Top cop feels hacker heat
Speeding buses knock down two
Woman found hanging in Lake Town highrise
Through the lens with Polish guru
Protest rallies clog city centre, cripple traffic
Buddha brakes on tram fare hike
Fresh swoop on stale sweets
Hamlet sported a dhoti and Portia sang Tago
Varsity blocks senior official’s bills
Safety lessons for drivers

Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Banibrata Basu has been ‘hacked’. But he cannot go to the police. For he is the chief of the detective department in the city.

It was an evening last week. After work, the detective chief switched on his personal computer and logged on. ‘Invalid user name and password’, was the message flashing on his screen. He tried again. And again. With the same result. On inquiry, he found that the ‘hours’ he had bought from VSNL had been ‘stolen’ by a hacker.

“I had used only five hours out of my 50-hour slot, which I had booked on VSNL. I was told that someone had hacked my account and picked up my user name and password,” said Basu.

The detective chief is among a growing list of cyber-crime victims in the city. And the police are all but clueless about how to combat cyber crime.

“Our present set-up is not equipped to deal with such crime cases. We do not have computer experts, without whom it is not possible for us to either understand or detect new-age criminals,” admitted Basu.

The level of computer literacy in the Calcutta Police force is said to be “pathetic”. Most are unfamiliar with the ABCs of cyberage, including terms like PC and mouse.

None of the 43 police stations in the city has a computer.

But criminals are turning out to be far more computer savvy than the cops. In July, the homepage of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) had been hacked, allegedly, by Pakistan’s ISI.

Last month, the police busted a high-tech satta racket operated through a computer.

And last week, the detective department’s press section, entrusted with the task of dealing with IT crimes, arrested two computer engineers for tampering with documents, illegally accessing, copying and damaging data stored in a computer.

This was the first arrest carried out since the IT Act was enforced.

A police official of assistant commissioner rank is heading the department’s press wing.

“But the rest of his team members do not have sufficient knowledge of computers. So, we cannot take action even after getting specific complaints of cyber crime,” said Basu.

When a complaint is lodged, the police call in experts from VSNL or other private ISPs or even computer professors from Jadavpur University.

To try and set things right, the police are planning to set up a high-tech cell.

“We plan to recruit officers with high-level computer skill. They will have to be well-versed in and aware of the new-age cyber crimes, like stalking, spam, squatting and hacking,” said Basu.

But the police cannot take any action against any individual or cyber cafe unless there is any specific complaint.

And the force cannot keep a check on the mushrooming of cyber cafes in the city either, as these centres do not need a police clearance.

All they require is a trade licence from the CMC.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
A 65-year-old woman was killed and a school student injured in two road accidents on Wednesday. The deceased was identified as Kamala Das.

Angry residents blocked Raja Rammohun Sarani, where a student of St Paul’s School was hit by a private bus.

Das was knocked down by a speeding private bus on route 33 while she was crossing the road at 6.30 am near Chetla Park. Police said she succumbed to her injuries on her way to SSKM Hospital. The driver fled with his vehicle.

In another incident, Subhasish Das, a student, was injured when a private bus on route 240 knocked him down on Raja Rammohan Sarani at 12.10 pm. Subhasish, whose right leg was injured seriously, was rushed to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. The driver escaped, jumping off the bus, which was impounded.

Residents blocked the road, protesting reckless driving, till senior police officers arrived.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Shampa Chakraborty, 32, was found dead in a flat of Neelachal Apartments, in the Sreebhumi area of Lake Town, on Wednesday morning. She was found hanging from the ceiling with her sari knotted round her neck.

The owner of the flat, Samiran Roy, editor of the newspaper Tripura Darpan, informed the police about the incident at around 6 am.

The police detained Roy for interrogation. He was being questioned till late in the night.

Officer-in-charge of Lake Town police station Sambhu Roy said that a case of “unnatural death” has been registered and the body sent for post-mortem. “We are not suspecting any foul play at this moment,” said Roy.

Shampa was a divorcee from Belonia, in Tripura, who earlier worked with Tripura Darpan.

She quit a year ago, shifted to Calcutta and took up a job as a computer operator in the Jadavpur area. She lived as a paying guest in Garfa.

“On Tuesday evening, Shampa had gone to Roy’s second-floor flat at Neelachal. He told us that Shampa could not return to Garfa as it got late and the gates of her house shut at 9 pm. So, she spent the night in his flat,” an investigating officer said.

The police are, however, not sure why Shampa had stayed on till so late, knowing that she would not be allowed to enter the place where she lived as a paying guest after 9 pm.

Neelachal is among the many multi-storeyed buildings on and around VIP Road. Sreebhumi has witnessed a construction boom over the past seven-eight years.

As news of the alleged suicide spread, local residents gathered in front of Neelachal before the police arrived to take away the body. Independent councillor of South Dum Dum Sujit Bose visited the flat after the police arrived.

“I spoke to Samiran Roy’s neighbours, but they could not reveal anything significant about him. As he was Tripura-based, the flat used to be frequented by people from Tripura, who used it as a guest-house of sorts,” Bose said. He added that the incident had sent shock waves through the area, as the death was “clearly unnatural”.

Snatchers held: Officers of Bowbazar thana    

Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
It was a reunion of sorts for 26-year-old Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) graduate Anindita Sarbadhicari. Two years since she last met Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Zanussi, she caught up with him when he was in town for last month’s Calcutta Film Festival.

Having conducted workshops while she was a student at FTII, Zanussi now had the chance to watch Barkha, Anindita’s degree film, screened as part of the Hindi package. That is when he popped the question. Impressed by her “script and technical skills”, he asked her to assist him on his next project.

“Just delighted” at the chance to work with Zanussi, she is now all set to be involved “from scripting through to post-production” on the film, which “takes a ‘different’ look at death... It’s a progression from Zanussi’s Life as a Fatal Sexually Transmitted Disease, screened at the Calcutta festival,” explains Anindita, who admires the Polish guru’s “cinematic technique”.

But this is not the only collaboration the young director has in mind. Anindita, who went to the National School of Drama, Delhi, (where she is visiting faculty now) before moving on to FTII, Pune, plans to put up a production of The President, an Italian play by Zanussi. “As soon as I asked him about the play, he sent me the script, the translation, as well as the production notes,” recounts Anindita.

Scheduled to be in Berlin early next year for two films, a documentary and a docu-feature, she plans to “commute between Germany and Poland,” as well as start research for her “first feature length film”.

Barkha, about an Indian girl who falls in love with a Sri Lankan LTTE activist, has done the rounds at the Munich, New York and Berlin Film Festivals. The 30-minute film, with Anindita’s parents in the cast, was also nominated for the Student Oscar Award in 1999.

After receiving film offers on her trip to the Berlin Film Festival, a 10-day visit turned into a six-month stay. Working with a German production house, she co-scripted and directed two films, Love or Life (German), and Annie Comes to Germany (German and English).

But “Calcutta is oxygen” for the “huge fan” of Ritwik Ghatak, who “could watch Subarnarekha endlessly”. Lounging around in her south Calcutta flat, she observes: “I look out of the window here and everyone I see has a story to tell. I can’t relate to problems in Germany... it’s all so clinical”.

Finding her feet in the industry here has not been easy. Getting funds has become “a joke”. Says Anindita: “Producers seem to be afraid of the FTII tag. They think we only want to make ‘art’ films.”

Her plans of turning Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Megh Brishti Alo into a feature film has been temporarily shelved, as she could not find a sponsor. “People expected more from me abroad, but they also had faith in me and gave me the artistic freedom I needed,” she smiles.

Anindita is also working on telefilms and serials in the city, Kuri Topke Ekushe, a show for ETV, tracing the evolution of Bengali cinema down the ages. While speaking to artistes and enthusiasts at the film fest about the show, she “found that people all over the world were optimistic about cinema, but Bengalis were so pessimistic”.

But the ex-student of Gokhale is determined to work around such hurdles. “If not 35 mm, I’ll use digital. But I just can’t stop telling stories.”


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Traffic in central and north Calcutta was crippled for hours on Wednesday afternoon after several political parties, students and youth organisations took out rallies condemning the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

Traffic on College Street, Nirmal Chandra Chunder Street, Lenin Sarani, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Rani Rashmoni Road, S.N. Banerjee Road and a part of AJC Bose Road came to a standstill after 3 pm, as most of the rallies followed almost the same route and ended at Rani Rashmoni Road around 4.30 pm.

A large contingent of police was deployed in the area to control the traffic. No untoward incidents were reported.

The youth and students’ wings of the CPM —the DYFI and SFI — took out a procession from Raja Subodh Mullick Square, passing through Lenin Sarani and Jawahar Lal Nehru Road and terminating at Rani Rashmoni Road.

The West Bengal Youth Congress’ rally started from College Square and passed through College Street, Nirmal Chandra Chunder Street, Lenin Sarani and Jawahar Lal Nehru Road, before ending at Rani Rashmoni Road.

Among the non-political organisations was the Muslim-Urdu Coordination Committee, which started its procession opposite Metro cinema. The police cut short the rally at Rani Rashmoni Road. The Bangiya Christiya Parishad started from Moulali and ended at Rani Rashmoni Road too. About 500 supporters of the Samajwadi Party assembled at the base of the Gandhi statue on the Maidan.

Almost the same number of Rashtriya Janata Dal supporters also met at Shahid Minar.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has ruled out an immediate revision of fares for trams despite the recent hike in bus fares.

Officials said on Wednesday that Bhattacharjee took the decision in consultation with state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.

Though the trade unions were in favour of a hike, Bhattacharjee is learnt to have opposed the move.

Officials said the hike proposal was aimed at drawing more passengers to trams, which are running at a loss. On an average, nearly 180 trams ply daily along a 66-km stretch in the city.

Sudhir De, managing director of Calcutta Tramways Company, said on Wednesday that the revenue collection had increased phenomenally of late as passengers were opting for trams due to its old fare structure.

“Previously, our daily income ranged between Rs 1.50 and Rs 1.70 lakh on an average. But now the figure has doubled,” De said, adding that the old rates “would help us popularise trams, despite efforts from certain quarters to do away with the service.”

Seven routes off

The CTC has decided to suspend services, involving 57 cars, on at least seven routes, including the Lenin Sarani-Rajabazar-Belgachhia stretch, for 45 days due to work on the construction of a flyover at the intersection of Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Lenin Sarani.

Somesh Bhattacharya, CTC’s chief operations manager, said the services on four other routes, involving 21 cars, would remain suspended for three hours daily, between 9 am and 12 noon, during the construction period.

He said the CTC will lose over Rs 1 lakh daily due to the suspension of services on the Lenin Sarani-Rajabazar-Belgachhia stretch during the entire period of the construction.

“We have sent a proposal to the government for making certain routes, particularly the stretch along BB Ganguly Street, two-way for running skeleton services,” he said. “That way, we hope to defray the losses partially,” he added.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
Health officials of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) began a crackdown on Wednesday on confectionery shops and roadside peddlers selling chocolates, jellies, fruit juice, toffees and lozenges in the city, after stale foreign chocolates were seized on Canning Street on Tuesday.

Health inspectors on Wednesday seized chocolates from two shops in Bagri Market. The samples have been sent to the public analyst of the civic food laboratory for testing.

“The aim is to ensure that foreign-made confectioneries sold in the city maintain a good standard,” said civic health chief Javed Ahmed Khan. He said the raid would be continued in the Park Street, New Market and Esplanade areas to retrieve confectioneries imported from countries such as Turkey, Malayasia, Singapore, Thailand, China and Korea.

Javed Khan said the drive had become essential as a large number of children of prominent city schools recently fell sick after consuming foreign chocolates procured from a wholesaler on Canning Street, in Burrabazar.

Tests conducted on huge quantities of chocolates seized from the shop by the CMC on Tuesday revealed that the chocolates had long crossed the expiry dates. But these would be sold after the expiry dates printed on the wrappiers were tampered with.

The chocolates were sold from a stall put by St James’ School on a fete of the CNI-run institutions, held on the St Paul’s Cathedral grounds on November 2.

Subrata Basu, superintendent of the civic food laboratory, said the chocolates seized were discoloured and had a peculiar odour.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
The curtains came down on the World Shakespeare Conference-2000 on Wednesday, bringing to an end four days of serious deliberations and wholesome enjoyment. For the 200-odd delegates from home and abroad, as also teachers and students from colleges in the city who flocked to the three venues, it was time to say farewell to new-found friends and make plans for future meetings at other conferences.

There were some, however, who would remember the first Shakespeare conference in Asia for special reasons. Monica Draudt, for instance, for whom the visit to India was a “gift” from her husband Manfred on their 30th wedding anniversary. An architect by profession, she made the best of the visit by picking up “some silk” from New Market and getting her blouses kantha-stitched. Professor Draudt, the president of the Shakespeare Society of Austria and a member of the faculty at the University of Vienna, was “extremely moved” by the “Bengali reception” — the flowers and the tilak. “I have attended dozens of conferences round the world but never have I experienced such warmth,” he gushed. The Draudts were also pleased to find Calcutta “much cleaner, and safer, than what we had heard back home”.

There were minor tragedies, taken in the true spirit of ‘comedies of errors’. A delegate from Cooch Behar was robbed on her way to the city on the train. All that the thief managed to pick was a bag containing her paper on Othello. “We were expecting an intellectual thief to turn up and claim credit for the essay,” quipped Professor Amitabha Roy, president of Shakespeare Society of Eastern India, the organising body.

Then there was a professor from the University of Tirupati, who got caught in the tornado raging in Andhra Pradesh, and missed her train. “We received a frantic call two days before the inauguration that she wouldn’t be able to make it,” recounted Dr Aparajita Nanda, one of the organisers. Thankfully, another delegate was persuaded to deliver a hastily-put-together article in her place.

Hetal Ashar, Suma Varughese and Veronica Kayal, post-graduate students of Calcutta University, attended the conference at their teachers’ bidding, but returned “intellectually stimulated.” However, listening to a paper on how teachers in the US use films in classrooms to make the Shakespeare lectures interesting made them “rather sad.” “Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if universities here followed such techniques, too?” they wondered.

The high points of the conference were the cultural programmes in the evenings. Two were instant hits — a dance sequence portraying four of Shakespeare’s women through Tagore’s songs and Agnichakra, a collage of scenes from the Bard’s plays, enacted using folk forms from North Bengal. So, there was Hamlet in a dhoti, Portia singing Rabindrasangeet...

At the end of the meet, there were good tidings for the organisers as well. A representative of Anglo-French Initiative, a key affiliate of the two parent bodies, Federation of Shakespeare Societies and the World Shakespeare Conference, called up Professor Roy and suggested that Calcutta host its own chapter of the biennial meet henceforth. So, come 2002, Calcutta can look forward to more of the Bard.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
The harassment of Calcutta University teachers over payment of remuneration has come to such a pass that even the secretary of the state Higher Education Council has cried off from any examination-related work of the university in future as a mark of protest.

Higher Education Council secretary Pratip Choudhury, a former teacher of Maulana Azad College, was appointed by the university to carry out a “highly confidential” work related to a major under-graduate examination several months ago.

The remuneration for the assignment was a “princely” Rs 450. Accordingly, Choudhury submitted the bills to the university.

Choudhury, former state director of public instruction (DPI), received a letter from the university last month, informing him that his bills had been approved and that he could collect the amount himself after presenting the approval letter at the university’s cash office.

He was also given the option to collect the amount by cheque. In that case, he would be required to send an advance receipt to the university by post before the cheque was mailed to him.

Choudhury chose the second option and sent an advance receipt. But, the university rejected his letter, saying that “the format was incorrect”.

Ironically, it is the Higher Education Council which chalks out strategies on all important academic matters of CU and sometimes, it is mandatory for the university to follow the Council’s recommendations.

Calcutta University teachers are often attacked for their “reluctance” in examining answer scripts, leading to inordinate delays in publication of results of major exams.

The teachers, on their part, allege that they are loathe to involving themselves in exam-related work for fear of their remuneration bills getting stalled. University sources said Choudhury submitted his ultimatum at a high-level meeting held last week to discuss ways to expedite publication of results and improve the existing examination system.

Hiron Kumar Banerjee, CU pro-vice chancellor (business and finance), said: “Prof Choudhury had committed a technical error, for which the amount could not be disbursed to him. We will clear it as soon as he sends us the receipt in the right format.”

The matter has generated severe resentment among undergraduate college teachers.

They feel the teachers are, anyway, paid a meagre amount for correcting papers. On top of that, they are harassed with delays in payment.

“If this is the treatment meted out to a senior government official, who is also a veteran teacher, imagine the ordeal faced by teachers from the districts,” said a teacher preferring anonymity.


Calcutta, Dec. 6: 
About 150 private bus-drivers on Wednesday attended training camps organised for them jointly by the Government of India’s department of road transport and highways and the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.

The camps were organised at Topsia, Salt Lake, Behala, Joka and Pailan and aimed at creating awareness against rash driving.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty inaugurated the camp in Topsia.

Welcoming the effort to educate bus-drivers, he announced that the government would introduce an award for the best private bus-driver from next year. A sum of Rs 1 lakh will be given to the winner, he said.

Apart from the drivers, the camps were attended by instructors from a well-known motor training school in Calcutta, psychiatrists and eye specialists.

Sadhan Das, general secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, said that the psychiatrists and eye specialists spoke to the drivers on reflex action and eyesight. The instructors emphasised the importance of abiding by the traffic rules.

“Over 40 persons were killed in mishaps due to rash driving in the city and at least 30 private buses were set on fire by mobs after accidents in the city over the past year,” said Das.

In Salt Lake, drivers heard instructor Tapan Biswas and psychiatrist Ranjan Bose explain how rash driving and overtaking had led to a spurt in road mishaps.

“This is the first time we are being reminded of the importance and significance of traffic signs and rules and told to drive cautiously. We should have such training camps more often,” said Kanu Saha, a driver of a bus on route 215A in Salt Lake.


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