Wait until power: Mamata
Bypass from Bally Bridge to airport
Power cut hits train services at Howrah
Year’s new but dhanda’s manda
Cops, firemen on full alert for peace on Kali Puja
Rabindra Bharati to shift 5 sections
Post-graduate courses in select colleges
CU syndicate divided on repeal of dismissal
Winds of change in Madhyamik maths syllabus
Howrah station gets musical fountain

 
 
WAIT UNTIL POWER: MAMATA 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
After having put the skids under mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s hawker eviction drive, Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday that she would address the issue only after a new government took office in Writers’ Buildings next year.

Railway minister Mamata said she, like partyman Mukherjee, was concerned with Calcutta’s development, but would like to take up the issue of hawker eviction and rehabilitation “at an appropriate time”.

“We will have to sit together to solve the problem for Calcutta’s development. But the new government is coming soon, so let’s wait till then,” Mamata said, on returning from her tour of flood-affected areas on the Sealdah-Bongaon section of the Eastern Railway.

But Mukherjee said the CMC had not gone back on its promise of keeping city pavements hawker-free. He hoped that a solution would be reached on Thursday afternoon during his meeting with Mamata.

In another development on Wednesday, groups of hawkers carrying Congress labour arm Intuc’s banner swamped platforms on different sections, including Howrah-Uluberia, Sealdah-Baruipur and Howrah-Bandel, of Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway.

Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, also president of the state Intuc, however, distanced himself from the agitation. “I have heard that something like that has happened, but I have no direct knowledge of it,” he said. The Intuc hawkers streamed into railway platforms from where they had been evicted a few weeks ago following the railway minister’s pledge to keep platforms free from vendors.

After urban development minister Ashok Bhattacharya blasted Mamata on Tuesday for “interfering” in the hawkers’ issue, deputy chief minister Buddhadev Bhattacharya and transport minister Subhas Chakraborty on Wednesday backed the mayor for his efforts to keep “at least a part of the metropolis free from hawkers”.

Bhattacharya said the state government would not budge from its stand to keep 21 major thoroughfares hawker-free. “I was amazed when the mayor backtracked even after contacting me and getting our assurance of full cooperation,” he said. “The government will keep the streets hawker-free with the help of the CMC,” he added.

Chakraborty, the prime force behind the controversial Operation Sunshine to evict hawkers from 21 major roads four years ago, announced that he was even ready to assist Mukherjee to keep city pavements free of hawkers.

“There is no point in spending public money for rehabilitating hawkers. The city pavements are constructed with tax-payers’ money and for them to walk freely on,” said Chakraborty.

“We know how much money is being collected from hawkers every month in the name of protecting their trade interests,” said the minister

A number of mayor-in-council members alleged that a large number of the hawkers on Chowringhee were gang members of Rashid Khan, prime accused in the Bowbazar blast case.    


 
 
BYPASS FROM BALLY BRIDGE TO AIRPORT 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
B.T. Road might soon not be the nightmare for motorists that it is today. To ease traffic congestion in north Calcutta, the government has decided to construct an 8.6-km bypass, connecting B.T. Road at Bally Bridge approach with Jessore Road at Birati, near the airport.

“The Rs 120-crore Belghoria Expressway has been approved by the Centre and will be funded by it. The bypass will connect National Highways 2 and 34,” said PWD minister Kshiti Goswami on Wednesday. Work is expected to begin in December and get over by 2003.

The expressway will start from the Dakshineswar side of Bally Bridge and the proposed Vivekananda Bridge adjacent to it, which will be constructed by the US firm Carter Burgess.

It will then go via Belghoria, Bandra, Dakshin Nimta, Sultanpur and Durganagar to meet Jessore Road at Birati, close to the city airport.

Now, trucks and lorries laden with goods arriving from Burdwan and Asansol, via Delhi Road, and bound for north Bengal and Bangladesh have to take Jessore Road via Shyambazar, in north Calcutta.

This leads to congestion on B.T. Road, Shyambazar and Belgachhia and on the stretch of Jessore Road between Belgachhia railway bridge and the crossing of VIP Road and Jessore Road at Gate No. 1.

“The new Belghoria Expressway will serve as a east-west corridor for trucks and lorries bound for Bangladesh and north Bengal districts. People approaching Calcutta from the northern suburbs now find it extremely difficult to enter the city, as B.T. Road is transformed into a truck terminal,” said Goswami.

As a result of continuous movement of trucks and lorries along B.T. Road, it has become very difficult for the PWD to maintain it. “The road is in a perpetual state of disrepair,” said an official.

So, B.T. Road today is almost invariably potholed and poses a serious problem for drivers.

“It’s a veritable deathtrap. We have been repeatedly urged by the police to repair the road to minimise road accidents. But we are helpless. Whatever patchwork we do during winter gets washed away in the monsoon under the load of heavy trucks on B.T. Road,” a PWD official said.

According to Goswami, the proposed Belghoria Expressway project will also make it easier and swifter for people from the northern fringes of Calcutta to reach the airport. “It will take far less time for someone headed for the airport from, say, Dakshineswar or Dankuni. They can take the expressway straight to Birati,” he added.

At present, anyone driving to the airport from the northern fringes of city either has to pass through Shyambazar or Dum Dum Road.

The project was initially proposed nearly 20 years ago but could not be implemented due to land acquisition problems. It was abandoned as the 145 families in the mouzas of Bandra, Dakshin Nimta, Sultanpur and Durganagar resisted the acquisition.

However, the state government persuaded them to agree to give up their land and be rehabilitated elsewhere. Already, 69 families have been rehabilitated and the cases of the remaining 76 are being processed.

The expressway will be seven metres wide, with a 2.5-metre earthen flank on either side. As the road will have to cross railway tracks at two points, two flyovers will have to be built.

“The cost to build the road has been worked out at an estimated Rs 15 crore per km. We have received assurances from the Centre about the funds. But we have to complete the expressway by 2003, as per our agreement,” said the PWD minister.

Mishap fury: Trouble erupted on Ultadanga Main Road after a 35-year-old woman was run over by a private bus. Namita Das, 35, was knocked down while crossing Ultadanga Main Road. Soon after the accident, residents of a nearby slum set the bus on fire. Ten people were arrested after a lathicharge and tear gas failed to control the mob.    


 
 
POWER CUT HITS TRAIN SERVICES AT HOWRAH 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
Train services were hit hard on Wednesday morning. For nearly two hours from 11.15 am, the Howrah-Burdwan Main section was paralysed following disruption in overhead power supply.

The situation was further compounded by the snapping of an overhead power-distribution line at Rishra station. As a result, the local train schedule went haywire and long-distance trains like Doon Express, Mithila Express and Bagh Express were held up at Serampore and other stations.

Thousands of commuters to Calcutta from Howrah, Hooghly and neighbouring districts, were left stranded at various stations.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee reviewed the situation in Calcutta and the districts on Wednesday. Banerjee, who held a meeting with all power-generating agencies in West Bengal, urged them to ensure uninterrupted supply during Kali Puja and Diwali.

Power-generating agencies like the CESC, state electricity board, power development corporation, DVC and the NTPC assured the minister of “full co-operation” during the festival days.

The state government has also asked CESC to compile a report on how the collapse of units, like the one which occurred at the utility’s plant in Budge Budge on Tuesday, can be avoided in future.

Two 250-mw units of the Budge Budge plant tripped on Tuesday afternoon, leading to massive power cuts in Calcutta. The shortfall shot up to a staggering 550 mw in the CESC-served areas and more than half the city went without power for hours.

A senior power department official said CESC officials who attended the meeting explained to the minister that the fault which had occurred at the Budge Budge plant on Tuesday was “totally mechanical and not abnormal”.

The CESC, however, will soon submit a report on Tuesday’s collapse of the two Budge Budge units to power secretary R.S. Bandopadhyay.

Calcutta and neighbouring districts will require around 3,350 mw of power on the day of Kali Puja. Last year, the requirement had been pegged at 3,124 mw.

Calcutta, with hundreds of illuminated puja pandals, is expected to use up over 1,100 mw of electricity on Thursday. CESC officials assured the power minister that technicians at their various call centres will be ready to attend to complaints.

The power department has also urged the police to keep an eye on illegal tapping of power by Kali Puja pandals in Calcutta and elsewhere in Bengal.

At the meeting between the power minister and agencies, the feasibility of introducing an emergency telephone number to respond to complaints of power failure and related problems from consumers was also discussed.    


 
 
YEAR’S NEW BUT DHANDA’S MANDA 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
Samvat 2056 may have ended with the stock market on a firmer note, but Wednesday’s token recovery came too late for Manish Pareek. The automobile parts dealer, who runs a shop in Bentink Street, had already decided in favour of austerity. Before Diwali, Pareek, like many other traders and businessmen, paints his shop to greet the new year. This time, he crimped, going down a peg from plastic paint to distemper. “Given the tight situation in the market, I decided to reduce expenditure in all possible ways,” Daga said.

It’s showing in the thinner crowds at Vardaan market, in the utensils shops on Chittaranjan Avenue and in the narrow lanes of Burrabazar. One trader said this was “possibly the worst market condition before Diwali in the last 30 years”.

Even discounting the exaggeration factor, it is difficult to miss the signs of a spending slowdown among a large part of the city’s population for whom Diwali is the biggest annual festival, just as Durga puja is for Bengalis.

Traditionally, every household buys gold and silver ornaments, utensils, garments and sweets for personal consumption and as gifts as part of the festivities for Diwali and Dhanteras.

“Demand for small silver idols of Ganesha and Lakshmi, coins, and utensils are normally in great demand during this time,” said S.P. Bhatter of Bhatter’s, in Russell Street. “People are buying, but the budget is restricted this year”.

M.K. Singhania, chairman of the Federation of West Bengal Traders’ Association, attributed the manda to “economy-wide recession, rise in consumer prices and the floods in the districts”.

The manda, or slowdown, is spread across the trading class, not sparing small retailers. Take, for instance, Arvind Gupta, a retailer of steel utensils on Chittaranjan Avenue. “During Diwali, we sell goods worth Rs 4-5 lakh. But reaching half of that volume seems difficult this year,” he said.

Raj Kumar Agarwal, his counterpart in the upscale utensils shop Ruchira at Vardan market, appeared more worried. “Things can’t get worse than this during the festive season,” said Agarwal.

Traders traced the origin of low demand to the absence of the “feel-good factor” in the economy over the past few months. “There isn’t enough money with people to spend as their resources are locked in the stock market. The prices of some of the best performing scrips have plummeted to an all-time low in the last couple of months,” a trader said.

The stock market has been in the dumps for some time now and the majority of traders are heavy investors in shares. This is the time they traditionally cash in on some of their investments, booking profits and raising the extra money for festival-related expenditure. In a depressed market, they cannot hope to do that.

The Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index — the barometer for the market — closed Wednesday at 3743 compared with 4816 a year ago.

Economic slowdown is showing up in their own businesses, too. For example, retailers buying goods from large distributors on credit are taking longer to repay and purchase again.

Business was not bad during Durga puja, but that is nothing to cheer about. “Sentiments in the stock market were not much different during the pujas, but the demand wasn’t affected because of lack of interest of the salaried Bengali community in the stock market,” said L.N. Agarwal of Sundari Saree Emporium, Chittaranjan Avenue.

The bitterness is filtering right down to the sweet shop. “Normally, we refuse to book orders five days before Diwali, but this time we are still waiting,” said Nawal Joshi of Gangaur.    


 
 
COPS, FIREMEN ON FULL ALERT FOR PEACE ON KALI PUJA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
After a peaceful Durga Puja, the city police are determined to gift Calcuttans an incident-free Diwali on Thursday. A massive action plan has been drawn up to ensure a tension-free Kali Puja.

A total of 15,000 personnel will be deployed on the streets. This year, the number of Kali Pujas is 2,250. For the first time, the police will deploy a mobile launch to face eventualities during immersion.

Deputy commissioner of police, port division, Zulfikar Hassan, said a launch of the river traffic police, equipped with life- saving medicines and doctors, will patrol the waters from Nimtala Ghat to Metiabruz.

“It will help rush the injured to hospital. We find difficult to admit an injured person to a nearby hospital because of crowded roads. Patients may even die on way to hospital. So, the launch will pick up the injured and rush them to the nearest hospital.”

As part of precautionary measures, the detective department has conducted a number of raids in different hideouts in the city and recovered 10 sophisticated revolvers and 13 pistols.

A total of 51 persons were arrested. “All of them have been charged with extortion and remanded in police custody,” the detective chief added.

Deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Nazrul Islam, said on Wednesday that policemen would keep a close vigil on pockets identified as crime-prone areas. This year, the police are on the prowl for banned firecrackers. All the deputy commissioners of north, central and south divisions have been asked to monitor the high-rise buildings.

“Last year, we faced a lot of trouble as fireworks were let off the roofs of multi-storeyed buildings. This year, we have made a list of the buildings and decided to deploy police personnel on the roofs,” said Islam.

In a massive drive in the last 10 days, 15 cases were registered and 24 persons arrested for selling banned fireworks. The detective department seized 4,640 kg of banned fireworks from different areas.

Plainclothes men of the detective department’s anti-rowdy squad and watch section will patrol the crime-prone zones to apprehend gamblers and rowdies.

The fire brigade, too, has taken several measures. Altogether, 2,000 personnel and 150 fire extinguishers will be deployed.

According to an official, seven temporary fire stations have been set up at different points. Firemen will be posted in the control room at Lalbazar, along with employees of CESC.

A team of fire brigade officials inspected all the puja pandals throughout Wednesday.    


 
 
RABINDRA BHARATI TO SHIFT 5 SECTIONS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
The Rabindra Bharati University (RBU) authorities will soon shift the five visual arts departments from Jorasanko to B.T. Road. The move follows a directive of the University Grants Commission (UGC), asking the university to have all the departments under one roof.

Sources said the UGC wants the university to have its administrative offices and major departments on one campus so that Jorasanko, Tagore’s birthplace, can be promoted as a tourist spot. This will also ensure better administrative functioning of the university.

A separate building, now under construction at the university’s B.T. Road campus, will house the visual arts departments, including painting, graphics, sculpture and history of arts.

At present, the fine arts and visual arts departments are run at Jorasanko, in north Calcutta.

The under-graduate and post-graduate courses in English, Bengali, history, political science and other subjects are taught on Rabindra Bharati’s Emerald Bower campus on B.T. Road.

Vice-chancellor Subhankar Chakraborty said all departments housed at Jorasanko will be shifted to the Emerald Bower campus in phases, as directed by the UGC.

“As soon as the visual arts departments are shifted to Chitra Bhavan, being built at B.T. Road, we will negotiate with the government for funds to set up separate buildings for the fine arts sections as well,” Chakraborty said.

The UGC has already released Rs 50 lakh for setting up the infrastructure for visual arts at B.T. Road. The state government has also given a substantial amount, the vice-chancellor said.

Welcoming the move, students on the Jorasanko campus alleged they faced problems in communicating with the administrative staff, located on the B.T. Road campus, because of the distance.

The university plans to undertake an elaborate scheme to beautify Jorasanko after the departments are shifted. “Considering its historical importance, we want to preserve the poet’s ancestral home to draw more tourists,” said a university official.

But renovation work cannot be carried out in full force because of student activities on the campus. Moreover, a large turnout of tourists and visitors may disturb the academic atmosphere at Jorasanko, the official said.    


 
 
POST-GRADUATE COURSES IN SELECT COLLEGES 
 
 
BY BARUN GHOSH AND MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
After delinking the Higher Secondary courses from colleges, the government has decided to teach post-graduate courses in some selected colleges in Calcutta and elsewhere as part of its move to broaden the scope of higher education for meritorious students.

Officials said this will help them cope with the tremendous rush of honours graduates seeking admission into city-based universities. At present, post-graduate courses are taught only in Presidency College. The courses, however, are offered only in a limited number of subjects.

According to them, the number of honours students, particularly those in the science stream, have phenomenally increased during the past few years but the scope of their admission is limited to only seven universities. A recent survey reveals that nearly a lakh of students come out successful every year from nearly 340 degree colleges in the state. And quite a substantial number of them have honours degrees for those seeking higher education.

Maulana Azad College has preliminary sanction from Calcutta University to offer a postgraduate course in zoology, on the basis of an inspection by a team of its officials. The college is an affiliate of CU.

“The move to introduce post-graduate courses in colleges is aimed primarily at minimising pressure on the universities,” said higher education minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty. He said the issue was settled after a meeting with Pabitra Sarkar, vice-chairman of the Higher Education Council, and vice-chancellors of seven universities, including Jadavpur and Calcutta.

Officials said post-graduate courses may be opened shortly in some other middle-ranking city-based colleges, like Ashutosh College and Surendranath College.

Meanwhile, the teachers of Presidency College have sought permission from the state government to allow the institution to offer post-graduate courses in all the subjects that are presently taught in the college.

“The infrastructural and other facilities available on the campus are of such high standards that the college can easily offer post-graduate courses in each subject taught in the under-graduate level,” claimed Subrata Lahiri a senior teacher.

As the number of honours graduates has increased considerably, but with no corresponding rise in the number of seats, the universities are unable to accommodate them. A university has to follow the guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC) for increasing the number of seats.

However, the government’s move is being opposed by university teachers. According to them, many under-graduate colleges are already running short of staff and with inferior standards of infrastructure.

“In such a situation, we cannot expect such institutions to impart quality education in post-graduate courses,” said a key member of the Calcutta University Teachers Association (CUTA), preferring anonymity.    


 
 
CU SYNDICATE DIVIDED ON REPEAL OF DISMISSAL 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
The Calcutta University Syndicate failed to reach a conclusion on the re-appointment of Barin Bhattacharya, senior assistant of the university, who was dismissed on September 12, 1997.

Bhattacharya was dismissed for using abusive language in an article he wrote in a bulletin published by himself. Bhattacharya had moved Calcutta High Court against the university’s decision to dismiss him. The high court recently instructed the university to reappoint him.

The matter was taken up at the Syndicate meeting on Tuesday, but no conclusion could be arrived at, as several senators were divided over his re-appointment despite the high court order.

Shyamapada Pal, CPM leader and member of the Syndicate, urged the university authorities not to re-appoint Bhattacharya in haste. “The issue is serious and we should not take any hasty decision about the re-appointment. Let us decide this after consulting our law officer,” Pal told the Syndicate members.

The Left Front was divided over the re-appointment. While Pal objected, RSP leader and senator Arnab Roy felt otherwise. “The high court has instructed the university to re-appoint Bhattacharya immediately. So, I think we should allow him to rejoin and then consider steps against him,” Roy told the Syndicate.

It is learnt that Bhattacharya had met the vice-chancellor and told him he was willing to rejoin the university. But the vice-chancellor regretted his inability to allow him to rejoin. “It was the Syndicate who had decided to dismiss you. How can I take any decision in this regard? I will place the problem before the Syndicate, which will take a decision on your re-appointment,” the vice-chancellor told Bhattacharya.    


 
 
WINDS OF CHANGE IN MADHYAMIK MATHS SYLLABUS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education is considering a proposal by mathematics teachers to modernise the existing Madhyamik maths syllabus.

Two city-based organisations, comprising mathematics teachers from the Calcutta chapter of the Centre for Pedagogical Studies in Mathematics and the Association for Improvement of Mathematics Teaching in Schools, have recently approached the Board, demanding immediate upgradation of the Madhyamik syllabus.

“We are serious about updating our maths syllabus and have already begun preliminary work for this,” said Board president A.K. Chakraborty. As part of the programme, the Board will organise a workshop on November 14 to discuss the matter with the teachers.

Most of the teachers felt the maths syllabus is “obsolete” and spoke strongly in favour of a change.

“We are also worried that the unscientific syllabus has no relevance to the modern developments in the subject,” said Arundhati Mukherjee, a teacher of Gokhale Memorial High School.

Mukherjee, a member of the Centre for Pedagogical Studies in Mathematics, argued that while all other boards like the Delhi-based CBSE and the ICSE Council have included set theories in their syllabuses a long time ago, the West Bengal Board is yet to do so.

“We have already urged the Board to incorporate set theories, considering its importance,” she added.

Referring to other lacunae in the present syllabus, Amal Bhowmick, mathematics teacher at South Point, said: “The existing examination system of the Board is mainly meant for testing mediocre students. It does not give examiners the opportunity to test the merit of intelligent students.”

Since maths questions in the Madhyamik follow an easy pattern, a large number of students score high marks, which encourages them to opt for the science stream in the Higher Secondary course.

But the gulf of difference in standards often leaves the students with broken hearts as they fare poorly in Higher Secondary.

Another maths teacher of St. John’s Diocesan demanded immediate abolition of the Board’s existing system, which compels all the 13,000 Madhyamik schools in the city to follow a single textbook. She alleged that Madhyamik examinees were asked to solve the same problems featured in the Board’s recommended texts. “This kind of leniency is uncalled for in a subject like mathematics,” she added.

Soft drink crackdown: Three employees of a popular soft drink company were arrested on Wednesday after two persons fell ill at Chetla, off New Alipore.

Kedarnath Das, investigating officer of New Alipore police station, said Moloy Ghosh, around 56, took home some bottles of soft drink on Sunday and shared them with his teenaged son, Tirthankar. After some time, they fell ill and had to be rushed to a local nursing home.    


 
 
HOWRAH STATION GETS MUSICAL FOUNTAIN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct.25: 
Expressing concern over the lawlessness in the Howrah and Sealdah station complexes, railway minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday that she will take up the matter with the state government.

“Unless law and order improves in the two key stations, all my efforts to improve passenger amenities will prove futile,” said Mamata.

She announced a string of measures to be undertaken by the railways to improve passenger amenities in Howrah station.

Referring to the lawlessness in Howrah station, Mamata hinted at some of the latest incidents, including Tuesday’s, in which three youth were robbed of their belongings and later returned in an unconscious state on the Azad Hind Express.

Reaching the station two hours behind schedule, Mamata inaugurated a “musical fountain” at the entrance of the cabway.

Later, she opened a 96-line interactive voice response system (IVRS) to help passengers get an automatic updated information about the running of express trains.

The railway minister opened an ATM counter of the State Bank of India (SBI) to facilitate passengers collect money round-the-clock. She also inaugurated an enhanced seating arrangement for passengers of long-distance trains.

After a small inaugural ceremony, Mamata went into a meeting with railway officials to take stock of the passenger amenities available at the station. Officials said she directed them to improve the Yatri Nivas.

Bottle-bomb blast: Five teenagers were injured at Nimta, on the northern fringes of the city, after a bottle-bomb they were playing with exploded on Wednesday morning.    

 

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