Too high a price for tuition fees
Petrol strike end in sight
State lagging in IT: Basu
Job courses at law school
Rs 2-lakh heist at Park Street firm
Malaria claims eighth victim despite drive
Swoop on auto drivers puts brakes on 120
School plan for destitute kids
Funds meet for research unit
Editor killed in Manipur

Calcutta, Aug.21 
She studies by day and earns her living by night.

But 18-year-old Nayana Sen (not her real name) cannot tell her friends in junior college, where she is studying to clear her Higher Secondary exams, what she does after classes get over.

Every evening, Nayana rushes off from college to room 409 at Sonagachhi. Here, she entertains five customers till midnight, before sitting down to study.

A torrid twist of fate has landed Nayana in the labyrinthine lanes and bylanes of Sonagachhi, the city’s most populous red-light area.

Her father, a police officer with Golabari thana, died in 1990. Elder brother Sunil left for the lure of the greenbacks and never looked back.

Nayana and her mother could barely make both ends meet with her deceased father’s meagre pension. Then, her mother was afflicted with leukaemia.

“We fought the curse with all we had for six long years,” recalls Nayana, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her mother lost the protracted battle with blood cancer and she her last remaining hope, last September. The pension stopped with the death of Nayana’s mother.

Then, a distant relative, who was also a neighbour, dangled a lifeline in front of the hapless teenager.

Before she could realise what was happening, a dazed Nayana landed up at the doorstep of Sandhya, the madam of one of the innumerable brothels that dot Sonagachhi.

Confronted by the brutal fact that she would have to “sell her body to survive”, Nayana fled Sonagachhi, only to return a week later, reconciled to the fact that if she had to sustain her studies, and pave the path to a future, she would have to earn her tuition fees.

Initially, Nayana became one of Benarasi’s girls. She made Rs 90 from her first customer, the rest going to the madam as “cut money”.

Today, Nayana entertains five customers, for Rs 110 each, every day from 4 pm till midnight.

“I can barely have a bath after rushing back from college, when the first visitor knocks on the door,” says Nayana.

“None of my friends in college knows. How can I tell them this is what I do for a living? How will they understand? Their tuition fees are provided by their parents. My case is so different,” she sobs.

But even in Nayana’s dark existence, she now finds a ray of hope.

Unlike those before him, her present landlord, Narayanda, allows her to study.

Once the last visitor leaves Room 409, Nayana gets back to her books and her dreams of breaking free, “some day soon”.

“I have already saved Rs 15,000 in the last eight months and if things go all right, I hope to get out of this hell-hole in a year’s time,” she smiles.

Will Nayana fulfil her dream of starting her own business in a year, shutting the doors on a sordid past and moving towards a better tomorrow?

One can never be sure. But she surely won’t give up without a fight.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
With oil companies promising to look into the demands of dealers, the ‘indefinite strike’ called by petrol pump-owners is likely to be withdrawn by noon on Tuesday.

The first day of the strike did not have much of an impact on Calcuttans. Buses, minibuses, taxis, autorickshaws and trucks plied as usual, but the number of private cars was less than on other weekdays.

The strike was called by 1,400 petrol pump-owners under the aegis of West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association from Sunday midnight to protest “adulteration in fuel supplied to the filling stations”.

Food commissioner Dipak Rudra held a meeting with M.C. Sachdeva, executive director of Indian Oil, Kalyan Bhadra, president of the dealers’ association, and transport secretary D.M. Kanwar, among others, on Monday.

At the meeting, a joint committee was formed with representatives from dealers, the food and civil supplies department, transport department and oil companies.

The committee will discuss the demands of the petrol pump owners.

Sachdeva, regional coordinator for the oil industry, claimed that the oil companies had devised a “fool-proof” system to ensure quality and quantity of the fuel delivered from oil installations.

“After an oil tanker is filled up, it is sealed and the seal number and the density of the product mentioned on the challan. When the lorry arrives at the petrol pump, the dealer is supposed to check the seal and match the number with the one on the challan. The density of the product is also checked by hydrometers supplied by the oil companies to the pumps. If every thing is all right, the dealer breaks the seal and decants the product. This ensures both quality and quantity of the product,” explained Sachdeva.

“The meeting was very cordial and we expect that the committee will take positive steps to meet our demands,’’ Bhadra said later.

But he clarified that the strike was not being withdrawn on Monday.

“We have convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday morning, at which we shall take the final decision in this regard. If we withdraw the strike , we have to do it by taking a formal decision at a meeting of our association,’’ said Bhadra.

As transport minister Subhas Chakraborty is presently in the capital, deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya has asked minister of state for transport Sushanta Ghosh to look into the matter and ensure that the strike is withdrawn early.

“It is the duty of the Centre to look into the demands and problems of the petroleum dealers. The state has nothing to do with it. However, the food commissioner is looking into the matter,’’ said Ghosh.

According to the minister, most private bus operators and trucks have stocked up fuel for three days. The state garages also have stocks to last till Wednesday.

“I hope the strike will be withdrawn on Tuesday. If it is not, we will be forced to take stern action,” warned Ghosh.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
Chief minister Jyoti Basu on Monday lamented Bengal’s backwardness in information technology but vowed to correct the situation in the near future.

“We entered the field of information technology rather late. That was only three or four years ago,” said Basu, adding: “However, we are determined to make advancements within the next few years.”

Basu was inaugurating the city’s first joint-venture computer education centre at Maniktala on Monday afternoon.

The centre, named the Indus Institute of Information Management, was jointly initiated by the state department of youth services and the US-based Indus Counselling Worldwide.

The institute is aimed at providing higher computer education to nearly 500 students every year. Four other such big joint venture computer centres will soon come up in the districts — Burdwan, Midnapore and Darjeeling.

Basu, notwithstanding reports of his retirement, was on his feet for nearly half an hour while addressing the gathering.

State finance minister Asim Dasgupta and youth services, tourism and environment minister Manab Mukherjee were also among those present.

Dwelling on the necessity of disseminating computer education in the city and the districts, Basu said a separate department was created for the purpose.

“We have decided to set up computer centres even in villages to open up opportunities for poor and meritorious students,” he declared.

Basu said 36 new computer centres will open in the state before the Pujas, in addition to the 19 existing ones.

“Our intention is to provide computer education at a much lower rate than what the private computer centres are charging,” he said.

Dasgupta announced that the government would absorb nearly 20,000 computer-trained youth in various departments every year.

Manab Mukherjee said efforts were being made to introduce computer education in Madhyamik courses as an additional subject. He said the government will set up about 250 computer centres in the state to train students on its basic application.

Ravi Kumar Nagarajan, chief executive of the Indus Consulting World Wide, said the Indus centre would provide both basic and higher diplomas in computing.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
The law is no longer just about donning a black robe and arguing out a point in court. Recognising the “rising demand for legal assistance/para-legals in different sectors of the economy”, the just-opened West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences at Salt Lake has decided to introduce a “job-oriented law course”.

“The globalised economy of today demands much more out of a student of law,” said vice-chancellor N.R. Madhava Menon, “The three-year Bachelor of Juridical Sciences (BJ.Sc) on legal studies is an experiment, the first of its kind in India. The pass-outs will not be lawyers, but will be equipped to be placed anywhere in the economy.”

The academic council of the fledgling institute has already approved the structure of the course and once it is through with the executive council, the course will be formally launched. The faculty members expect to start the admission procedure for the programme in mid-September. Any student can sit for the all-India entrance tests after clearing Higher Secondary. But the number of seats for the programme will be limited in order to maintain “academic excellence”.

“We have drawn up the syllabus of this job-oriented programme keeping in mind requirements in the real economy,” said Menon. “Our students can get placement in banks, insurance companies, big corporate houses, ministries and government departments, regulatory bodies, and even in NGOs.”

According to Menon, the in-house legal work in these organisations is currently conducted either by lawyers or executives who are “unfit” for the job. So, the focus of the programme is “to try and bridge the gap between demand and supply of legal expertise in the economy”.

“After the completion of the course, we will send our students to reputed companies for a six-month pre-placement training. There is a growing need for such professionals and we hope that our students will live up to expectations,” said the vice-chancellor.

Meanwhile, Menon has ambitious “exchange” programmes lined up for his students. “We will send our students to the best of universities abroad as a part of international exchange programmes and also teach them the latest in information technology. For this, we have been approached by some of the leading universities in USA and Canada,” said Menon.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
In one of the most daring operations in recent times, eight armed men entered the 10th floor office of Larsen Services and Trading Company Limited, on Park Street, and walked out with Rs 2 lakh from the vault.

The company distributes chemicals in West Bengal and the neighbouring states, and cash is kept in the vaults of the Park Street office.

The eight men arrived at Poddar Apartments in a Maruti van at 5 pm and parked it near the gate. At the 10th floor office, they introduced themselves to the receptionist as policemen from Beleghata police station. While four of them demanded to see the owner, the other four proceeded towards the cash office.

According to two employees of the company who witnessed the incident, the robbers were well acquainted with the seating arrangements of employees and knew where the cash office was located. “They did not waste any time searching for the vault,” the receptionist, Swagata Das, said.

Their country-made revolvers at the ready, they ordered the 20 frightened employees to get into the toilet. At that time, the owner, Prakash Himatsingka, had locked himself inside his room and had no inkling of what was going on outside his office. The men had emptied the vault and were on the point of leaving when Himatsingka came out of his office to visit the toilet.

The men pointed revolvers at him and took him and other employees to another wooden room and locked it from outside. Later, officers from Park Street police station and other bigwigs went to the spot to investigate the case. Police said investigations were on and no one was arrested.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
Even as the civic authorities intensified their malaria control drive from Monday, the disease claimed its eighth victim in the city, with the death of Lambodar Behara,74, at M.R. Bangur Hospital.

“Behara was brought from Orissa with complications of hepatitis and malignant malaria,” said member, mayor-in-council, Javed Ahmed Khan. Of the eight who have died in hospitals of the city, only three are Calcuttans.

The anti-malarial drive was launched in the Ballygunge and Park Street areas after civic officials discovered mosquito larvae off Park Street and Ballygunge police stations.

“We have written letters to the commissioner of police, DC (south) and the officers-in-charge of the two police stations requesting them to take precautionary measures,” said Javed Khan.

However, the two mobile laboratories could not be commissioned on Monday because of snags.

Since it is not possible for the fund-strapped civic authorities to sustain the anti-malaria drive round the year, they have decided to take the help of Lions Club of North Calcutta.

Club steps in

The club has agreed to extend help in 40 wards in Bhowanipore, Kalighat, Chetla, Ballygunge and Behala by providing medicine, microscopes and para-medical personnel. It has also decided to set up health clinics in different parts in the city.

The civic budget allocates Rs 10 crore for the health department, of which Rs 6 crore is spent on salaries for the 2,500 employees and doctors of the department.

The civic health department gets hardly Rs 80 lakh in hand for its anti-malaria drive, whereas a sustained campaign round the year requires about Rs 10 crore.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
The police launched a massive drive against errant autorickshaw-drivers in different parts of the city on Monday.

Deputy commissioner of police, south division, Ranjit Pachnanda, said 120 cases were registered against auto drivers for “overloading”. Pachnanda added: “We have launched the drive in coordination with the traffic police department to ensure safety of people travelling in autos. Overloading may lead to an accident anytime.”

Autorickshaws are to take just three passengers, all on the back seat. But the drivers invariably pick up one or two in the front.

The crackdown, which started around 1 pm, was carried out at S.P. Mukherjee Road, Rashbehari Avenue, the Hazra crossing, Gariahat, Bijon Setu, Bondel Road, New Alipore, Alipore, Prince Anwar Shah Road and some other areas.

Autos carrying more than three passengers were stopped by traffic police personnel and prosecuted on the spot. Several autos were impounded as the drivers failed to provide proper documents. Traffic policemen have also been asked to keep a watch on auto drivers stopping their vehicles in the middle of the road, or at important crossings, and picking up passengers, leading to traffic snarls.

“The drive will continue throughout the year to ensure safety of the passengers,” announced Pachnanda.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
In a drive to ensure that all destitute children are covered under the education system within 2001, city-based non-government organisations will set up 600 primary education centres in various parts of Calcutta.

A survey conducted by West Bengal State Resources Group for Education of Deprived Urban Children, comprising 50 non-government organisations (NGOs), has revealed that nearly 1.5 lakh children living on the streets of Calcutta do not attend school. The children are in the age group of three to 14 years.

Sister S.M. Cyril, principal, Loreto Day School, Sealdah, and convener of the survey, said the Centre will partly fund the units. The NGOs have approached corporate houses for funds for running the centres, said Sister Cyril.

A meeting between the NGOs and officials of various corporate houses will be held at British Council on Tuesday.

Initially, emphasis will be laid for providing educational facilities for nearly 44,646 children between five and nine years. “Children in this age group are crucial. Each child in this group must be started on basic education before it reaches 10,” said Sister Cyril.

The 600 centres will provide accommodation for nearly 30,000 children between five and nine years of age.

Nearly 5,000 children of the same age group will be brought under a new educational programme for streetchildren, to be launched by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation soon.

Arrangements are being made to enrol 10,000 children of the same age group in the existing primary schools run by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the government.

Unicef will also donate funds for running the centres.

The syllabus to be followed at the centres will be the same as that taught in schools affiliated with the primary board.    

Calcutta, Aug.21 
Partha Chatterjee, director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, will meet human resources development minister Murli Manohar Joshi in the capital on Tuesday evening.

The centre is caught in a severe funds crunch after a refusal by the Indian Council of Social Science Research and the HRD ministry to hike grants for it.

“I will discuss the immediate financial crisis that has gripped almost all such institutes in the country, as well as the long-term funding pattern to be followed by the government,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph.

Chatterjee will be joined at the meeting by Praveen Visaria, director, Institute of Economic Growth, and V.B. Singh, director of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, both Delhi-based institutes.    

Imphal, Aug. 21: 
Unidentified gunmen shot dead veteran Manipuri journalist Thounaojam Brajamani Singh at Sagolband Meino Leirak here last night.

Editor of the,I> Manipur News, 68-year-old Singh was the oldest working journalist in Manipur and the third to be killed in the insurgency-ravaged state.

Police said Singh and a computer engineer were heading for the Manipur News office on a two-wheeler when two scooter-borne youth waylaid them. One of the youth took Singh’s companion aside, while the other opened fire, hitting the veteran journalist smack on his face and the back of his head. He died on the spot.

The police have recorded the computer engineer’s statements.

Sources said Singh had received threats over telephone some days back. In his editorial on Thursday, the slain journalist appealed to the “callers” to be frank in airing their grievances against him. However, he continued moving about freely.

Shocked and outraged by Singh’s killing, the journalist fraternity today termed it an attempt to “gag” the press.

Information minister M. Kunjo Singh was among the mourners who carried Singh’s body and marched through the streets of this capital town. Before being taken to his home at Keishamthong for the last rites, the slain journalist’s body was brought to the Manipur Press Club. The local press corps was present at the club in full strength to pay floral tributes to the man they addressed as “Pabung (father)”.

Though no individual or outfit has claimed responsibility for Singh’s killing, the police are hopeful of identifying the killers soon. A senior police official said two suspects had been detained for interrogation and a case registered at the Imphal West police station. “We are looking at the killing from all angles and hope to crack the case soon,” he said.

Condemning the incident and expressing their resolve to uphold the freedom of press, all journalists’ organisations in Manipur today decided to merge with the All-Manipur Working Journalists’ Union in deference to Singh’s wishes. “It is the least we can do. Singh always advocated unity among journalists,” a local scribe said. All newspapers in the state will keep their editorial columns blank tomorrow and cease publication for a day on Wednesday.

Expressing shock over the veteran journalist’s killing, Manipur Governor Ved Marwah said the state had lost one of its most-loved public figures. Deputy chief minister L. Chandramani Singh, a close associate of the slain editor, termed the killing “a barbaric act” and “a challenge to democracy”.    


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