Varsity scraps summer break
Crime-link tag for 16 CPM men
E-biz recipe for brain drain U-turn
Hawking and parking banned off Chaplin Square
Road wash at dawn revived
Gang of 12 busted in Howrah
US national held for fraud
Aid offer for Jharkhand
Rebel killed in Tripura encounter
Manipur outfit clamps rice ban

 
 
VARSITY SCRAPS SUMMER BREAK 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
Everybody has a summer holiday...” When (Sir) Cliff Richard crooned the line to hook a whole generation and more, he sure hadn’t contended with the fact that the holiday list of teachers at Calcutta University stretches over half-a-year.

But there’ll be no more ‘going on a summer holiday’ for students and teachers attached to 223-odd colleges, more than five lakh students and nearly 8,000 teachers, under Calcutta University.

The university has decided to scrap its month-long summer vacation from the next academic session and replace it with — examinations.

Under-graduate examinations for all streams will be conducted in May and June, the summer holiday months, from 2001. The move follows a directive from the University Grants Commission (UGC) asking the state government to make 180 days of classes in a year “compulsory” for college teachers.

“We are left with no option but to sacrifice the summer vacation. This is a must to ensure 180 working days for college teachers,” said Sikha Sengupta, a CU syndicate member and key functionary of the CPM-dominated West Bengal College and University Teacher’s Association (WBCUTA).

A similar directive has been sent to Jadavpur University and Rabindra Bharati University. But the government is keen that Calcutta University implement the diktat first, as the largest number of under-graduate colleges falls under its purview and depend on the UGC for major grants.

The CU proposal to reschedule exams was taken by members of the syndicate and senate, two major policy-making bodies of the university. It has now been sent to Governor Viren J. Shah, the chancellor of the university, for final approval.

At present, all major under-graduate exams, like B.A., B.Sc. and B.Com (Part I and Part II) are held in April-July. During exams, classes are suspended, resulting in a significant loss of “teaching days”.

Arnab Roy, another syndicate member, said students will “definitely benefit” if they get more classes in under the revised examination schedule.

The move has, however, been opposed by administrative staff of the university, as well as a section of students. Staff of the controller of examination department will probably be the worst hit. Officials of the department said they were already short-staffed and the proposed schedule would make things unmanageable.

More than 8-lakh answerscripts pile up after the BA and B.Sc honours exams alone. If all under-graduate examinations are slotted for the summer months, “the workload will increase tremendously”, said an assistant controller of examination.

Students have already started voicing apprehension over the revised system. “We will not be able to prepare properly for the exams in peak summer, especially if there is loadshedding,” complained Moumita Banerjee, first-year student of Lady Brabourne College.

There is also growing concern over the fact that the new system will further delay publication of Part II results, jeopardising plans of students seeking admission for post-graduate courses in other states, and abroad.

“Though the exams are spread over three months, the results are not published till early-August. So, every year, it’s touch-and-go for students applying to universities where the MA./M.SC session starts by August. Now, if all exams are held in May-June, there’s no saying when the results will finally come out,” observed a final-year student of St Xavier’s College.    


 
 
CRIME-LINK TAG FOR 16 CPM MEN 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
In the first step towards launching a drive against growing criminalisation within the party, the CPM leadership has identified 16 office-bearers of the Dhapa local committee who have “close links” with goons in the area.

This was revealed during an internal survey carried out by the party after the murder of CPM Dhapa branch committee secretary Kalipada Kazi on Tuesday.

The survey has concluded that criminal activities in the Dhapa-Tiljala belt are carried out in connivance with local CPM leaders.

Amal Majumdar, secretary of the Jadavpur zonal committee, which controls Dhapa and seven other local units, said all 16 “errant” party members, including secretary Sannyasi Dolui, have been asked to dissociate themselves from “anti-social activities immediately”.

Kalipada Kazi’s body was found in the waters of a bheri early on Wednesday morning. The killing is said to be a sequel to the death of Netai Mondal, a CPM-backed crimelord in the Dhapa area, on Monday night.

The probe revealed that local goons, patronised by CPM office-bearers, have been responsible for some of the major crime acts in the area in recent years. This includes the murder of Gangadhar Bhattacharya, officer-in-charge of Tiljala police station, in 1983, and the killing of Kasba local committee secretary Gurupada Bagchi in January this year.

Majumdar, who is also CPM councillor of ward 108, said the Dhapa local unit could not disown responsibility for criminal activities in the area when it was aware that a notorious criminal like Netai Mondal was manufacturing illegal arms in a makeshift factory of the area.

“We did not heed party leaders hobnobbing with criminals of the area,” admitted Majumdar.

He also said a large number of criminals have infiltrated the organisation in the Dhapa-Mathpukur-Bantala belt over the last few years.

But Basudev Biswas, a member of the Dhapa local committee and one of Dolui’s close associates, denied Majumdar’s allegation. “It is incorrect to say that all of us have links with criminals,” he said.

Kanti Ganguly, leader of the Opposition in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation and secretariat member of CPM’s South 24-Parganas district committee, said partymen having links with criminals have to be “thrown out of the organisation at once”.

“Otherwise, this will give a handle to the Opposition to step up campaign against us, with the Assembly elections round the corner,” added Samir Putatunda, South 24-Parganas district secretary.    


 
 
E-BIZ RECIPE FOR BRAIN DRAIN U-TURN 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
There are, they say, two ways to check the most dreaded drain of all — brain drain.

First, transforming the Indian Institutes of Technology into swadeshi stables and making them “Indo-centric”. Second, creating an environment that gives the best young brains the right reason to stay back and do their bit in and for the country.

While the government is all set to adopt the first path, a technocrat from Calcutta is making rapid strides down the second. Meet Amitava Maulik, in his late-30s, heading the entire South Pacific operations of the US-based $ 43-million eForce Inc, from Calcutta. “I want to make a few impossible things possible from this part of the world,” says the senior director of eForce. “We could have set up shop anywhere in the country, but the abundance of talent and superior quality brought us here.”

The Salt Lake-based outfit is an “e-business service company”, with the focus “on the higher end of the value chain”. The team of 40 at eForce comprises around 28 technocrats from Calcutta, who’ve earned their spurs at IIT, Indian Institute of Sciences and Jadavpur University.

“Today, we even have engineers in eForce who have returned from US and are happy working with us. And we haven’t lost a single employee in the last 8 to 10 months,” declares Maulik, an IIT Kharagpur product with a doctorate in computer engineering from the US. According to Moulik, “this is the strength” of eForce. “Although our company is very young, we will try hard to maintain the standards so that the brain drain can be stemmed to some extent and the process of reverse brain drain can be accelerated.”

Moulik started his professional career in 1992 and worked on a few research projects with professors at MIT. Then, he shifted to I-Kinetics, where he was working on Java Database Connectivity.

“Coming back to India was always on the top of my priority list and in early 1998, I decided to bid goodbye to the US and settle permanently in India,” recounts Moulik, who never applied for a green card during the 14 years he spent in the US.

On his instance, I-Kinetics Inc agreed to open up an office in Calcutta. “My aim was to bring together a team of technocrats in Calcutta who would work on the next generation of software products,” explains the man from Siliguri. A team of three, Moulik and two engineers, started of I-Kinetic’s India operations from a small rented room in CJ block of Salt Lake in October 1998.

In June this year, I-Kinetics was merged with US-based eForce Inc, which has a strong global presence with 10 offices around the globe. But success, in true Calcutta style, came slowly. “Initially, we approached the government departments for the basic facilities. But lack of action and support from the nodal agencies prompted us to fend for ourselves,” smiles Moulik. EForce, strictly serving global clients, has now moved into a plush 10,000 sq ft office in Infinity building. “We don’t have any immediate plans to serve Indian clients, as their requirements are not technically challenging enough,” signs off Moulik, who feels it’ll take some time for the Indian market to mature.    


 
 
HAWKING AND PARKING BANNED OFF CHAPLIN SQUARE 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
Corporation Place, the stretch of road in front of the headquarters of Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) near New Market, will be soon out of bounds for all vehicles and hawkers.

To induce better work culture and reduce noise levels, the CMC has decided to declare the area around Chaplin Square a no-parking zone for public vehicles and also ban meetings and rallies on the spot.

The CMC will not permit even its own employees to hold any rally anywhere on the road.

However, CMC vehicles will not be barred from parking along the stretch.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said Corporation Place will be fenced off with chains and hawking will be prohibited anywhere along the roads lining it. At present, the entire stretch has been taken over by hawkers, causing inconvenience to the CMC staff, Mukherjee said.

“The stretch is getting more and more crowded, increasing the noise levels around the CMC office. The decibel level has to be reduced for improving work culture,” the mayor feels.

The Corporation also plans to impose Section 144 permanently on the area, as is in practice on the road in front Writers’ Buildings.

Unauthorised parking of vehicles, blocking the entry points of the CMC headquarters, caused immense problems to civic officials and employees, the mayor said.

Kali Puja monitor panels:

Calcutta Police is asking all police stations to constitute ‘samanyay committees’ with representatives of local clubs to ensure peace during Kali Puja. The committees will keep a vigil so that no fire cracker above 90 decibels is burst during the festival.    

 
 
ROAD WASH AT DAWN REVIVED 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
Ask an old-timer what he misses most about the Calcutta that was and chances are he’ll mention the endearing sight, and smell, of streets being washed at daybreak.

Come Saturday morning, and parts of Calcutta will wake up to the welcome rumble of road-washing vehicles. After a long, long gap, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) has decided to start washing city streets starting this weekend.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the clean-up will begin in front of the CMC headquarters bordering Chaplin Square at 8.30 am. It will be carried out at 12 spots: Chaplin Square, Raj Bhavan, Victoria House, opposite Oberoi Grand, Victoria Memorial, Akashvani Bhavan, Rani Rashmoni’s statue, Esplanade East, S.N. Banerjee Road, Chowringhee Road and Birla Planetarium.

“We will later move to north and south Calcutta in phases,” the mayor added. The CMC had attempted to reintroduce the washing of roads during British Prime Minister John Major’s visit to the city in 1997. But the idea had to be shelved due to non-availability of unfiltered water and low pressure in the hydrants.

“Unlike earlier, when river water, hydrants and hosepipes were used, we will now use street-washing vehicles with reservoirs containing filtered water,” said Mala Ray, member, mayor-in-council in charge of drainage. But the roads will be washed only once. Earlier they were washed in the mornings and evenings.

Ray said three vehicles, costing Rs 8 to 10 lakh each, will be deployed in the first phase. The CMC has six street-washers at present. One of them is ‘out of order’, and the other two will be kept on hold for “an emergency”.    


 
 
GANG OF 12 BUSTED IN HOWRAH 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
A gang of 12 criminals was rounded up from different places in Howrah on Friday. Police said the dozen were a breakaway group of a gang of extortionists in Behala.

Two cellphones, credit cards, nine revolvers, 11 rounds of ammunition and a motorcycle with some false number plates were also seized. Police said the gang’s members would operate in different areas in Howrah and Hooghly.

Howrah’s superintendent of police, Surajit Kar Purakayastha, said several businessmen had complained of being threatened over the phone by the gang and asked to hand over large amounts of money. A special cell was formed around mid-September to detect and round up the gang.

“We cracked one of their mobile phone numbers and that was the clue that led to their arrest,” said Kar Purakayastha.

The police said the gang was involved in a number of cases, including the murder of a rival group member, Uttam Samanta, last month. The leader of the gang, Manik Bhattacharya, was in regular touch with his counterparts in Behala, to work out strategies and modus operandi.

Police said the gang would rob people by stopping motorcycles and lorries on different roads in Howrah, especially late at night. They were also involved in a number of dacoities.

The gang took to extortion after murdering rival Uttam Samanta, who controlled their area of operations.    


 
 
US NATIONAL HELD FOR FRAUD 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 13: 
A US citizen, Villigram Marcus, was arrested in Jalandhar on Friday on charges of cheating a leather exporter of Rs 22 lakh.

Sleuths of Calcutta Police are escorting the Los Angeles-based businessman to New Delhi. They will leave the Capital for the city on Saturday.

As news of the arrest spread, the US Embassy vice-consul, Catherine M. Perez, and the consul-general of the Delhi wing, John R. Nay, met the detective chief, Narayan Ghosh, on Friday evening to seek details of the case.

Police said the leather exporter, Amlan Bhowmik, of Chawl Patti Road in Beleghata, moved Sealdah court against Marcus on September 25. Bhowmik said he had supplied leather sheets worth Rs 22 lakh to Marcus, who owns Ms Lords Leather Ltd, in Los Angeles, in October, 1998. But the amount has remained unpaid. Another businessman in Delhi has charged Marcus with cheating him of more than Rs 1 crore.    


 
 
AID OFFER FOR JHARKHAND 
 
 
FROM TAPAS CHAKRABORTY
 
Ranchi, Oct. 13: 
Jharkhand state, which is to be born out of 18 Bihar districts and come into existence from November 1, has attracted domestic investors already. Now it has drawn Japanese attention.

Yasumasa Nagamine, Japanese minister for economics, yesterday announced Japan’s readiness to offer assistance to private units here and consider offering financial aid to NGOs working in the development sector.

Nagamine was here to attend a national seminar organised by the Centre for Sustainable Development, Jharkhand, at the Indian Institute of Coal Management, Kanke. The seminar, attended by entrepreneurs and representatives of industry majors, was aimed at chalking out development strategies for the new state.

Nagamine said Indo-Japan bilateral partnership has been on a high despite the setback in trade relations due to Pokhran II. “However, India and Japan are still eager to have joint partnerships on projects aimed at catering to basic human needs, and towards this the embargo over nuclear proliferation would not stand in the way,” he added.

Japan is eager to “offer help on concrete projects aiming to take care of the human miseries in Jharkhand”, he said.

Politicians and industrialists at the seminar called for a development perspective for governance of the region and not a solely political agenda which had overweighed plan models in the past. Industrialists have described the region as “the Ruhr of India”.

Nagamine said Japan was already collaborating on projects in the region. He said the Japanese ambassador to India attended the inauguration of a coal rolling mill at the Tisco. The two countries would look forward to more such partnerships, specially in regions like Jharkhand which are rich in mineral resources, he said.    


 
 
REBEL KILLED IN TRIPURA ENCOUNTER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Oct. 13: 
A hardcore National Liberation Front of Tripura militant was killed and another arrested in a major encounter with security forces early today.

Police sources said CRPF jawans of the 2nd Battalion and a platoon of the special operation group attached to the Gandacherra police station in Dhalai district raided the Rabonpara area. As soon as the jawans were spotted by the NLFT militants perched atop a nearby elevated land, they opened fire. The jawans retaliated and the encounter continued for nearly 45 minutes before the rebels fled across the border to Bangladesh.

After the skirmish, the troops found one militant lying in a pool of blood and arrested another injured rebel in a serious condition. The jawans also recovered the NLFT’s olive-green fatigues, empty cartridges of the AK series rifles and a few incriminating documents.

CRPF deputy superintendent of police Maj. Meena said the slain and nabbed militants were yet to be identified. Official sources here expressed grave concern over reports of two Reang militant outfits that have “emerged to carry out simultaneous operations” in Mizoram and Tripura.

There are reports that the newly-formed Reang outfits have been able to establish close links with the powerful National Socialist Council of Nagalim, and have been assured of assistance in the form of “arms and ammunition”. The NSCN, which extended help to the NLFT is reportedly “deeply peeved” with the Tripura outfit over “corrupt practices of its members and mindless violence perpetrated on unarmed civilians”.

The NLFT has been interfering with the religious faiths and practices of people, which is strictly prohibited by the NSCN. Sources said measures were being taken to prevent escalation of any major clash between rival rebel outfits and its spill-over among the tribal people divided into a number of clans.    


 
 
MANIPUR OUTFIT CLAMPS RICE BAN 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Imphal, Oct. 13: 
The proscribed Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) has banned the sale of under-relapse specification (URS) rice in Manipur. Terming the rice unfit for human consumption, the militant outfit has asked the Food Corporation of India (FCI) to stop bringing in this particular type of rice in the state.

The RPF’s assistant chief of finance K. Naba Mangang said the ban on URS rice was imposed in the last week of September.

He said the RPF had directed the FCI offices located at Shillong, Guwahati and Dimapur in July, 1999 not to send URS rice to Manipur.

Mangang alleged that the FCI was still continuing to bring in URS rice to Manipur till September this year despite the outfit’s earlier directives.

The RPF further alleged that the Union government was intentionally sending low quality rice to the region.

The outfit said good quality rice allotted to Manipur was being sold at Dimapur, Lumding and Silchar by certain officials in collusion with non-Manipuri businessmen.

The RPF said it would now punish the businessmen if they are found selling URS rice in the state. It has warned the concerned state government departments and rise agents against bringing in URS rice.

The RPF said it would now look into public complaints on the non-availability of rice, sugar and kerosene through the public distribution system.

It has asked concerned departments and PDS agents to ensure that these items reached public in time.    

 

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