Computer war hits the streets
Cabs to bypass Salt Lake over checkpost fuss
Debangshu charged with wife murder
Journalistsmarch to protest attacks
Minister, mayor off to Delhi for slum funds
Webel cradle for IT-preneurs
Law examinees ransack centre
Open-air seminar venue for CU
Attacks in a row reveal CPM jitters

Calcutta, Aug.16 
The rivalry among mushrooming computer education centres and their franchisees in the city and suburbs has spilled over on to the streets, even as an advertising and incentives war rages on.

On August 10, a Maruti van decked up with banners of Lakhotia Computer Centre was parked on Lee Road, very close to the offices of two other computer centres. LCC had just begun a new mobile campaign, by which its personnel would go to various important street corners, address the youth and hand them leaflets on the types of courses and what could best be suited for each of them.

But when Debraj Ghosh and Shobhon Banerjee, the two employees of LCC, returned to the van, they saw that the banners and posters had been ripped off the vehicle. The driver told them that some people came up to the van, abused him and tore down the banners, saying he should not have had the courage to park in front of “our centre.”

According to the general diary report filed at the Bhowanipore police station, the van was parked in a CMC fee parking zone and not a reserved parking space. “We came to know after enquiring from the locals that the employees of El-Net Academy came out of the institute in our absence and harassed our driver and tore up the banners,” the LCC employees said. “They even threatened to smash the windscreen if we ever returned,” the case diary added.

Senior El-Net Academy officials denied any knowledge of the incident and said if such an attack had taken place, another centre in the area may have been involved.

“We admit the competition between rival computer education centres has increased, but we would not resort to such measures,” one of the officials said.

Some months ago, in the north-eastern suburb of Nager Bazar near Lake Town, the franchisees of a leading computer institute put up banners in prominent overhead locations. Overnight, the banners were pulled down and torn to shreds by the employees of another centre in the area.

Trade circles point out that the manifold increase in computer-related jobs, coupled with the jump in sale of machines, has led to sharp competition between the centres. Added to this is the minimum guaranteed targets that each centre has to meet in terms of the number of students enrolled.

“The institute that can offer the latest courses, coupled with an effective placement service, has an edge over others. To counter this, and to have a balanced market strategy, most centres have introduced scholarship schemes,” explained the business promotion officer of one of the market leaders.

The war here is about which institute can undercut the other by giving maximum scholarships/discounts as an incentive for students to join. “Market strategies have to be sharp and the up-to-date. Otherwise, people will resort to dirty tricks.”

Other than trade licences, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation requires a company to pay a “visual tax” for any advertisement or banner that it puts up in the CMC area. Mala Roy, member, mayor-in-council, said she had received some complaints about banners being pasted on vehicles. “We will take action when we receive written complaints,” she said.    

Calcutta, Aug.16 
When Avtar Singh drove his taxi into Salt Lake on Saturday evening, he had no idea of what was in store for him.

As he was about to hit the EM Bypass after dropping off his passengers near Karunamoyee, Singh was stopped by two men in khaki. They told him that “black-and-yellow taxis” were only meant for Calcutta proper and not allowed inside Salt Lake.

“Since when has Salt Lake become off-limits for taxis?” demanded Singh.

The policemen were in no mood to offer any explanations. They told the cabbie to “pay up” or else, have his licence seized.

Singh finally got away after coughing up a “fine” of Rs 50, for which he was obviously not given a receipt.

Singh was not alone. The Bengal Taxi Association and the Calcutta Metropolitan Taxi-Drivers’ Union have recorded over 50 similar complaints from drivers who had taken passengers to Salt Lake and then fallen prey to those manning the checkpost at the township exits.

“If this kind of harassment of taxi-drivers at the hands of policemen does not stop within a week, we will have to boycott Salt Lake-bound passengers,” said Kalyan Bhadra, president of both taxi organisations, on Wednesday.

“If black-and-yellow taxis are banned in Salt Lake, then why doesn’t the police stop them when they enter the township? The taxis are almost always caught by the police on their way out,” he added.

Bhadra met transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and DIG, presidency range, Gautam Chakraborty, and urged them to look into the matter.

“We have received certain complaints which we are verifying them. By Monday, the taxi organisations will submit their complaints to us formally in writing. If it is found in the course of investigation that some of our policemen are guilty, action will definitely be taken against them,” said the DIG.

The regional transport authority clarified on Wednesday evening that the jurisdiction of black-and-yellow cabs had been reverted to the earlier limit — Barasat in the north, Diamond Harbour in the south, Bally in Howrah and Salt Lake.

The transport authority had earlier been issuing permits to restrict these taxis to Calcutta Police areas only, causing some confusion. “There was a slight problem over fixing the jurisdiction of black-and-yellow taxis which has new been sorted out,” said transport secretary D.M. Kanwar    

Calcutta, Aug.16 
Three months after actress Rumni was found dead in her Jadavpur flat, her husband, teleserial director Debangshu Sengupta, has been charged with her murder.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) submitted a chargesheet against Debangshu in court on Wednesday.

Initially, the police had thought that the actress had committed suicide by hanging herself on May 17.

Debangshu was arrested a few days later on the basis of a complaint filed by Rumni’s parents.

The CID took over investigation of the case after the needle of suspicion turned towards the husband. Investigators, led by special superintendent of police, CID, Mukul Sengupta, cracked the case after it was revealed the salwaar which Rumni was wearing had no drawstring. It was, thus, clear that someone had slipped the salwaar on the actress after she had died.

The murder weapon, a block of wood, and a blood-stained nightie worn by Rumni that night were also recovered.

According to CID officers, Debangshu had confessed to his crime on interrogation.

The chargesheet said Rumni, an impulsive and emotionally-charged person who was in the habit of drinking, was murdered and then hanged by Debangshu. It also quoted forensic findings which proved that she had been beaten up before being killed.

“A detailed analysis of her stomach content confirmed that she was given alcohol mixed with sleeping pills,” the report added.

According to the chargesheet, there was a heated exchange between the inebriated couple on May 17. Their argument took a violent turn when Debangshu attacked his wife with a block of wood. Rumni was killed by one of the blows.

Realising that he had killed his wife, Debangshu went about arranging the scene to make it look like a case of suicide. He slipped a salwaar around her waist, but overlooked that fact that it didn’t have a drawstring. He then ‘hanged’ her from the bedroom fan with a dupatta.

According to the CID chargesheet, Debangshu used to suspect his wife of having an affair with her ex-husband. Besides, a bitter “professional dispute” between the couple had also played a role in the murder.    

Calcutta, Aug.16 
Governor Viren Shah was “seriously concerned”, deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya seemed sincere when he said “justice would be done”. But the mood of the CPM-controlled coordination committee of government employees was as belligerent on Wednesday as it was last Thursday when they beat up journalists in the information and culture department at Writers’ Buildings.

Journalists from all over the state assembled at the Press Club on Wednesday afternoon to protest the repeated attacks on journalists and later marched to Raj Bhavan to present a memorandum. Governor Viren Shah assured them he would take up the matter with “my government in the state”. “The matter is serious and incidents like this should not happen again,” he told members of the delegation, assuring them the memorandum would be forwarded to the state government at the earliest.

Even Buddhadev Bhattacharya, known to keep his distance from members of the press corps, came forward on Wednesday to assure journalists that the enquiry committee he had set up would definitely fix the blame for the Writers’ attack and prompt action taken against those at fault.

But Bhattacharya’s staff went around the state government headquarters without a trace of remorse. They were, in fact, waiting for another opportunity to “teach newsmen a lesson”. The general secretary of the State Coordination Committee announced: “Journalists of some print and electronic media have together hatched a conspiracy with a political party to destabilise the Left Front government. They are out to malign the Left forces with their misinformation campaign... Exemplary punishment should be meted out to them.”

Earlier in the day, journalists from all over the state assembled at the Calcutta Press Club and resolved to form a coordination committee to deal with such incidents . It was also decided to communicate to the Press Council details of the attacks so it could take up the issue “at the highest forum”.

Addressing a huge gathering at the Press Club, senior journalists Gour Kishore Ghosh, Ashok Dasgupta, Barun Sengupta and Hemen Bose asked newsmen and media employees to remain united against “brutal attacks” on them by political party activists. They said the editorial policies of newspapers may differ, but media should remain united to thwart such attacks on journalists.

In a resolution adopted unanimously, journalists and other employees of news agencies, print and electronic media have asked the state government to arrest the culprits involved in the attacks on newsmen at Writers’ Buildings and at Uttarpara. “They should be punished in accordance with law,” the resolution said.

Scribes from far-flung districts like North and South Dinajpur, Cooch Behar, Malda as well as from Midnapore, Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas assembled at the Press Club to protest against attacks on mediapersons all over the state. All state-level trade union organisations of journalists and non-journalists also joined the protest meeting.    

Municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya and mayor Subrata Mukherjee are leaving for Delhi to meet Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant and seek an early release of the Rs 50-crore slum development grant for the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC). The meeting with Pant is scheduled for August 21.

The mayor met Bhattacharya at Writers’ Buildings on Wednesday, on the chief minister’s advice. The two discussed waiving the interest on outstanding property tax on residential buildings, the hawkers issue in the city and changing the composition of ward committees.

The minister asked Mukherjee to submit a draft proposal for amendment to the CMC Act, 1980, to allow waiver of interest on outstanding taxes of residential buildings. The mayor sought police help in keeping the central business district area, stretching from BBD Bag to Victoria Memorial Hall, free from hawkers round the clock.

He said no structure will be allowed to come up anywhere on the pavements of 21 major roads. Mukherjee also voiced his reservations about the formation of ward committees.

When told that the CMC was constitutionally bound to form ward committees, the mayor advised the minister to change the composition of the committees.

Meanwhile, member, mayor-in-council (conservancy) Mala Roy iterated that the process of allotting one-third of the pavements to the hawkers at Gariahat and between Dover Lane and Bijon Setu has already started.    

Calcutta, Aug.16 
In a move aimed at “utilisation of the human capital the state possesses in abundance”, Webel inaugurated its ‘Incubation Centre’ on Wednesday. The centre, on the third floor of Webel Bhavan in the Salt Lake Electronics Complex, will provide a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs in Calcutta to float their own IT start-ups.

Plans have also been chalked out for the state’s first Venture Capital Fund to finance what is considered “bankable business plans”.

The centre claims to provide a unique service of “mentoring” each “incubatee”, by providing “practical solutions to turn the ideas into viable plans”. This is being done in conjunction with the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta (IIMC). Institute director Amitava Bose, present at the occasion, said “the exact role of the IIM is yet uncertain. But we will be involved with the project”.

Bose went on to say that traditionally, there had been an “over-emphasis on merit in the state”, but in our “age of meritocracy”, there was an ideal opportunity to “marry merit with enterprise”.

The Incubation Centre has 25 workstations where groups can finetune their business plans for a maximum period of six months. Each plan will have a guide and will work closely with IIMC consultants, in addition to availing of the institute’s infrastructure once the plan is ready for review by venture capitalists.

The venture capital corpus will start at Rs 10 crore, with Webel and WBIDC contributing Rs 5 crore each. The fund will be available by the end of September, though SEBI approval is still awaited. Webel will try to find venture capitalists to finance the start-ups the Rs 10 crore corpus cannot accommodate.

Subrata Ganguly, Webel chairman, felt it was time to “break the myth that Bengalis cannot become entrepreneurs”. Ganguly was candid in his appraisal of the situation, saying that the “Bengali aversion to business” is a deeply embedded one, and that it is time to realise that being a businessman no longer means that you are a “shopkeeper”.

The first beneficiaries of the initiative, or the “incubatees” as they are called, have already been shortlisted. Ten of 65 applicants have been selected on the basis of the feasibility of their business plans.

For incubatees-to-be Jayanta Basak and S.K. Parui of Globeway Informatics, the centre is attractive because of the marketing consultancy it promises. For Amit Ghosh Dastidar and his two IIM mates, the access to venture capital is the lure.    

Calcutta, Aug.16 
There was tension on Calcutta University’s Hazra Law College campus on Wednesday when a large number of students of the Ll.B Part-I examinations refused to write the day’s test, protesting against “stiff” questions.

The students walked out the examination halls and ransacked some classrooms. The trouble broke out at about 12.15 pm, 15 minutes after Wednesday’s paper started. Some examinees at one of the halls stood up and said that they would not write the exam as the questions they were asked to answer were difficult.

The situation was brought under control after senior university officials intervened. Onkar Sadhan Adhikari, controller of examinations, said that the students’ complaints would be looked into.

n Trains disrupted: Commuters were stranded on Sealdah South section on Wednesday evening after a goods train jumped the rails between Park Circus and Ballygunge stations. Eastern Railway sources said the empty goods train, headed for Sealdah, went off the rails at about 4.30 pm. Later, trains bound for Diamond Harbour, Lakshmikantapur, Canning, Baruipur and Budge Budge originated from Ballygunge station.    

Calcutta, Aug.16 
Calcutta University has decided to set up an open-air auditorium on its Rajabazar Science College campus. The first of its kind, the auditorium is being set up to host large seminars and workshops.

The university’s existing indoor auditoriums, where seminars and workshops are held at present, are not spacious enough to hold students and research scholars in large numbers.

Attending seminars are now absolutely essential for post-graduate students and research scholars to keep themselves abreast with scientific and technological developments. While most of the universities abroad, and even the leading ones in the country like Jawaharlal Nehru University, have big seminar halls, Calcutta University had to hold its project back for want of funds. At present, the respective departments at CU have their own seminars halls, each of which can accommodate a maximum of 100 people. The new auditorium will hold more than 1,500 participants.

Manab Kumar Sengupta, secretary of the science and technology faculties, said the university would have to spend at least Rs 1 crore for setting up an indoor auditorium with air-conditioning and other modern facilities, which is beyond its means.

“We can’t wish away the financial crisis, but at the same time, a bigger venue for seminars and workshops is also important. We found the open-air auditorium the best solution,” Sengupta said.

The proposed auditorium is likely to cost Rs 3 lakh and will come up on an unused plot of land behind Palit Building. It will have a permanent stage, with a built-in sound system specially designed for the open-air stage with hanging megaphones. The auditorium, however, will not be used during the monsoon. Sengupta said the university will initially hire chairs to seat the audience. Later, chairs will be purchased in phases.

Welcoming the move, students said they were happy that an unused plot “was being utilised for promoting academic activities”. They urged the authorities to take proper care of the auditorium.    

Calcutta, Aug 16: 
First, the salvo at the Governor for trying to convene an all-party meeting on Bengal’s law and order situation. Then the attack on the US consul-general for sending over analysts to Nanoor. And, now savaging the media, literally.

These things happened in different places at different times. But they have one thing in common: the CPM which either used their top-ranking leaders or deployed their cadre to carry out the assaults.

Seen in perspective, the incidents, apart from inviting serious moral and ethical questions, can be regarded as expressions of the ruling communists’ nervousness at their weakening hold across the country.

The reason is not far to seek. Successive thrashings by the Trinamul Congress —— at the byelection at Panskura, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and Uttarpara Municipality polls —— have pushed the CPM to a corner.

The party has launched an offensive against its enemies: the media, the Opposition and any individual or institution that holds a dissenting view.

“The attacks are unprecedented, especially the one on journalists. Never before has a political party behaved in such a savage fashion.We are surprised at the government’s continuing silence. We would like to know what kind of steps it is going to take against the culprits,” said state Congress vice-president Pradip Bhattacharya.

Going by indications, the CPM looks divided over the assaults, especially the one on journalists.

Deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya, along with Cabinet colleagues Suryakanta Mishra, Subhas Chakraborty and Ashok Bhattacharya, are worried over the attacks on media persons.

But there are many in the party like state secretary Anil Biswas and Politburo member Biman Bose who think that a section of the media has provoked the attacks by its unceasing and harsh campaign against the communists.

“The party has a mind, strong emotions which are difficult to control at a time when it finds itself subjected to scurrilous attacks,” a high ranking CPM official said.

The communists began to display their antipathy to the media ever since CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta lost in the Panskura parliamentary byelection, handing over the constituency to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul. Their dislike came to light once again last week when they lost yet another bastion — the Uttarpara Municipality — to Trinamul.

But there are also those who recognise that the media is only reflecting the trends. “We cannot hope to overturn popular feelings in our favour by interfering with the work of media persons,” said Manju Kumar Majumdar, CPI state secretary.

Echoing him, a senior CPM leader said: “We are losing our bases even in rural Bengal not because of media campaign. We must remember that the media alone cannot destabilise a government which is in power for 23 years. We must note the popular disenchantment.”

Sensing the mood, CPM leaders, especially Biswas today adopted a placatory line and urged party supporters not to attack or prevent journalists from carrying out their jobs.

At the same time, Biswas also warned a section of journalists “whose language or manners are provocative enough to irk many party leaders”. He also singled out a section of mediamen. “Arko Sarkar, a reporter of Etv was caught redhanded by CPM supporters at Garbeta about two months back while carrying a revolver in his bag for BJP leaders”.

Leaders of the coordination committee whose members had assaulted reporters in Writers’ Buildings some days ago, today organised a meeting and came down heavily on the reporters. Their speeches were provocative and they questioned the role of the mediamen. When attention was drawn towards this incident, Biswas said “We have already asked our supporters not to attack reporters.” We have also told them not to prevent reporters from carrying out their assignments. But the role played by a section of journalists is questionable”, he added. He also reiterated that reporters should be allowed to function freely though newspapers and electronics media from Calcutta were continuously carrying out slanderous campaigns against the Leftists. Biswas, however, refused to comment on today’s rally organised by the journalists in protest against the attack on them allegedly by CPM cadres.    


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