Rain havoc on rail services
Breakthrough in Regent Park case
Students veto manual marksheet
Women take up cudgels for Caur
Red tape trips German art show
A celebration of Calcutta
Fish scarce in Manipur markets, prices soar
Orissa taxpayers demand new office
Tripura toll rises
Industry tops Jharkhand leaders’ list

 
 
RAIN HAVOC ON RAIL SERVICES 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept.19: 
Heavy rain has taken its toll on train services to and from the city. Movement of long-distance and suburban trains from Howrah and Sealdah stations was hit hard as large stretches of tracks in the state were inundated on Tuesday.

Officials said at least a dozen north Bengal and Assam-bound trains, besides 40 suburban ones, were cancelled on Howrah and Sealdah divisions of Eastern Railway. The damage to the tracks may force the cancellation of at least a dozen more trains — mostly bound for north Bengal — in the next 24 hours, said Alokendu Sen, additional general manager, Eastern Railway. Sen said additional personnel had been deployed to expedite restoration work.

He said the tickets will be refunded to passengers affected by the cancellations. Some 2,500 passengers had been refunded Rs 3.5 lakh from booking counters at Sealdah till 2 pm on Tuesday.

Director of Alipore met office R.N. Goldar warned of moderate rain with one or two heavy showers over the next 24 hours. He said the low pressure will continue for a few more days. According to him, 68 mm rainfall was recorded in Calcutta between 8.30 am on Monday and 2.30 pm on Tuesday. During the same period, 80 mm rainfall was recorded in Dum Dum and 111 mm in Canning.

There was complete chaos at Sealdah and Howrah as office-goers remained stranded for hours. Many vendors who carry vegetables and fish were also hit. Vegetable and fish markets in the city may well be affected from Wednesday due to the disruption in train services.

A passenger who fell ill at Platform VI of Howrah, said he and his three children would have to spend the night at the station.

Aditya Neogi, who came from Bongaon to catch the Gour Express, suffered a similar fate at Sealdah. “I have to go to Malda to visit my ailing mother,” he said.

Dislocation in suburban services was caused by a landslide, snapping of overhead wires, lightning and uprooting of trees on the railway track, said divisional railway manager of Sealdah division, S.R.Thakur.    


 
 
BREAKTHROUGH IN REGENT PARK CASE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept.19: 
Police claimed a breakthrough in the Regent Park robbery case by arresting a labourer, Naren Manna. He has been accused of plotting the break-in at the Battacharya home on Monday and remanded to police custody.

Investigating officers said they had detained three persons immediately after the incident. They confessed that Manna and a few of his colleagues working in the next house broke into Amar Bhattacharya’s residence and stole cash and valuables.

The robbery caused a flutter in police circles as it was just two houses away from bank manager Achintya Majumdar’s residence, where 16 criminals had broken in and killed his wife on September 11. They had also looted some money and jewellery. The police had subsequently arrested the alleged mastermind of the dacoity.

According to deputy superintendent of police, town, Subhankar Chatterjee, Manna and five others had arrived in the city from Midnapur to work in a house beside the Bhattacharya’s. They had been keeping a close watch on the house, awaiting an opportunity to pull off a heist.

“Amar Bhattacharya told investigating officers that he suspected the involvement of the next-door labourers in the robbery,’’ Chandan Neogi, officer-in-charge of Regent Park police station said. “It would not have been possible for anybody else to know that they had left the house for 45 minutes on Monday,’’ Neogi added.

Investigations revealed that the miscreants had entered the house through the back door which was weak and gave way at the slightest push. “We are sure to recover the cash and wristwatch which the miscreants had stolen,’’ Neogi said.    


 
 
STUDENTS VETO MANUAL MARKSHEET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept.19: 
Bowing to student pressure, Calcutta University is planning to revise the century-old tradition of issuing handwritten marksheets. Post-graduates seeking jobs outside Bengal are increasingly being asked to produce computerised marksheets as most universities in other states have done away with pen-and-ink marksheets.

Calcutta University had done away with handwritten marksheets at the under-graduate level from the Eighties. The state secondary and higher secondary boards have also been using computers for the past few years.

Sources said the cost factor is impeding computerisation. Calcutta University conducts more than 750 post-graduate and under-graduate exams through the year. Manual marksheets are issued to students of all post-graduate courses in science, arts, commerce, technology and medicine. At present, the university has to spend Rs 15,000 to 18,000 a year to prepare the marksheets of nearly 25,000 examinees. At least 25 tabulators are engaged for this.

The authorities are now under pressure from the university’s students’ union, which is dominated by Students Federation of India (SFI), youth wing of the CPM.

“Many post-graduate students are harassed when they submit the hand-written marksheets to prospective employers,” said Bijon Biswas, general secretary of the students’ union. “In some cases, many candidates have been rejected on this ground. There are some companies which take the trouble to contact the university and cross-check the marksheet. But in most cases, the employers either refuse to accept the marksheet or demand a special attestation from the university.”

The SFI has decided to launch an “indefinite movement” till the present system is abolished. The students have submitted memoranda to vice-chancellor Ashish Banerjee and controller of examinations Onkar Sadhan Adhikari.

Bowing to student pressure, the syndicate body, the university’s highest policy-making unit, has decided to set up a committee to study the demand for computerised marksheets.

Adhikari said the committee was working out measures to change the system. “We are trying to use better-quality paper for preparing the marksheets right from this year,” the controller of examinations said. But he admitted that it would “take some time” for the university to start issuing computerised marksheets at the post-graduate level.    


 
 
WOMEN TAKE UP CUDGELS FOR CAUR 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Sept.19: 
Members of the Nari Adhikar Raksha Samannay Samity on Tuesday demonstrated at Kalighat temple against the “harassment” suffered by artist Arpana Caur on Saturday. Caur, in the city for an exhibition, claimed she was manhandled by some pandas for refusing to pay Rs 201 for a darshan.

The organisation’s members said on Tuesday they would urge chief minister Jyoti Basu and home (police) minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya for action in the matter. A large number of women, holding placards, assembled on the temple premises and demonstrated for nearly an hour.

They demanded that members of temple trust identify the pandas involved in the assault and initiate appropriate action against them.

“We will not allow the pandas to harass innocent devotees in this way. Caur was assaulted even after if she had disclosed her identity. Imagine what kind of harassment ordinary women have to experience when they visit the temple ,” said Sushmita Choudhury, national coordinator of the organisation.

The agitators demanded immediate steps for proper security of devotees.

Arun Mukherjee, secretary of Kalighat Temple Committee, admitted on Tuesday that pandas were becoming a bit too aggressive. “I must talk to other members of the committee to work out a strategy on how to tackle the pandas in and around the Kali temple,” he added.    


 
 
RED TAPE TRIPS GERMAN ART SHOW 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, Sept.19: 
Anselm Kiefer, the leading creative artist of Germany, enjoys a close bond with Calcutta. He’s been here twice and could well come visiting again. But his priceless montage, bearing a tag of DM 5 million, might not make it to one of the premier art galleries in the city due to bureaucratic cussedness.

In fact, one of the showpieces of the forthcoming German Festival in India, ‘Contemporary German Art’, an exhibition meant to give a comprehensive overview of modern German art, could well give the city a miss.

The show, scheduled to hit Calcutta between December 4, 2000, and January 3, 2001, will travel to Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore.

“Due to some prejudices of individual officials in the department of culture, New Delhi, the issue of collaboration with private organisations has been questioned or even vetoed. We are very disappointed,” said Ingrid-Maria Keimel-Metz, director, Max Mueller Bhavan, Calcutta.

“There looms the danger of the German curator withdrawing the exhibition from Calcutta under such conditions,” she added.

Keimel-Metz was referring to the controversial decision to deny CIMA, one of the best-equipped art galleries in the city, the right to host the exhibition.

Curator Christoph Vitali made reconnaissance trips to Calcutta in November last year and chose CIMA Gallery and Birla Academy as the only two which met the requirements for a show of this magnitude.

While the department of culture has given Birla Academy the go-ahead, it has slammed the doors on CIMA, for no apparent reason.

“We had kept December-January free after the German government selected CIMA as a venue for the exhibition,” said Pratiti Sarkar, who is all the more surprised as the Union government hasn’t raised any objection to the gallery hosting similar shows earlier.

This would have been a hat-trick of sorts for CIMA, which had hosted two major German art exhibitions — The Art of Weimer Period and works of Otto Dix. “We had also taken an art show to Singapore in association with the Government of India,” she added.

“Restricting the show to one venue would lead to a truncated exhibition or result in a haphazard over-congested display, depriving artists and art-lovers alike,” observed Keimel-Metz.

“This was a rare opportunity for Calcuttans to savour the best of German contemporary art, as not often do we get to see Kiefer and Georg Baselitz in our backyard,” said Ganesh Pyne. “If the exhibition is finally not held in its original form, connoisseurs as well as students of art will be deprived.”    


 
 
A CELEBRATION OF CALCUTTA 
 
 
BY SEBANTI SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Sept.19: 
“We celebrated my son Llewelyn’s first birthday in Calcutta. It was here that he began to walk. And the first words he uttered were ‘chai chai’, on a train from Calcutta to Burdwan,” said Joe Roberts, author of Abdul’s Taxi to Kalighat. Three years back, Joe had spent five months with his family at Lake Gardens. The result was Abdul’s Taxi..., dubbed ‘an exceptional travel book’ at its release in 1999.

Now he is back in Calcutta, catching up with old friends, making new ones.

The Oberoi Grand seized the occasion for a charming book-reading session on Tuesday evening. Where Joe Roberts, who hails from Bath, recreated life on Sudder Street — schoolchildren rehearsing for Independence Day, knife-grinders, locksmiths, cotton fluffers and nocturnal piedogs.

Coming after Three Quarters of a Footprint, based on south India, Abdul’s Taxi... has a rare sincerity. It is “a celebration of everything that makes up Calcutta.” His enthusiasm for the city began many years back with Raghu Rai photographs, Ray’s films and, finally, Amit Chaudhuri’s A Strange and Sublime Address. The experience of the stay took 15 months to crystallise into a story, which was a session of “learning about Bengal”.

On his return, Joe has rediscovered Abdul — “He has a new taxi.” The shopkeepers and neighbours of Sudder Street have asked about his family. But Joe is saddened by “this increasing identification with America... I want Bengalis to remain very proudly Bengali.”    


 
 
FISH SCARCE IN MANIPUR MARKETS, PRICES SOAR 
 
 
FROM A CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Sept. 19: 
Availability of fishes like carp and other varieties in local markets here has been lean, contrary to official figures which show a high rate of fish production in the state.

This has resulted in prices of fish skyrocketing here. The common carp, for example, was being sold between Rs 80 to 85 a kilo. The current shortage of fish has been attributed to a dwindling in the number of fishermen, most of whom are now engaged in paddy fields for seasonal cultivation.

Moreover, the widespread killing of fingerlings of local fish varieties during breeding season (July to September) has added to the crisis.

Despite recent restrictions imposed by the state fisheries department on trading in fingerlings, these are being openly sold at markets throughout the state. Fishermen, especially in the Imphal markets, have sold fingerlings of lata fish, mirgal, silver and grass carp, including some endangered species, at a much cheaper rate during the breeding season.

The state fisheries department failed to take necessary steps against the errant fishmongers as per rules of the Fisheries Rule Act, 1998. According to the Act, those violating the rules vis-à-vis fish trade face at least one-year jail term with a fine up to Rs 5,000 or both. As a result of these lapses, people in Manipur are having to buy fish at a much higher price this year.

As per official records, the state requires nearly 20,000 metric tonnes of fish annually, calculated on the basis of 200 gram of fish per head per day for 100 days in a year. Only 15,506 metric tonnes of fish were available last year, because of which large quantities had to be bought from other states like West Bengal to meet the high demands.

According to official figures, there are 131 species of fishes in the state. Of these, 17 species have been labelled “endemic fishes”.

The fisheries department had taken up programmes to increase production of endemic fishes like Pengba and Ngaton. But due to lack of funds, not much could be done in this regard.

The fisheries department is yet to expedite the Rs 4-crore Pengba Project at Haotakpat in Bishnupur district to save the endangered species. The entry of major carps in the late Sixties has swamped out the indigenous fishes. These include the Tortor (Nungba), Wallangoatter (Sareng) and Labeodero (Khabak).    


 
 
ORISSA TAXPAYERS DEMAND NEW OFFICE 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Sept. 19: 
The people as well as the employees of the income tax department in the southern districts of Orissa have demanded the opening of an office of the commissioner of income tax (appeals) and commissioner of income tax (administration) in Berhampur.

The Income Tax Employees Federation, Berhampur, in a press note released here today, said due to lack of these offices in the south zone of the state, taxpayers were facing many difficulties.

Berhampur happens to be a major trading centre of the state. The southern zone of the income tax department comprises 10 districts: Ganjam, Gajapati, Nowrangpur, Rayagada, Koraput, Malkangiri, Kalahandi, Boudh, Nuapada and Kandhamal. The Federation of Income Tax Employees here said over the years the number of taxpayers in this region have increased manifold. They said it was unfortunate that this entire zone is under the supervision of a single additional commissioner of income tax for administration. As a result of this, taxpayers of this zone need to go to all the way to Bhubaneswar to make appeals regarding their payments.

According to the federation, there is no problem in creating a post of commissioner of income tax (administration) here as the Union government recently created a new post of commissioner of income tax (administration) at Sambalpur in the western zone.

Various citizens’ fora of south Orissa have been mentioning this problem before the authorities from time to time. Local MP Anadi Sahu and MLA Ramesh Chandra Chyau Patnaik have also written to the Union finance minister to create the posts of commissioners for appeal and administration in Berhampur.    


 
 
TRIPURA TOLL RISES 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Sept. 19: 
The death toll in yesterday’s ethnic clashes under Kalyanpur police station in West Tripura district rose to four after the death of one of the five injured persons in the G. B. Hospital here today.

Hriday Debbarma, who was severely beaten up by a non-tribal mob, succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The situation in Kalyanpur police station area is tense but under control, sources said.

In another incident yesterday, Harendra Debbarma, an Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura worker, was shot dead by All-Tripura Tiger Force militants in Champahaor under Khowai police station. Police sources said ATTF militants, camping in the jungle near Nabanjaypara village, called Debbarma out of his home at 1pm yesterday.

When he failed to return after two hours, Debbarma’s relatives searched the area and discovered his bullet-riddled body.

Kalyanpur legislator Kajal Das said the situation is tense in Rajani Sardarpara, Kunjamura, Bagber and other adjoining villages under Kalyanpur police station. He demanded deployment of additional forces in these villages to tackle the situation.    


 
 
INDUSTRY TOPS JHARKHAND LEADERS’ LIST 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Ranchi, Sept. 19: 
All the three contenders to the Jharkhand chief minister’s post have assured Tata Steel chairman-cum-managing director and Bihar industrial commission chief J.J. Irani that development of industry and infrastructure would top their list of priorities.

Though Irani refrained from naming the candidates, he said their response was “encouraging.’’

The three names that are doing the rounds are those of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren, BJP MP Karia Munda and Union minister of state for forest Babulal Marandi.

Addressing newspersons here today during a short break after the commission meeting, Irani said the “rigid’’ stance of those in power and the deteriorating law and order situation in Bihar were keeping investors at bay.

Irani added that though there were “some excellent bureaucrats in Bihar, most of them were in the habit of delaying vital processes for indefinite periods, thus draining money and wasting time.’’

However, Irani admitted that the dismal law and order situation in Bihar and Jharkhand had been “blown out of proportion.” According to him, the state “required a better public image.’’

Irani added that a faculty member of Xavier’s Labour Relation Institute (XLRI), Jamshedpur, S. Sarin has been appointed to make an in-depth study of the reasons why entrepreneurs from outside the state are not keen on investing in Bihar.

Referring to the creation of the new Jharkhand state, Irani warned that enthusiasm should not be allowed to get better of judgment as “the powers-that-be have been given an opportunity to redeem all that has been lost over the decades.”

The Tata Steel chief, however, predicted “immense potential particularly in fields of agriculture, agro-based industries, food processing and tourism” for the rest of Bihar.

He said the commission would submit detailed reports on the “opportunities and areas to expedite industrial growth both in Jharkhand and Bihar.”

He added that the commission was likely to submit its report by February 2001. He said though the commission was only vested with powers to advice, it would offer itself as a “valuable partner in implementing recommendations.”

To make the recommendations effective, the commission has asked the Bihar government to renew its industrial policy for another year so that the commission recommendations can be drafted into new a industrial policy for “overall development.”

Jharkhand Cong plea: The Jharkhand Youth Congress today urged the party high command to spell out its role in building the new state so that it could formulate its policy and programmes accordingly, reports UNI.

The Jharkhand Vikas Party adopted its constitution at the two-day annual convention which began here yesterday. The convention elected its 15-member central committee which in turn elects the president and the 20-member central executive.

Akash missile test-fired

India’s most sophisticated surface-to-air missile “Akash” was successfully test-fired from the interim test range at Chandipur in Orissa today, reports PTI.

Official sources said the missile, with a range of 25 km, was targeted at an Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV). Akash had earlier been successfully test-fired from this range on July 8. Defence Research Development Organisation scientists were present.    

 

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