even local scribes had to scramble for cover. Soon the fight spilled over to the streets where members of the opposite factions fought pitched battles.

Though an FIR has been lodged with the Sadar police station, both the district and state presidents of the Dalit Sena were not available for comments.

Saffron claim: BJP’s Vananchal Committee spokesman Umashankar Kedia today claimed that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would form the interim government in the proposed Jharkhand state, reports PTI.

“As BJP and its allies together have 52 seats in the Assembly in the Jharkhand area out of a total of 81, there is no question of any other combination coming to power in the new state,” Kedia said in a statement here.

Of the 52 Assembly seats belonging to the NDA in the Jharkhand region, BJP has 32, Samata five, Janata Dal (United) three and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) 12.

Asked who would be the chief minister of the new state, Kedia said it would be decided by the leaders of the NDA and its legislators after the state became a reality.    


 
 
ORISSA PORT RIDES ROUGH WEATHER 
 
 
FROM SIB KUMAR DAS
 
Berhampur, Aug. 6: 
Authorities are yet to take any tangible step towards upgrading the Gopalpur port into an all-season port because of which plans of major industrial projects have either been stalled or dumped.

Industry majors like Tata Iron and Steel and Company (Tisco) and L&T had proposed to establish port-based steel plants near Gopalpur. The L&T has already opted out of the project and in its letter to the Orissa government, it has cited lack of vital infrastructural support including the port at Gopalpur forcing it to dump the plan.Although the land for Tisco’s Gopalpur project been acquired, it is gathering dust due to infrastructural deficiencies.

Upgradation of the port into an all-season one is essential because the proposed steel plants are port and export-based.

The minor fair-weather port located at a Arjipalli near Gopalpur is strategically located to be developed as a major port between the existing ones at Paradeep and Vizag. But for the past one decade, nothing has been done to develop it into an all-season port or to increase the operation period of the seasonal port.

The cyclone that hit the Orissa coast last year also devastated the existing port structures. It is uncertain now uncertainty looms large whether it will be fully operational this season or not.

The main revenue generator of the Gopalpur port happens to be the Orissa Sands Complex, the subsidiary unit of the Indian Rare Earths Limited (IRE), which transports its products through the Gopalpur port. But after the cyclone, the IRE has diverted some of its cargo through the Vizag port. This has resulted in loss of revenue for Gopalpur.

Port officials said, at present, the main user of the Gopalpur port happens to be the Orissa Sand Complex and if they too stop using the port, it will cause the economy to collapse. Rare Earth officials said they, in the recent past, preferred to transport some of their cargo through the Vizag port because immediate cargo transport was necessary. Berhampur MP Anadi Sahu said measures have to be taken to develop the Gopalpur port. He said, at least, more ships should be directed towards the Gopalpur port to unload their cargo during the operational season of the port. The central government should direct some of the urea-laden ships to unload their cargo at Gopalpur, he added.

Though the state government tried to develop the port with help from multinational companies (MNCs), no major MNC has evinced any interest yet.

The L&T which backed out from its proposed steel project at Gopalpur plans to establish its port-based steel plant near Dhamra. Earlier, the Asian Development Bank had refused to sanction Rs 108-crore loan for the development of the Gopalpur port.

Penalties slashed

Protests by transport operators have prompted the Orissa government to reduce the maximum limit on mechanical penalties on trucks entering the state.

Earlier, the maximum limit for mechanical penalties collected from trucks entering the state from outside was Rs 800, which was reduced to Rs 300. But it has subsequently slashed to Rs 100.

According to All-India Motor Transport Workers Association O.P. Aggarwal, the high rates led to largescale exploitation by transport department officials.

He said this had earned the state a bad name among transport operators throughout the country.

The high rate of penalties by Orissa have led to an increase in penalties by the Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

Usually, vehicle inspectors check trucks before they enter the state and charge heavy penalties for trivial mechanical problems.

Agarwal termed the reduction as a major victory.

Nearly 5,000 transport operators led by Keshav Rao of Andhra Pradesh Lorry Association were demanding slashing of penalty rates.    

 

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