Teenager freed from conman
After Wipro, red carpet for Satyam
Narrow escape for plane
If it’s a sun-day, we’ll have lights
Art that springs out of basic material
From the mouth of the babes
English tops HS students’ scrutiny list
15 autos seized
Hotel staff form core committee
AGP smarts under Gill rap

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
It was a walk she would like to forget. Ten days after Paro (not her real name) stepped out of her home in Maniktala for a morning stroll, she finally returned home on Tuesday, shattered, disillusioned and humiliated.

Enticed and trapped by a drug addict — a married conman who had worked his charm on other girls before — 17-year-old Paro was led from one city hotel to another, exploited and abused, before the police finally caught up with them at Howrah station on Monday night, just as they were boarding a train for Delhi.

On November 5, Paro told her parents that she was going for her morning constitutional and left the house at around 5.30 am. There was nothing unusual about this. In the past few months, she would often go for a morning walk, a practice that her parents encouraged.

Only, that morning Paro had other plans. She was actually going to meet 28-year-old Tamal Tarafdar, who had woven a web of lies to draw her into his clutches.

“We had met this young man in Kurseong this summer, when we had gone there for a holiday,” said Paro’s father. “He seemed a decent enough person then, well-behaved and articulate. He had told us he had a flourishing business and quite impressed us. At that time, we had not realised what a crook he was.”

Tarafdar got friendly with the family, accompanying them to various tourist spots and generally helping them around. But one thing was clear right from the beginning: he was showing a “special interest” in young Paro, a Class IX student of a north Calcutta school.

“He told us he was unmarried,” Paro’s father said. So, the family did not discourage Tarafdar when he followed up the Kurseong trip with regular visits to their Calcutta home.

By September, with Tarafdar’s visits becoming more regular, the girl’s father decided to crosscheck the young man’s antecedents. “He had told us that he lived in Nimta, in North 24-Parganas, and this is the only piece of correct information he gave us — the rest was a pack of lies,” he said.

A crosscheck exposed Tarafdar: He was, in fact, a married man with two children and no business to boast of. “He was a door-to-door salesman trying to sell cheap garments,” said deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Banibrata Basu.

Tarafdar’s father was an old man with no known source of income, who had always found it difficult to make ends meet.But he made sure that his son received a reasonably decent education.

This was the thing that Tamal exploited to the hilt in later years. He worked his charm on Paro to the extent that when her parents informed her in September that Tarafdar was a married man who had taken the entire family for a ride, she refused to believe them.

What has surprised the police is that Paro’s parents did not lodge a complaint for a full five days after the girl went missing. “It was, perhaps, fear of social stigma that held them back,” a police officer said. “They were trying to probe the Tamal angle on their own.”

It was after the complaint on November 10 that the police went on full alert, tracing the couple to Howrah station on Monday. A search of Tarafdar’s pockets yielded five packets of hashish.    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
After Wipro, Satyam.

On assuming office, the first official paper that chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee put his fountain pen to was the one sanctioning land for software giant Wipro to set up shop on the Bypass. This sent out clear signals to industry captains that Bengal was bullish on infotech.

Now, it’s the turn of another infotech major, Satyam Computer Services Limited, to take a closer look at Calcutta. The state government has already initiated dialogue with Satyam for a software development centre at the Salt Lake Electronics Complex.

Bansagopal Chowdhury, state minister of commerce and industry, said: “The West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation (Webel) has already approached Satyam Computer Services and the two parties have had a preliminary round of discussion.”

Confirming the government move, S.V.L. Narayan, vice-president, corporate communications, Satyam Computer Services Limited, said: “The West Bengal government has already contacted us and we are considering the proposal. But there are proposals from other areas, like Chandigarh too, and the offers are being evaluated.”

According to Narayan, the Satyam management is aware of the highly-skilled manpower available in West Bengal. Last week, the company recruited “50 personnel” from Calcutta at a career fair for its different operations. “We will also take this into consideration while taking an investment decision,” he added.

The company will take a decision only after raising funds in the American market. Satyam has already received Central clearance to make an American depositary receipts issue of Rs 1,700 crore.

“We have not yet taken any decision about our further investments, whether in West Bengal or elsewhere. A clearer picture will emerge after our ADR issue. Only then can we chalk out our investment plan,” a senior Satyam official added.

The commerce minister, however, was “confident” that with Wipro being offered land promptly, the government is optimistic that other IT biggies will queue up.

Satyam Computer Services, which registered gross sales of Rs 677 crore in the financial year 1999-2000, offers a range of expertise in the areas of information technology, software development services, systems integration, enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, product development, electronic commerce and consulting.

Satyam specialises in customised IT solutions in manufacturing, financial services, insurance, transportation, telecom, healthcare and power. The company also offers network and network-enabled services, Internet access and hosting services, intranet, e-mail, electronic data interchange (EDI), store and forward, and online information services. Satyam was, in fact, the first private Internet service provider to come to Calcutta.

Corporate watchers feel that before selecting Calcutta, Satyam will have to decide whether it at all wants to make further investments in the eastern region. It already has two software development centres in Bhubaneswar — one at the IDCO software complex and another at Chandrasekharpur. Other Satyam software development centres are located in Secunderabad, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Pune.

Satyam has nearly 7,000 IT professionals, who operate out of its state-of-the-art software development centres located in India, the USA, Japan, Singapore and the UK. These centres work as an extended enterprise (IT partner) for over 150 Fortune 500 and multinational clients world-wide.    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
A Guwahati-bound Jet Airways aircraft carrying 116 passengers narrowly escaped disaster after taking off from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on Tuesday morning.

No one received any injury. P. Shaw, director of air safety, civil aviation department, has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

According to Jet Airways, the plane came to a halt when it rolled on to soft ground soon after taking off at 10.30 am.

A technical team comprising representatives of Jet Airways and Boeing Aircraft has arrived in the city with a relief aircraft to carry out a detailed investigation, according to Jet Airways.

Aeronautical experts said a fire might have broken out but the plane was saved as it was on a slow run.

Most of the passengers were flown to Guwahati on Jet Airways flight 9W 615 and by Indian Airlines, the airways authority said.

Air services were suspended for some time as a section of the runway had to be blocked.

A passenger said he felt a jolt about four minutes after take-off.

“The plane was taxiing on the tarmac for about three minutes and had just began to pick up speed. Suddenly, we heard a screech and the plane came to a halt with a jerk,” said passengers.

Step ladders were used to deplane most passengers.

They were taken to the terminal building. Many of them were traumatised and speechless.

Just after the incident, Indian cricket skipper Sourav Ganguly arrived at the airport from Bangladesh.

A group of cricket-lovers who had come to welcome him became anxious when they heard about the incident. They looked relieved when ‘Maharaj’ strode out of the airport safely.

Another Patna-bound Airbus of Alliance Air had to be cancelled following a mechanical fault as a result of a bird-strike.

It occurred just after the plane took off from Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport on Tuesday morning.    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
So long, CESC. Here comes the sun.

That’s the message in the model adopted by Sourendranath Pal and family of Regent Park.

Faced with rising power bills and inspired by the growing popularity of “alternative electricity” generated from unconventional sources in the rural areas, the Pals are now successfully running their three-storeyed house almost completely on solar power.

Pal, an engineer, has installed a “solar photo-voltaic” system to generate continuous power. According to Anupam Boral, who installed the system at the house near Regent Park post office, the Pal residence is the first in Calcutta to depend “on solar power for domestic use”.

“The power generated by the system illuminates all 15 rooms, the corridors, every nook and corner of the house,” says Pal, whose wife and daughter are both doctors. All electrical gadgets of the household — fans, televisions, computers and tape recorders — run on solar power.

The system has cost the Pals around Rs 1 lakh, with “some subsidy from the government”. The four metallic panels installed on the terrace absorb solar energy during the day. The panels are connected with wires to a charge control unit installed in another room. Here, the solar energy is converted to electrical energy and stored in batteries from where it is distributed to various points via a main switch-board.

There are two advantages of the system, says Pal: “One, it helps me and my family enjoy continuous supply of power. Also, it saves a lot of money in the long run.” The air-conditioner, the refrigerator and the water pump are still dependent on CESC. For these to be run on solar power, a “large number of panels” will have to be installed. “I plan to slowly expand the system, so that it can generate more electricity and take complete care of our needs,” adds Pal.

For the engineer from Regional Engineering College, Shibpur, his quest for “uninterrupted power” for his computers — and for his daughters’ studies — first led him to an experiment with generators. But the fuel crisis cut it short. The solar photo-voltaic system, however, has proved “just right”. According to Boral, whose firm supplies the system, the demand for solar power “is rising rapidly in the remote areas” but is yet to hot up in Calcutta.    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
His face is ablaze with the afternoon sun because he has been moving in and out of the shade carrying bits of bamboo, jute twine, coloured paper and sack cloth. When he shakes your hand, you find his pale finger-tips are Prussian blue, lemon yellow and terravert green — residue of the powder colour he’s been using.

Meet Prof Thomas Zacharias, 30 years in the faculty of the Munich Art Academy, who was taking time off to chat at Memory Park, the Installation workshop organised by Max Mueller Bhavan. With him are colleague Gert Gschwendtner of Austria, who likes to be known as a conceptualist, and 10 young Calcutta artists.

“In Calcutta, we have seen the greatest Installations in the world—the Kali pujas! To create art from the river, create something of such tremendous social impact and then again to return it all to the river and to nature, is we feel something modern art should strive for,” said Zacharias. “We watched the pujas. Finding how religious rituals were really creative symbols accompanied by music and dramatic performance.”

But whereas Indian ritualistic traditions are stylised repetitive gestures, modern Installations are expressions of original ideas, intellectual concepts evolving through all kinds of art forms, often as temporary spatial arrangements offering social commentary.

Installations probably began in the West with Marcel Duchamps’ 1913 presentation of the Bicycle Wheel as “aesthetics at zero degree”.

Indian Installation history is over two decades old and Vivan Sundaram, N.N. Rimzon, N. Pushpamala, Sheela Gowda, Sudarshan Shetty, Bose Krishnamachari and others regularly win accolades abroad. Yet, it is excluded from all art academy syllabi and to scores of artists’ Installations are “gimmicks”, “a passing fad which has no roots or relevance in the Indian context”. In Calcutta, artist Chittrovanu Mazumdar was once the sole exponent, but recent years have seen a rise of interest in this field.

Three-dimensional works from the workshop will be displayed on the MMB staircase. “They may be standing, leaning, hanging or spread out. Static or mobile, they may allow or obscure visibility. And viewers walking up and down the stairs will have multiple points of view and also be an integral part of the artwork, with their own baggage of memory. Which is the magic of Installations, every one is forced to participate and react,” said Gschwendtner.

Working on a piece that resembles a Japanese kite and a paper mobile, one young artist confides: “This is my first attempt in three dimensional form. This team-work has been a revelation.”

Zacharias views his workshop contribution as a “quotation” from his Calcutta impressions. “It reflects the grime, the colour, the energy, the dream, the inertia, the clarity, the complexity— all that to me represents Calcutta.”

Gert, who has created many outdoor and indoor Installations in Austria and Switzerland, translated his memories of Kali puja and women in bright-coloured saris before ruined doorways.

Reflecting on the workshop theme — ‘Memory Park’— Gert remarked “Memory is fresh experience drawn from a re-acquaintance with the past. Here we are re-acquainting ourselves with the primitive traditions of creating art out of basic material.”    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
The 350-odd children had a chance, and they took it. One after the other, they fired away questions at a panel of eminent personalities, representing a cross-section of society. They were taking part in “Chhoto mukh, boro prashna,” a question-answer session organised at Science City by Unicef on Children’s Day.

It was perhaps the first-ever forum where the young could give vent to pent-up queries. About 40 regular schools and 20 NGO-run institutions were represented.

“Thanks for such an opportunity,” said a Class IX student of Tirthapati Institution, before he asked about why children had to study such vast syllabi, depriving them of any time to read story books or pursue other activities.

Author Buddhadev Guha, one of the panelists, answered that a semester system would help reduce the burden. “Also, syllabi should be revised so the content is relevant. There’s a lot of redundancies in different subjects today.”

Primary education Board secretary Ujjal Basu said the practice of taking tuitions had become so rampant that it had become a parallel education system that was weighing down on children.

The questions varied from education to environment, sports and entertainment, parental problems, and future opportunities. The other panelists were cartoonist Chandi Lahiri, soccer coach Chuni Goswami, former police chief Tushar Talukdar and environmentalist Bonani Kakkar. The session was compered by stage actress Dolly Basu.

And it wasn’t just questions; there were views as well. “At the time of admission, why is it compulsory to have both parents’ names? Why can’t we remove the word orphan from the dictionary?” asked a student from Loreto School vehemently.

Ujjal Basu answered that under his Board, only the mother’s or one guardian’s name had been made compulsory. “In case there is no guardian, anyone close to the child can be the guardian.”

Not all queries got satisfactory answers, as a few kids said later. “But there was some headway. And we got to know a few things that we hadn’t the courage to ask before,” said an Andrews High School boy.    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education receives the highest number of applications for post-publication scrutiny of results for the English paper. This year, altogether 23,227 examinees had applied for a scrutiny. Of them, 14,545 wanted to get only their English answerscripts reviewed.

Examinees are allowed to apply for scrutiny after publication of the HS results if they feel that their marks are below their expectations.

For the first time this year, the Council surveyed the scrutiny results, Council president Sudin Chattopadhyay said on Tuesday. While the English paper topped the application list, mathematics, with 4,643 applications, and chemistry followed. A total of 3,51,668 examinees took the test this year.

“The number of scrutiny applicants is six per cent of the total number of examinees, which is not alarming, considering the number of examinees who had actually taken the test. But we are concerned that the number of applicants is so high for one particular subject,” said Chattopadhay.

Council officials will soon meet headmasters of all the Higher Secondary institutions in the state to discuss the matter. A meeting has also been convened with the head examiners of English, mathematics and chemistry.    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
In a drive against auto-rickshaws on Tuesday, the police impounded 15 for plying without meters and proper documents, and confiscated the licences of 20 others on charges of carrying five passengers. The raid was carried out at Gariahat, Fern Road, Deshapran Sashmal Road and other spots in south Calcutta, Lalbazar traffic control room sources said.

Police said there was some confusion on Tuesday regarding transport minister Subhas Chakraborty’s reported statement that autos be permitted to carry four passengers within the city. Joint commissioner of police Anup Chatterjee said: “We did not receive any circular from the transport minister permitting autos to ply in the city with four passengers.”    

Calcutta, Nov.14: 
Citu, Intuc and the officers’ association of Great Eastern Hotel decided on Tuesday to set up a core committee, comprising four representatives from each unit, to fight the government’s decision to hand over the hotel to Accor Asia Pacific.

The decision was approved by all hotel employees at a meeting convened by the Intuc employees’ union. The Citu union and the officers’ association also attended the meeting.

Atiar Rahaman, Intuc union leader, said the core committee will be set up on Thursday at a meeting, to be attended by the Citu union and officers’ association. “The panel will decide on our course of action,” Rahaman added.    

Guwahati, Nov. 14: 
The Election Commission has reprimanded the ruling Asom Gana Parishad for putting organisational elections on hold since 1998.

In a stinging letter to party president and chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, chief election commissioner M.S. Gill asked him to explain — within November 27 — why organisational elections had not been held.

A few days earlier, Gill had threatened to initiate “strong action” against the AGP in this regard. AGP spokesperson Moidul Islam Bora declined comment on the issue, but a source in the party said a harried Mahanta had convened an emergent meeting of the central executive on November 18 to sort out the matter.

The chief minister returned here on Sunday after a 12-day private visit to the US.

The venue of the next general council — Morigaon, in all probability — is likely to be announced at the meeting. The last general council of the party was held in North Lakhimpur in 1995.

Organisational elections were due in 1998, but the AGP sought a one-year “extension” from Nirvachan Sadan, citing devastating floods that year as the reason. It later said the elections would be held after the panchayat polls, which have also been deferred indefinitely following the Gauhati High Court’s intervention.

Mahanta’s term as party president expired in August last year.

The AGP chief is reportedly keen to carry on till the Assembly polls, which are due next year. But with Gill breathing down his neck, he may have to conduct the polls earlier.

Though the central organisational polls have been inordinately delayed, the AGP has conducted elections to all but two of its district units. The Jorhat district AGP committee is one of the two party units to which polls are yet to be held. Sources said directives had been issued to the two district units to complete the election process “as soon as possible”.

Mahanta’s bete noire and PCC president Tarun Gogoi today met the chief election commissioner and urged him to “derecognise” the AGP for failing to hold organisational polls on time. This is despite the fact that the state unit of the Congress is also yet to conduct its organisational polls.

The showcause notice served by the Election Commission will undoubtedly give AGP-bashers another stick to beat the ruling party with in the run-up to the Assembly polls. Suspended AGP leader Atul Bora met Gill a few days ago to discuss what he termed as “lack of intra-party democracy”.

Mahanta is also facing flak for failing to handle the law and order situation, which has gone from bad to worse. No less than 38 people, mostly non-Assamese, have been killed in the state since October 22.    


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