Lid comes off fake cosmetics
A mission, a missive & pages from the past
Dawn breaks later at the Botanics
Postal staff line up grand rally
Oil victims face hungry future
22 detained in kerb clean-up
Reverend rues drop in desire to know
Major rage over miniatures
Funds crunch hits tourism
Tusker kills woman near Bhubaneswar

 
 
LID COMES OFF FAKE COSMETICS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec. 8: 
A complaint by an IPS officer’s wife, that she had been sold spurious winter toiletries from a reputed shop, led the police to a wholesale distributor who has been marketing fake products of well-known brands for the past eight months.

A special police team raided shops in Rampuria Market, in Burrabazar, on Thursday night and seized spurious products of multinational and domestic brands like Ponds, Burnol, Dettol, Boroline and others, worth more than a lakh of rupees.

Police said as the raid was carried out late on Thursday night, Vijay Aurora, owner of the wholesale distributor’s firm, R.R. Aurora and Sons, could be arrested.

Deputy commissioner of police, enforcement branch, D.K. Ganguly, said it was very difficult to differentiate between the fake and the original unless the product was used. “We sent the seized products for chemical tests. The results, made available on Friday evening, indicated that these cosmetics were made of crude chemicals which are harmful for the skin,’’ said deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), Narayan Ghosh.

“If any Calcuttan has the slightest doubt after buying a cosmetic, he or she should immediately bring it to the knowledge of the enforcement branch control room,’’ Ganguly advised.

Sources told The Telegraph that the IPS officer’s wife had bought a set of winter toiletries from a reputed grocery shop in south Calcutta on Monday. The products included Vaseline, creams, anti-septic ointments and soap. “My skin began to itch after I applied the Vaseline. My son, too, complained that some strange rashes had developed on his right hand an hour after he had applied the ointment,’’ she said.

She discussed it with her husband, a deputy inspector-general of police, and told him from where she had bought the items. He told the enforcement that shops in the city were selling spurious cosmetics. The complaint stirred a hornet’s nest, with deputy commissioner Ganguly giving his officers a dressing-down for not being aware of the racket.

An intense investigation began. Police officers interrogated the owner of the grocery shop and several other shop-owners to track down the distributor and manufacturer of the products.

“After questioning several people, our officers were certain that R.R. Aurora and Sons were distributing the fake cosmetics of reputed brands,’’ a senior department official said.

   

 
 
A MISSION, A MISSIVE & PAGES FROM THE PAST 
 
 
BY MADHUMITA BHATTACHARYYA
 
Calcutta, Dec. 8: 
She, 73, a lonely widow in Corby, Northamptonshire, desperately seeking somebody she “went to school with”, or “some cousins” back in Calcutta.

He, 53, a father of two from Desborough, Northamptonshire, trying to put to rest a chapter of his past with a Calcutta connection he didn’t know he had. And while he, her messenger, has found his peace — his uncle’s grave at the Bhowanipore Cemetery — she may never pick up the pieces of a childhood long buried in colonial past.

Born in Calcutta in 1927, ‘Bunty’, or Beulah Mary Burnett, lived with father Dr F.M.B. Burnett, mother, two sisters and brother at 47, Police Hospital Road. She was “christened and confirmed at St James Church, Lower Circular Road”; educated at St James’ College and at Pratt Memorial Girls School, “next door”. She then married an Air Force man, stationed at Ballygunge, becoming Beulah Mary Stroud. The next year, they sailed to England on the S.S. Canton.

That was 1946. Today, Bunty is leafing through the memories pressed between the pages of her mind. Two weeks ago, when she saw an article in The Evening Telegraph, about a man coming to Calcutta “to find his roots”, she saw a chance she just could not let pass.

Tracking down Paul’s phone number, Bunty gave him a call. Unable to reach him the first few times, she didn’t give up. She finally caught up with him, and sent him a letter with her biographical details and photographs.

Her messenger had a mission of his own. Paul M. Smith was travelling to Calcutta to lay a wreath on his uncle’s grave. A grave that no one has visited since Alfred Smith came down with cholera and died in 1945, on the way to war in Burma.

It has been an “extremely emotional trip” for Paul, who arrived in the city last Sunday.

“I knew that I would not have the time to go door-to-door in search of Bunty’s relatives, but I definitely want to help her,” Paul explained on Friday.

“She sounded like an ordinary, English housewife,” recalled Paul, “a little lonely perhaps, and trying to find links with her past.”

A public servant, who lives eight miles away, in Desborough, he has never met Bunty. “She cannot come back to Calcutta to meet them, but she wanted me to pass on her address to her old friends so they could contact her, and visit her if they were ever in England.”

This is not her first attempt to find old friends. “I wrote to the Salvation Army, but it did not get me anywhere,” wrote Bunty.

Paul fully appreciates the role “luck” has to play to “bring things together”. In 1996, while he was the head of the Public Health Department in Kettering, Northamptonshire, someone asked him how they could find out where a British soldier was buried. After he contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, he “decided to put them through a little test”. He threw out “the most common name in England” — Smith — Alfred T. Smith.

In response, what he heard “nearly gave him a heart attack”. The Commission told him they had records of a man by that name and the next of kin listed were none other than Paul’s grandparents! “All we knew until then is that Al was buried somewhere in India,” said Paul. But the information from the Commission helped narrow it down. The Bhowanipore Cemetery, Calcutta, India, was where Alfred Smith was buried.

After retiring from service last year, Paul had the time to piece together history. A member of the Rotary Club in Kettering, he got in touch with Rotarians in Bhowanipore. “They sent a picture of the grave to my father. That’s when I realised how much it would mean to my father if someone from the family would go and pay their respects.” That’s exactly what he did soon after landing in Calcutta. “I was overwhelmed... I cried... I wrote something in the visitor’s book that I don’t remember,” said Paul.

Enjoying his week in Calcutta, meeting people, seeing the sights, “or just walking on the Maidan watching the cricket”, Paul is scheduled to return to England on Sunday. Happy at having “completed something that needed to be done”, he will get in touch with Bunty as soon as he is back. “I just hope that I have some good news for her before Christmas.”

For Bunty remembers it all. Her South African headmaster, known for amateur dramatics, the Robertson family, who lived in front of them, “Merle, Horace, Charlie, Doris and Ronnie.” And of course, her “schoolmate Sheila and her sister Cynthia... Her father was the history master at St James.” Later, “nursing at Presidency General Hospital in 1945,” where she “got malaria”. Then, “the course in stenography at the YWCA on Park Street...”.

Bunty’s search for those who share her past is not a cursory one. As emotional as Paul was when he laid the “silk wreath of poppies” on his uncle’s grave, she wrote to him: “I have tried to put into words what I wanted to get across to you. I only hope I have succeeded”.

   

 
 
DAWN BREAKS LATER AT THE BOTANICS 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, Dec. 8: 
Gearing up for an early-morning winter walk at the Botanics? Don’t. Just find yourself another patch of green, if you possibly can.

In a bid to stop an early-morning invasion by local morning-walkers, the authorities of Shibpur Botanical Gardens are all set to keep the gates shut till 8.30 am.

The 215-year-old Gardens, spread over 274 acres on the banks of the Hooghly, has traditionally welcomed visitors from 5.30 am. More than a thousand people flock to the Gardens every morning.

M.S. Mondal, deputy director, Botanical Survey of India, confirmed that the garden authorities are planning to push back the opening time “for security reasons”. But the exact time of opening is yet to be finalised.

Thousands of local residents, for whom the Gardens is the sole source of fresh air in congested Howrah, will be affected by the revised timings.

“We have been starting our day with a walk in the Gardens for years. We cannot believe that the gates will remain shut till late in the morning,” said Prasanta Mukherjee, a regular morning walker.

Members of the Botanical Survey of India Employees’ Association have decided to submit a memorandum to the authorities on December 15, urging them not to change the timings.

“The garden employees are grateful to the local residents for their co-operation and help. We don’t want to hurt the sentiments of the people of our locality,” said Asit Baran Chattopadhyay, general secretary of the union.

While the question of timings seems open to debate yet, the decision to impose an entry fee of Rs 3 per head for visitors has already been finalised. “It should be implemented by January 2001,” said Mondal.

The entry fees are being clamped despite a prolonged protest movement by local residents to “raise revenue for maintenance and security”.

But a “special hour” is being planned for senior citizens frequenting the Gardens for years. “We are planning to fix a certain period of time, an hour or so, when senior citizens will be allowed to enter the Gardens without paying any entry fee. But they will have to leave before the general public pours in,” said Mondal.

   

 
 
POSTAL STAFF LINE UP GRAND RALLY 
 
 
OUR BUREAU
 
New Delhi and Calcutta, Dec 8 : 
Postal employees, on an indefinite strike from December 6, will bring out a Mahamichhil (grand rally) on Saturday in support of their demands, including implementation of the recommendations of the Justice Talwar Committee.

The employees will march to Yogayog Bhavan from various parts of the city, including Sealdah and Beadon Street, and assemble there for a central procession, which will be start from Yogayog Bhavan at 2.30 pm and end at Rani Rashmoni Road, where a rally will be held.

With nearly 5,000 employees joining the strike from the Calcutta postal zone, nearly a crore of letters and parcels have piled up in about 300 post offices in the city. “We have no way out but to wait for the strike to be called off. Only then can we begin to sort the pile-up of letters and parcels,” said a senior postal official. Employees belonging to the joint action committee of the three striking unions on Friday campaigned for Saturday’s rally and urged all postal staff to participate in it.

   

 
 
OIL VICTIMS FACE HUNGRY FUTURE 
 
 
BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY
 
Calcutta, Dec 8 : 
More than 250 residents of Behala who had developed physical deformities after consuming spurious rapeseed oil face starvation due to government apathy.

On July 9, 1988, Rathayatra, a large number of residents of Behala bought rapeseed oil from Garib Bhandar, a ration shop at Buroshibtala. However, within a few days, they developed deformities. The victims were mostly residents of Indira Pally, Malkanpara, Manmohan Banerjee Road, S.N. Roy Road, Gobarjhuri and Tollygunge Senhati Colony.

In the hue and cry that followed, Garib Bhandar was sealed and its owners, Nakul Shaw, Arun Shaw and Rajdeo, were arrested. An employee, Asoke, was also taken into custody.

Investigations revealed that the shop-owners had adulterated the oil with tricrysile ortho-phosphate, a chemical used to make soap. The adulterated oil paralysed the lower limbs of the victims. The chemical had been sold to the shop-owner by a drug addict of the area. By an irony of fate, he too developed a handicap.

Initially, the number of victims was pegged at 1,200. The figure has now dropped to 260.

The victims formed a Patients’ Welfare Committee for Behala Oil Victims to fight for their rights. Mohan Alam, secretary of the committee, said the adulterated oil had been sold for a month and complaints about its quality had gone unheeded.

Meanwhile, about 50 people died of various ailments. Initially, the government doled out cash and rice to the victims. This aid was turned into a lump-sum grant when the official list of victims was cut in 1995. Now, the government has trimmed the list further and categorised the victims into four groups: very severe, severe, moderate and mild.

The first group gets Rs 300 a month, the next Rs 200, ‘moderate’ draws Rs 100 and ‘mild’ Rs 50. In addition, they get 12 kg of rice per month per head.

But the aid is irregular. For the past year, rice has not been supplied. The victims would prefer money instead. But the government will not listen to them, say the handicapped.

   

 
 
22 DETAINED IN KERB CLEAN-UP 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Dec 8 : 
The police on Friday launched a drive against pavement-dwellers in the city. The drive was carried out on Park Street, Shakespeare Sarani, Wood Street, Camac Street and the surrounding areas. Most of these encroachers had come from Bhangar, Lakshmikantapur, Joynagar and surrounding areas, police said.

Senior officials of the detective department said these encroachers, who had taken refuge on the pavements of Park Street and its surrounding areas, kept a tab on houses and shops in the locality and supplied information to criminals hailing from their villages.

A total of 22 people were detained and sent to welfare homes. Another group of 33 was “pushed back” in a nightlong raid on Friday, police said..

Some of those detained told interrogators they had arrived job-hunting in the city about a year ago because they were starving in their villages . They had to settle on the footpaths because jobs were scarce and accommodation beyond their reach.

But police checked records with the local thanas and found that most of them had been taken into custody at some time or the other on charges of petty crime.

   

 
 
REVEREND RUES DROP IN DESIRE TO KNOW 
 
 
BY SEBANTI SARKAR
 
Calcutta, Dec 8 : 
“It was very hard coming away at Christmas time but I am glad I did, because it has given me a completely different perspective. The people of Calcutta have impressed me with their strength, their unflinching desire to help others, so much so that I hope to make a mention of it in my Christmas Day sermon,” said Reverend Dr Wesley Carr, Dean of the Westminster Abbey, after a visit to Shishu Bhavan, the orphanage run by the Missionaries of Charity, on Friday.

Rev. Carr’s five-day visit to Calcutta was a long-cherished dream of his host, The Young Men’s Welfare Society. The Calcutta-based Society will present a symposium on Education, entitled ‘100 Million Children do not go to School In India — How do we Face the Challenge?’, at GD Birla Sabhagar on Sunday. Rev. Carr will be chief guest.

Since 1997, Rev. Carr has been in charge of all ceremonies of the Royal family — coronations, weddings, funerals.

He clearly remembers Princess Diana’s funeral. “It was a hot day and we had thrown open the doors of the Abbey. So when, in the middle of the proceedings, some of the people at the back began to clap, others in the front caught on. In the end, I had this impression of a great wave coming towards me at the pulpit... I think the people’s great affection for the Royal family is unchanged.”

Rev. Carr, on his first visit to Asia, visited a free school in Topsia and St Thomas’ Engineering College at Kidderpore on Thursday. He will inaugurate Shishuder Jagat, a community school at Radhaballavtala, in Joynagar, on Saturday.

Friday was reserved for the Missionaries of Charity. “I am honoured to be able to lay a wreath at Mother Teresa’s mausoleum,” he said, on emerging from Mother House.

From Calcutta, the Reverend will return to England, where he also conducts “a very live worship” for about two million visitors to the historic Westminster Abbey that yields an annual “turnover of £9 million”.

He is an academic theologian, who has authored many internationally-recognised books on “managing human relations and social change”.

According to the Reverend, “education is directly connected to religious faith... The desire to know has declined in recent times and so has religious faith. Today, it is hard to find a rairoad driver who knows Shakespeare, but it wasn’t so in my youth. People rely too much on television where they get information too easily.”

   

 
 
MAJOR RAGE OVER MINIATURES 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Dec 8 : 
Manjit Bawa feels it is time he spoke out against the mud-slinging by Arushi, a gallery in Delhi, and his former assistant, Mohinder Soni. It all began when Bawa discovered that a miniature of a lion, supposedly painted by him, and which was put up for sale by Christie’s, was actually a fake and his signature was forged — the master never signs his works. The opening bid for the miniature was Rs 1.39 lakh and it went up to Rs 1.89 lakh, when the miniature was withdrawn.

Then Arushi directors Priya Jain and Payal Kapoor started badmouthing Bawa, claiming that all his miniatures were fakes, since they were all painted by Soni any way. And Bawa was disowning them now since he had parted company with his former assistant. Soni seconded their claim, going even further to add that some of the big paintings were joint efforts.

Outraged Bawa, of course, has a different story to tell. The artist, who was in Calcutta earlier this week, says Soni started to work for him in 1989. At that time, Bawa was working on a Times of India project to create giant cutouts of circus figures, to be displayed near Victoria Terminus. Says Bawa: “Soni was very poor. He used to do commercial work and he helped me stretch canvas or paint the backgrounds of large paintings. But even artists like Swaminathan would lend me a hand.” Under his guidance, Soni learnt to sketch, and Bawa admits he was good in producing kitsch.

Unbeknown to him, Soni had started copying Bawa’s works. The man had access to the artist’s studio and all his works, which he photographed systematically. Bawa also admits Soni helped him cut out stencils for his works and do the spray painting. Thereby, Soni learnt the tricks of the trade and specialised in the small format.

When Bawa discovered what Soni was up to, he fired him about two years ago, though the latter begged pardon. Some time later, the two directors of Arushi gallery approached the artist for some of his paintings. They had brought along Soni with them to plead their case. Bawa refused to oblige them because he felt they would not be able to handle his works, and instead, suggested that they deal in Soni’s handiwork.

Later, Bawa’s putative miniature surfaced at the Christie’s auction. “Where Soni went wrong was that I never sign my paintings. When I do, I do so behind the canvas in at least three languages. Secondly, the sizes of all my paintings are different. Soni made it too long.”

As incontrovertible evidence, Bawa stresses that all his 14 miniatures, painted in the early 90s, are catalogued and are in a trust for his son, who is handicapped. They are not for sale. But he has sold two miniatures in New York for Rs 5 lakh and Rs 6 lakh each.

So the directors of gallery Arushi are actually promoting fakes, says Ina Puri, who has been managing Bawa’s works for some time. She stresses that the only people authorised to sell Bawa’s works are herself, CIMA, Sakshi and Espace galleries.

Rupika Chawla, leading restorer of paintings, says Mohinder Soni comes nowhere near Bawa’s enormous talent.

In an interview over the telephone, the Delhi-based restorer said there were obviously various parties who wished to malign Manjit Bawa and were deriving great pleasure from the affair. She stressed that “this should be nipped in the bud. If the situation is allowed to dominate other artists, too, may face a similar predicament.”

   

 
 
FUNDS CRUNCH HITS TOURISM 
 
 
FROM SIB KUMAR DAS
 
Berhampur, Dec. 8: 
Gopalpur-on-sea, the famous but neglected beach resort, will open to tourists this year also without any improvement in its infrastructural facilities.

Despite the drawbacks, the members of the Ganjam District Hotel Association will be organising the annual beach festival in January next year.

President of the Gopalpur beach festival E. Rajeswar Rao, said the programme would include classical dances, tribal dances, fashion shows and performances by Bollywood stars. The Air Defence College of the Army will also participate in the event.

Though the Union government had released a commemorative stamp on Gopalpur a few years ago, nothing substantial has been done for the development of the Gopalpur beach resort.

The hoteliers of the district had, on their own initiative, started the Gopalpur festival on the lines of the Puri beach festival. But allegedly the festival gets very little government funds compared to the Puri beach extravaganza.

Gopalpur is a small town in Ganjam district’s Rangeilunda block and managed by the cash-strapped notified area council. The income of the council is too meagre for it to undertake infrastructural work for tourism development.

Though Gopalpur has the sea and the beach, the state tourism department had planned to add more attractions.

Most tourists prefer Gopalpur for its serenity. However, without other attractive features, especially for the children, tourists were unlikely to turn up in large numbers, a hotel owner said.

The town has attractive backwater areas near the beach. Plans to utilise the same for an aquatic sports complex have not materialised due to paucity of funds.

Archana Haldar, a tourist, who visited Gopalpur after almost 10 years, said she did not see any growth in the tourist infrastructure. Even the beach was not properly illuminated, she added.

Administrative officials said it was not possible to provide more funds to the local body as Gopalpur was a notified area council.

There were plans in the past to club Berhampur, Gopalpur and Chatrapur under one corporation. This might have led to better investment in the development of the Gopalpur beach, but nothing has been done yet, sources said.

Another major problem that the tourists have to face is communication as the nearest public transport station is in Berhampur.

   

 
 
TUSKER KILLS WOMAN NEAR BHUBANESWAR 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 8: 
A tusker from the Chandaka elephant sanctuary killed a 35-year-old woman near Bhubaneswar today.

The woman was returning to Gangapada village under Jatni police station from a nearby river this morning when she came across the tusker which had strayed from its herd.

Police said the tusker lifted Bimala Bahubalendra by its trunk, threw her on the ground and trampled her to death. Another woman accompanying Bahubalendra was injured on the head while trying to flee.

This is the second such incident in a week. On Sunday, a 65-year-old woman was killed by a tusker which had strayed from the elephant sanctuary.

Koshal state demand

The Sambalpur District Lawyers’ Association today called for a dawn-to-dusk “Sambalpur bandh” on December 12, demanding a separate Koshal state for western Orissa districts, reports UNI.

The association submitted a 10-point charter of demands stating that the government had all along neglected western Orissa.

The association demanded that the government declare the entire area drought-affected and waive examination fees of school and college students.

The demands also included withdrawal of professional tax and provision of drinking water to Sambalpur town.

   
 

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