Police dial for help in cell sex probe
Doctors seek cure at Mamata door
Aides’ arrest signals return of satta don
Shoppers’ Stop heads for city after hiccup
Couple dies on bridge
Warders suspended for prisoner escape
Priority to senior citizens’ cases
Panel plans to boost SLET success rate
Power crisis looms as units shut down
More muscle for ward committees

Calcutta, Sept 3: 
The trail of the intriguing “body massage” message flashing on cellphones has led the police to a sex racket spread out across the city and targeting, among others, college students.

A cellular phone subscriber had registered a case at the Park Street police station last week after receiving repeated messages urging him to check out a parlour in north Calcutta for a “satisfying session’’.

Police officers got in touch with the cellphone company and tracked down the person to a north Calcutta ‘physiotherapy centre’.

Deputy commissioner of police, south, Ranjit Pachnanda said Saibal Dutta was arrested after he told police officers posing as customers that he could “arrange for the promised massage”.

Police officers investigating the case said they are probing the role of some “women with cellular phones” and “some influential people”. College students are said to be particularly susceptible to this cellphone-sex racket.

“The women are only available on the cellphone and they charge Rs 2,000 for an hour,” said a police officer investigating the case. “The parlour owner has a list of women and their cellphone numbers. When the client indicates his preference, the parlour owner calls up the woman on her mobile. So, the entire racket is run on the cellphone.”

According to an officer, those running the sex racket either have “contacts” among the mobile phone operators or they dial cellphone numbers “at random”.

“We have got a list of women and men with their cellular numbers. But this is just a tip of the iceberg. We are yet to identify the racket’s kingpin,’’ he said.

The police have issued an appeal to cellular subscribers seeking their co-operation in busting the racket. People receiving such messages are being requested to contact local police stations or the divisional deputy commissioners of police.

A highly-placed source in the Lalbazar’s detective department said a deputy commissioner of Mumbai police had tipped off his Calcutta Police counterpart about the “cellular sex racket”.

“We recently busted a city-wide sex and flesh-trade racket run by cellular phone. One of the guys was from Calcutta and so I passed on the information,’’ a DCP of Mumbai Police, who did not wish to be named, told The Telegraph over phone on Sunday.

There are over 1.5 lakh cell phone users in the city and its suburbs and more than two dozen people apply for a cellular connection everyday.

Officials of both Spice and Command have told the police said it’s not possible for them to screen such messages due to “technical reasons”.

“The messages are sent directly from one handset to another and it is not possible for us to screen them. The messages will only be available on handsets which are compatible.

Once we extend the voice mail and message-sending and receiving facility, we have no control over it. But we have assured police authorities that we will co-operate with them by providing them with whatever information they require,’’ a Command official said.    

Calcutta, Sept 3: 
This is certainly not what the doctor would have ordered for the CPM. A growing number of city physicians are starting to lean away from the Left and towards the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress.

The recently-refurbished Trinamul Doctors’ Cell has been steadily growing in both strength and stature. This was evident during Sunday’s maha maha michhil called by Mamata. Besides 25 middle-level and senior doctors, about 60 housestaff from different medical colleges joined in the march from the Maidan to Shyambazar.

This comes days after some leading city doctors met Mamata in an “informal meeting” The meeting, called by the Trinamul leader, was held at the office of the Journal of the Indian Medical Association (JIMA) last Thursday. The 60-odd invitees included the 20 doctors who had gone to Chamkaitala in Midnapore on behalf of the Trinamul Doctors’ Cell. They were all obviously there with an eye on the next Assembly elections.

“At least 120 doctors turned up, many of whom had just rung up to say that they had heard about the meeting and wanted to attend it,” said Sudipto Roy, JIMA editor and president of Indian Medical Association’s Calcutta branch.

Among the participants were more than 15 currently-serving government doctors who either belong to the West Bengal Health Service or the Medical Education Service.

The agenda for the meeting was to evaluate the medical situation and hear out the problems plaguing doctors in the state. Possible solutions were also to be discussed.

Overwhelmed by the grievances that were voiced by the doctors, Mamata promptly asked for a task force to be set up to compile the complaints and put in any suggestions accompanying them.

“As far as I can recall, none of the complaints was of a personal nature. All were related to the state of health delivery and education system in general,” said chest specialist Manish Pradhan. Being the seniormost doctor present, he was asked by Mamata to give his proposals first.

Also present were cancer specialist Saroj Gupta, former sheriff and orthopaedist Sunil Thakur, erstwhile professor of medicine, Calcutta Medical College, Panchanan Mullick and the college’s former principal, Prof. Ashim Roy Choudhuri. All of them had been invited by JIMA.

“The government itself admits that there are problems in the health facilities available to the people,” Gupta said. “But doctors are also responsible for many patients seeking treatment outside the state,” he added.

Pointing out that standards of medical education were not keeping pace with the major developments taking place in the world of medicine, Gupta felt that the quality of teaching had fallen.

“There should be a change, be it by this government or the next, but improvements must take place.”

The Trinamul Doctors’ Cell has Roy as its chairman, Tarun Adhikary as its secretary, Atanu Mukherjee, R.D. Dubey and Nirmal Maji as convenors. “In the first phase, we have enrolled 100 active members, each of whom will enlist 20 ordinary members each,” Roy said.

The cell presented a “white paper” on the state of health affairs in Bengal and listed 11 deficient areas where its efforts would focus on. They include a better doctor-patient ratio, improving infrastructure and the establishment of more medical colleges. “We also welcome private sector participation,” said Roy.    

Calcutta, Sept 3: 
Satta don Ram Avtar is back in business in the city. He had been forced to flee after the infamous Bowbazar blast in 1993.

This has been revealed following the arrest of four of his associates in central Calcutta last week. The police are now trying to track Avtar down.

Avtar, a close associate of satta don Rashid Khan, who is now behind bars after being booked under TADA, had left Calcutta and returned to his hometown in Rajasthan seven years ago.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh, said on Sunday that Avtar was trying to regain control over a section of the city’s satta circuit.

“This has been confirmed by the arrest of his four henchmen,” said Ghosh.

The four had been arrested by officers of the anti-rowdy section of the detective department while they were busy organising satta operations in a den.

Ghosh said he had asked his officials to “ruin the base” of Avtar’s satta operations in the city.

Avtar had set up a huge satta empire in the early Eighties but the Bowbazar blast that led to the arrest of mentor Rashid Khan brought it crashing down.

A warrant of arrest was issued against him and he was declared a proclaimed offender. His property was also attached.

But the police failed to track him down.

According to investigators, Ram Avtar surfaced two years ago with “tacit support from a section of former police officers” and started his satta operations on the northern fringes of the city.

“He set up his operational base in Jagaddal, Barrackpore, Titagarh, Hooghly, and other parts of North 24-Parganas in connivance with a section of police officers,” said an official.

Earlier this year, Avtar deputed his associates, led by Khoka Kundu, to start operations in the port area, central and north Calcutta, Howrah and South 24-Parganas.    

Shoppers’ Stop, the mega retail chain of the Mumbai-based K. Raheja Group, is “ready to go” in Calcutta, its chief executive officer, B.S Nagesh told The Telegraph in New Delhi.

Nagesh said Shoppers’ Stop had carried out its initial surveys and had identified the plot on which its Calcutta establishment will be housed. However, he refused to identify the exact location because negotiations were still not over.

Last year, the real-estate market in Calcutta was abuzz with Shoppers’ Stop’s imminent entry. But then, the group developed cold feet after a survey indicated that Calcutta did not have the “purchasing power” to justify opening a retail outlet of such magnitude.

Typically, Shoppers’ Stop outlets are spread over 300,000 square feet and bring under a single roof all that a consumer could possibly look for. Realtors in Calcutta had widely believed that Shoppers’ Stop was ready to move into new premises in Calcutta on Upper Wood Street in a building with a green glass front promoted by architect Gopal Mitra.

However, Shoppers’ Stop is now looking to set up its establishments just outside the limits of the city proper at sites that are easily accessible. It has assessed that it is more likely to get a larger area with parking space outside the central business hub of cities.

Shoppers’ Stop opened one of its most recent establishments in Chennai where, Nagesh claimed, it had received a “rousing response”. But he noted that Chennai is more comfortable with the concept of shopping in departmental stores than many other cities.

Sources said big retailers had two major headaches. First, the availability of real estate and the government clearances that were needed. Second, an assurance of order.

Last week, Crossroads, the Bombay retailer run by the Piramals, levied a redeemable entry fee of Rs 60 on all those who did not carry a mobile or a credit card to restrict the rush on weekends. Crossroads CEO B K Iyer said it was done to provide “security” to “genuine customers”.

In Calcutta, the opening of such establishments as Emami Shoppers’ City on Lord Sinha Road has boosted the confidence of retailers like Shoppers’ Stop.

The renewed interest of Shoppers’ Stop in Calcutta just goes to show that the eastern metropolis is not left cold by the consumerist wave sweeping the country.

Studies by Shoppers’ Stop forecast that the city’s private consumption (as a percentage of gross domestic product), already higher compared to Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia, is set to rise further.

With Shoppers’ Stop deciding that “Calcutta was ready to go” — Nagesh said it could be by this year but definitely by middle of the next — major retailers can be expected to lobby the West Bengal government to ease norms.

They will seek:

policies on store timings, vehicle parking provisions and alternate labour laws
improvement of infrastructure (particularly roads) to ensure that perishables move fast
a policy for competition and efficiency rather than a maximum price regulation.    

Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
3: A couple died tonight after their Maruti car hit a lamp post on the second Hooghly bridge.

Tapan Naha (40), his wife Shampa (35) and daughter Tapoja were going to their Kadamtala residence in Howrah when the car lost control and rammed into the post on the bridge. The daughter escaped unhurt.    

Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
Two days after an undertrial criminal managed to walk out of Presidency Jail, trading places with a petty thief, the home (jails) department on Sunday chargesheeted two senior jail officials and suspended two head warders.

The incident, coming close on the heels of two cases of unnatural death inside prisoners’ cells, including the suicide of an Iskcon monk, has embarrassed the jail administration.

Officials said a general alert has been sounded to all the 54 jails in the city and elsewhere in the districts for intensifying vigil on prisoners, particularly when they are produced in court on a regular basis.

They said while jail superintendent Parimal Das and deputy jailor Swaraj Ghosh have been slapped showcause notices on charges of dereliction of duty, disciplinary action is being contemplated against jailor Srikanta Mondal.

Two suspended head warders, Sitaram Jadav and Sunil Chatterjee, on duty at the cell lodging undertrials, have been debarred from attending office from Sunday.

The mass disciplinary action follows a preliminary investigation by inspector-general of prisons Balkar Singh into the escape of dreaded criminal Rafiqul Islam, awaiting sentence for looting ornaments worth Rs 35 lakh from a jewellery shop two years ago.

Islam masqueraded as Panchu Miyan at the Sealdah court on August 25 and pleaded for bail, hoodwinking jail and court officials.

“This is a serious matter and jail officials can’t shirk responsibility in this case,” said DIG, prisons, P.D. Mondal. He indicated that more cross-examination of warders and other officials will follow to unearth the “racket”, behind “wrongful production of a prisoner.”

He said senior officials will soon visit other jails to take note of conditions prevailing there.

In another move to streamline administration at Presidency Jail, the government has planned mass transfer of warders, ignoring resentment among them.

“We have information that some warders, who are close to inmates, at times help them get bail in connivance with the police and a few lawyers,” observed a jail official.

Jail superintendent Das, who admitted having been chargesheeted, alleged that the police have a hand in the escape of any prisoner by using false identification. “It is wrong to blame jail officials alone,” he said.

The prison directorate has also sent a proposal to the government suggesting electrically-charged barbed wire fencing along the boundary walls of the jails to prevent escape of prisoners.

“The system is prevalent only in Vellore Jail and we have submitted a proposal to the government regarding this,” he said.    

Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
Calcutta High Court has decided to allow first track hearing of cases in which petitioners are above age 65.

The court has also decided to give top priority to the hearing of public interest litigation (PIL) filed by senior citizens of the state through letters written to the High Court’s Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice has directed two senior officers of the High Court to sort out cases filed by elderly petitioners. The officer on special duty (OSD), Ajit Bannerjee, said he was receiving thousands of letters from senior citizens seeking early hearing of their petitions.

There are 340,000 pending cases in Calcutta High Court of which 10 per cent were identified as senior citizens’ petitions, according to former Bar Association secretary Uttam Majumder. The Chief Justice has ordered that senior citizens’ cases should be kept at the top of daily case lists so that judges could hear them first.

The OSD said a one-man committee has been set up to sort out letters and to select the ones which could be treated as suo motu matters.

While a few senior members of the Bar Association of the court appreciated the move, secretary Arunava Ghosh said instead of taking the initiative to appoint judges in the High Court, this is a half-hearted measure for tackling the problem of pending cases.

Rebati Ranjan Bhattacharya, a senior citizen who has filed a case in Calcutta High Court relating to pollution, said if the court did not want to delay justice it should hear the cases of senior citizens in a separate court.    

Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
Alarmed at the poor performance level in the State Level Eligibility Tests (SLET), the state College Service Commission has chalked out measures to improve the success rate in next year’s examinations.

SLET results have been traditionally poor since the tests, conducted for recruiting teachers in 350 state-funded colleges in West Bengal, were introduced in 1994. If the results don’t improve soon, it may lead to an acute shortage of teachers in these colleges.

The pass percentage this year was a mere 5.8 per cent as against 5.6 per cent last year.

According to commission chairman Ajit Banik, a number of factors have contributed to the poor results, like a “lengthy and unscientific” syllabus. “We have made large-scale changes in the syllabus to make it easier,” said Banik.

“We have isolated the subjects and a candidate will now have to take his test only in the subject in which he did his post graduation and has applied for lectureship,” said Banik. Earlier, the candidates had to appear for tests in a group of subjects.

Candidates will also be provided with model questions before the exams so that they get an idea about the pattern of questions they are likely to encounter.

According to Banik, another reason behind the poor SLET results was a norm by the University Grants Commission (UGC) concerning awarding of marks.

UGC rules stipulate that the cut-off percentage in the third paper should be decided on the number of vacancies in a particular subject.

For example, if the demand for teachers is more in a particular subject, the cut-off percentage in that particular subject should be low. But during the past few years, the cut-off percentage in most subjects was fixed at 50.

The commission has now fixed pass marks for all the subjects at 50 per cent.    

Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
Calcutta and its outskirts are likely to face power cuts from Monday as CESC authorities were forced to close down two of their 60-MW units at the Titagarh plant following labour unrest.

A senior CESC official said contract labourers handling coal and ash had struck work over their demands.

As a result, two units were shut down and generation was below-average from the remaining two units.

On Sunday, officers themselves had to spade up coal into the boilers of the running units, he added.

“The impact of the shortfall was not really felt on Sunday. But, if we are forced to close down all four units by tomorrow, then Calcutta will suffer a 240-MW shortfall in power supply,” a CESC official said.    

Calcutta, Sept. 3: 
Concerned at the growing discontent among residents of Calcutta and Salt Lake over “poor development work”, the state government has decided to entrust ward committees of both with administrative power. A new set of rules has been issued to the civic boards in this regard.

Municipal affairs minister Ashok Bhattacharya has asked mayor Subrata Mukherjee to complete formation of 141 ward committees within a month. The same instruction has gone out to Salt Lake chairman Dilip Gupta. Earlier, the ward committees were toothless and most of the councillors could not get their opinions across.

But from now on, ward committees in the city and Salt Lake will have full say in all developmental activities. Starting from planning of a project to its completion, everything will be monitored by the ward committees and councillors of the wards concerned and the chairman has to abide by the decision of the committees.

The ward committees can clear pavements, stall illegal construction and keep a vigil on promoters’ activities. They will also have the power to check and verify building plans.

The councillor concerned will be the ex-officio chairman of the ward committee.    


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