Parking row shuts New Market
Entrepreneur school gets Buddha nod
Mamata blocks road wash
Rare surgery rids man of tumour
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Relics of Bengal’s rich art legacy
Retirement rules bent
Militants kill CPM worker
Naxalites gun down BJD activist
Funds crunch may hit Orissa relief projects

 
 
PARKING ROW SHUTS NEW MARKET 
 
 
BY PRONAB MONDAL
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
The parking problem at New Market reached flashpoint on Tuesday afternoon with shop-owners downing shutters and taking to the streets, along with shoppers, to protest “the new, faulty system”.

The police changed the double-row, perpendicular-to-the-curb parking system on Lindsay Street to a parallel-to-the-curb arrangement six months ago to “widen the carriageway”. Shopkeepers and patrons alleged that under the new parking system, only 180 cars could now be parked in front of New Market, as opposed to about 400 earlier.

Trouble had been brewing for some time, with traders and shoppers having to go round in circles trying to find parking space. And it finally spilled over on Tuesday afternoon.

Around 3 pm, a shopper emerged out of New Market to find that his car had been impounded by the traffic sergeant on duty.

An argument broke out, with the sergeant slapping a Rs 400 fine on the car-owner. This sparked a heated exchange, with the crowd that had gathered ganging up against the cops in protesting the “lack of parking space”.

Sensing trouble, traffic sergeants at the site called for additional forces from Taltala police station. A police van was rushed to the spot.

This added fuel to the mob fury. Traders shut shop and marched towards Jawaharlal Nehru Road. Several hundred protesters squatted on the middle of the thoroughfare. This led to traffic snarls on Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Sudder Street, Free School Street, Esplanade, S.N. Banerjee Road, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Lenin Sarani and C.R. Avenue.

“By enforcing the new rule, the police have reduced the parking space on Lindsay Street. The earlier system was much better, as it accommodated more cars... And the police never penalise cars with red lights. They only harass those who come to shop at New Market,” alleged Ram Manglani, secretary of the New Market Byabsayee Samity.

The agitation was finally called off after assistant commissioner of police (central), Uma Shankar Lahiri, assured traders that the parking problem would be addressed at a meeting in Lalbazar on Wednesday.

“We will be meeting the joint commissioner of police, traffic, Anup Chatterjee, at Lalbazar on Wednesday to try and work out a permanent solution to the acute problem posed to us and shoppers by the new parking laws on Lindsay Street,” said Kunj Tewari, a shop-owner.

“Our future course of action will depend on the the meeting. If no solution seems to be forthcoming, we may even decide to go on an indefinite strike,” he warned.

   

 
 
ENTREPRENEUR SCHOOL GETS BUDDHA NOD 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Taking a cue from consulting major Mckinsey & Co’s suggestion to ‘create enterprise for survival in the new economy’, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee gave the go-ahead to the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce’s Enterprise Development Institute (EDI), West Bengal, on Tuesday.

Expressing his full support to the initiative, Bhattacharjee promised to transfer the 32-cottah plot on Prince Anwar Shah Road “by the end of this month” to set up the EDI. At a 45-minute meeting at Writers’ Buildings, Chamber representatives briefed Bhattacharjee about the details of the Rs 10-crore project.

The primary objective of the proposed institute will be to “build entrepreneurial skills among educated youth in the state”. The endeavour, the first of its kind in the state, will be “all-encompassing” — reaching out to rural artisans and new generation IT-preneurs.

“The chief minister suggested a ‘futuristic curriculum’ for the programmes, structured on the basis of inputs from government, industry and academia... The institute will have laboratories and workshops to help budding entrepreneurs create product prototypes,” said Bhaskar Sen, chairman of EDI. A post-graduate programme on business management is being planned at the six-storeyed institute, spread over 4,818 sq m, which will also house an auditorium, a cybercafe and a cafeteria.

“The academic standard will be top-rung. Full-time faculties from premier business schools and the industry will be recruited... The chief minister has also promised to help us rope in guest lecturers from some of the best institutes in the country,” said Sen.

Funds for the institute will be raised from the state and Central governments, corporate donors, financial institutions and banks and the Chamber. Work on the project, to be executed by Development Consultants Ltd, will kick-off “before the Pujas”.

   

 
 
MAMATA BLOCKS ROAD WASH 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Mamata Banerjee has once again scuttled a useful civic service. The washing of 22 thoroughfares, a practice resumed recently after a gap of decades, is set to stop. The Trinamul Congress leader’s logic: In a city where potable water is scarce, it is a crime to use thousands of gallons of filtered water to wash the streets.

By this logic, she has stymied mayor Subrata Mukherjee’s nascent scheme barely six months after it started. And it is the third setback of the kind for the first citizen of Calcutta: He had been forced to eat crow on the hawker eviction and water-tax issues.

Street-washing, which the Trinamul Congress-BJP board re-started with much fanfare, will be withdrawn soon, as it has failed to fetch Banerjee’s endorsement. “It will send a wrong message to the people reeling under a scarcity of water,” she is said to have remarked at a recent meeting with the mayor and other members of his council. She also asked the CMC not to wash Harish Chatterjee Street, where she lives.

The civic authorities are now in a fix with the inflow of letters from citizens, applauding the re-introduction of street-washing and requesting the mayor to extend the early-morning exercise to their areas, too.

Member, mayor-in-council (conservancy), Mala Roy said the CMC re-introduced street-washing in August and more than 22 major roads were being washed every day. “ I am yet to withdraw the service and am waiting for the mayor’s directive,” she said.

Harish Mukherjee Road, Sarat Bose Road, Gariahat Road, Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Ahmerst Street, Bidhan Sarani and B.B. Ganguly Street were some of the roads included in the scheme. “We deploy water tankers for washing the streets,” said a conservancy official, as the hydrants of unfiltered water were ‘out of order’ on all the roads.

“It is a luxury to wash the streets with filtered water while thousands do not get adequate water to drink,” observed leader of the Opposition, Kanti Ganguly.

It is costly too, he pointed out. A tanker of filtered water costs Rs 300.

   

 
 
RARE SURGERY RIDS MAN OF TUMOUR 
 
 
BY SUVRO ROY
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Surgeons at the Institute of Laparoscopic Surgery in Salt Lake have achieved a rare feat — removing a tumour “the size of a dressed chicken” from the large intestine of Rakesh Garg, 38.

“The surgery, laparoscopic hemicolectomy, was the first of its kind in eastern India,” said Dr Om Tantia, director of the Institute, who led the team last week.

Garg had been suffering for two-and-a-half years. “I could hardly eat as my stomach always felt full... I lost nearly 12 kg in the past six months,” he recalled, recuperating at the Institute, four days after the operation. “I am grateful to God and the doctors here for curing me,” he added.

“The tumour was causing a partial obstruction in his large intestine. The patient came to me last Monday, I checked him, admitted him immediately, and conducted the operation on Wednesday,” said Tantia. “There were three surgeons assisting me, an anaesthetist, two technicians and two nurses. The operation took nearly three hours.”

The uniqueness of the case lies in the fact that if a conventional surgery had been carried out, a minimum of a 10-inch incision would have been made and about 150 ml to 300 ml of blood would have been lost. “But we just made a 4-cm incision to bring out the tumour and three 5-mm holes to insert a camera and the instruments. The patient lost only a tablespoon full of blood, and he could sit up and eat 48 hours after the operation,” added Tantia.

The Institute has recorded 671 laparoscopic surgeries since it opened in July last year. But the laparoscopic hemicolectomy, involving removal of half the colon along with the tumour, was performed for the first time on Garg. “We have heard about this particular operation being conducted in Coimbatore and Hyderabad,” said Tantia.

   

 
 
ALL IN THE FAMILY 
 
 
BY AUDREY SEN
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
Back in London after a month in the Calcutta winter, I am sad as anyone is who has to say good-bye. Each year, I come to Calcutta with feelings of pleasurable anticipation and I am never disappointed. This is the other city in my life. Some men, they say, can love two women equally. I am blessed with loving two cities. The one where I was born, London, and Calcutta, where I lived for 30 years.

Now I come as a visitor and don’t experience the traumas of running a household as I did. I lived here during some of the mean years — Naxalites, the Emergency, power cuts and many political upheavals. I see globalisation has embraced Calcutta — paan shops are being replaced by cyber-cafes, dhabas with pool halls and I am told there is an excellent American-style bowling alley in Salt Lake.

Welcome memories

But I’ll leave the socio-political analysis of such changes to others. My memories of this extraordinary city are of the people, not of the institutions, and the welcome I received, when I first came here in 1959, from my late husband’s family and friends, who took me unquestioning into their fold.

As far as I am concerned, Hospitality and Calcutta are synonymous. It may say something for me, but I am overwhelmed by invitations and made to feel welcome by so many. Except for these four weeks, my diary for the rest of the year remains comparatively blank.

This visit, I decided it was about time I returned some of the hospitality and gave a lunch party for as many of my friends as I could muster. It was a lovely day at Tolly. The sun shone as it was expected to in a lovely blue sky. My friends responded in the best possible way to please any hostess. Within moments, they made me feel that I was the guest and they were entertaining me. As, indeed, they were, and my concern for the success of the party vanished in moments.

This trip I was also involved with family functions in abundance. There was a birthday celebration, a wedding reception and the naming ceremony of the latest addition to the family.

Further gatherings erupted from almost every section of the family feeling the need to entertain the rest. If we had a family motto, it would be “Let’s Party!” The advantage of these functions was that I met each and every member of the family, to third cousins three times removed!

My visit to Calcutta was not without nostalgia. I met again some of my husband’s friends from his student days, when he belonged to a well-known theatre group. He had trod the boards enthusiastically in those days, until he realised he had more talent for engineering than for acting. But I always felt he carried with him a feeling of regret for what might have been. However, he bore this regret bravely and enjoyed the friendship of the thespians who stayed true to their profession as they formed into another group along the way. And I am grateful that he left me with their continued friendship. Except that now so many of them are no longer with us.

Within a week of my arrival in Calcutta, in 1959, I met the acting brotherhood at the Coffee House, in College Street. That it was the most appropriate meeting place dawned later when I was better acquainted with the city. The background noise reinforced the sound of raised voices engaged in that age-old Bengali custom of adda.

And this group, I discovered, was no stranger to its practice. It paused in the quest of putting the world right, long enough to give me an enthusiastic welcome and to embrace me into the group as if they had known me all their lives and to bombard me with questions about the plays I had seen before I had left London. That day I met my husband’s friends who, in turn, became mine.

Present that day were young men who would all become leading lights of the Bengali stage and screen — Robi Ghose, Bhola Dutta, Samaresh Banerjee, Shyamal Sen (who later married Chitra Mondal and, in time, produced a talented son, Kaushik Sen), Nemai Ghosh, Uma Bhattacharya, Ashok Ghosal. Later, I was privileged to meet many more.

Before I left Calcutta this time and 42 years after that first meeting in College Street, I met up with the few that remain.

Despite the many absentees, the conversation continued as if it had never ended, as if the four intervening decades were a brief pause to replenish the coffee cups. We are all a little old for the noise and congestion of a coffee house — more suited for the quiet and comfort of a drawing room, surrounded by pictures of departed friends and immersed in memories — but the context of the conversation hardly changed.

State of the stage

I was once again drawn into giving my interpretation of the state of the London theatre. But I felt their enthusiasm for different ideas was dampened by what they think is a decline in Bengali theatre and a need to replenish it with new actors, directors and writers.

I hope I’m wrong. Drama is such an important part of Calcutta and I cannot imagine life there without it. Cyber cafes, pool halls and bowling alleys are wonderful things, but without theatre there is nothing left to make us laugh, cry and think.

Back in London, I offer this as a small tribute and a big thank you to family and friends and to the city with its remarkable quality of endurance and a beauty that’s not immediately visible to the eye. It’s there, for anyone to take the trouble to look, and I know they won’t be disappointed.

   

 
 
RELICS OF BENGAL’S RICH ART LEGACY 
 
 
BY MADHUSHREE C. BHOWMIK
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
She strikes a beguiling pose against an ornate pillar. Part mythical, part human, this exquisite terracotta being is the ‘kinnori’ — nymph — common to the lores of medieval Bengal. Etched in fluid lines, the kinnori vies for attention with an intricately-carved Gandharva and a panel of wild hunting animals in various stages of motion.

These 11th Century terracotta plaques were part of a priceless collection of artefacts and engravings from a medieval Buddhist site, Jagjivanpur, near Malda. The relics were on display at Calcutta Information Centre, the high point of the International Conference on Bengal Art, which began at the centre’s Charukala Parshad last weekend. The three-day seminar dwelt on the genesis of Bengal art and the medieval archaeological sites of greater Bengal, including Bangladesh, through a series of papers in 15 academic sessions and more. The conference was organised jointly by the Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training, eastern India, and the Information and Cultural Affairs department, government of West Bengal. It was the sequel to three international congresses on Bengal art held in Bangladesh, under the auspices of the Bangladesh National Museum and the International Centre for Study of Bengal Art.

“During the 1999 congress, we had resolved to organise a global meet in Calcutta as it is the cradle of Bengal art,’’ says Gautam Sengupta, director, Centre for Archaeological Studies and Training. Over 100 participants, including teams from France, the Netherlands, Germany and Bangladesh, took part.

Besides literary expositions, the conference raised issues related to cataloguing and documentation of Bengal art. The conference, according to Sengupta, was an attempt to promote awareness about “Bengal’s artistic and archaeological heritage, which is much-sought-after in Europe and USA, but largely ignored in the country, particularly in this state’’.

The biggest problem, observed noted Santiniketan-based art historian Ashok Das, was “limited access” to source material. “There are six museums in the city, besides a number of private collections. If they come together, it will bequeath a rich legacy for posterity,’’ says Das.

“The concept of art and archaeology is changing. It is becoming more human and unless it is well-documented, what is its relevance?’’ demands Dr J. Salles of Leon University in France. Salle, who is working on the “Mahasthan” (the capital of undivided Bengal during the Middle Ages) excavation project sponsored jointly by Bangaldesh and France, wants to do the same in north Bengal, a related site. “If for nothing else, at least to let the local people know of the area’s historical relevance and promote an inter-regional affinity.’’

   

 
 
RETIREMENT RULES BENT 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Feb. 13: 
The Rabindra Bharati University authorities have granted three months’ extension of service to a teacher without the approval of the university’s executive council. The teacher, of the department of Bengali, turned 60 on January 31, which is the stipulated age of retirement of teachers of the university, a senior member of the council said.

Rabindra Bharati University vice-chancellor Subhankar Chakraborty granted him the extension by applying his special administrative powers. The move is in gross violation of an unanimous decision of the executive council, the highest policy-making body of the university.

According to university rules, there is a provision for granting extension of service to teachers over 60 years only in exceptional cases. But under such circumstances, the proposal has to be approved by the executive council.

However, over the past few years, the university had stopped granting extension of service to teachers after the council took a decision not to allow any teacher continue service after retirement.

The vice-chancellor had, accordingly, rejected the extension of at least six teachers over the past three years.

The extension order has created resentment among the university teachers, who on Monday threatened to take up the issue with the state higher education department.

“There is no need for the executive council if its recommendations are not followed,” said a senior official of the university, preferring anonymity.

The vice-chancellor refused to comment on the issue when contacted.

   

 
 
MILITANTS KILL CPM WORKER 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, Feb. 13: 
Outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura militants shot dead a tribal CPM volunteer in Dhalai district last night.

Police sources said seven armed NLFT rebels stormed into the house of CPM worker Nakshatra Debbarma in Nishang village under Salema police station. The militants killed him and abducted his younger brother Paltu Debbarma before vanishing into the nearby jungles.

In another incident, a police party led by Takarjala police station officer in-charge Shabir Ahmed today recovered three bodies of 10 ONGC labourers killed by the NLFT.

The police managed to eke out information about the labourers from NLFT collaborator Hemanta Debbarma who was arrested from Takarjala on Sunday.

Inspector general of police (law and order) Salim Ali said 12 ONGC labourers were abducted by the NLFT from Arjun Thakur Para under Takarjala police station on March 19 last year. “Two of them managed to escape, but the remaining 10 were killed by the militants,” he added. “All the bodies will be recovered soon,” he said.

Sources said a group of armed NLFT rebels closed down the Belbari Junior Basic School and Montford market in the Belbari area under Jirania police station.

They also looted 21 telephone sets of tribal residents, suspecting the phones were being used to provide information to the police.

Sources said the NLFT has been angered by a news item published by a local daily on Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura leaders having “unholy nexus” with antisocial elements.

Orissa ban on spitting

Spitting inside Lord Jagannath’s temple complex will henceforth be considered an offence and persons found guilty of such act would have to pay a fine of Rs 5. The temple managing committee constituted by the state government, which met here yesterday, under the chairmanship of the Gajapati Maharaja of Puri, Dibya Singh Deb, decided to impose the fine in a bid to make the temple premises clean and hygienic.

Temple sources said such stringent provision would be applicable to both the devotees as well as the temple sevayats.

The management committee, official sources said, had to impose the fine as repeated warnings advising the devotees and the servitors not to spit in the temple compound went in vain.

   

 
 
NAXALITES GUN DOWN BJD ACTIVIST 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Berhampur, Feb. 13: 
Naxalites killed BJD activist Rampuri Krishna in Rayagada district last evening. This is the third political murder in recent months.

Krishna’s killing has raised suspicion that Naxalite groups are trying to increase their support base in south Orissa by eliminating grassroots-level activists of other political parties.

Police sources said Krishna’s murder occurred in remote Irukubadi village, 25 km from Rayagada. Krishna was from a politically-active family and was also a local contractor.

Sources said Krishna was on the hit-list of Naxalites who alleged that he was a police informer and was trying to divide the villagers through politics.

The sources said yesterday three Naxalite activists arrived at Krishna’s home. While one of them waited outside, two went to call him. They posed as local contractors who needed building materials from him. Once Krishna came out of the house, one of the Naxalites took out a revolver. Krishna started running towards the house, but was shot dead. The Naxalites also slit his throat to ensure that he was dead.

Rayagada superintendent of police Yashwant Kumar Jatua rushed to the site. A manhunt has been launched in nearby villages. Investigations are on to find out whether anyone from the Irukubadi village had links with the assailants. Though no Naxalite group has claimed responsibility for the killing, police sources suspect the involvement of Sabyasachi group, which is most active in south Orissa.

   

 
 
FUNDS CRUNCH MAY HIT ORISSA RELIEF PROJECTS 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 13: 
Orissa finance minister Ramakrushna Patnaik today indicated that cyclone reconstruction and drought mitigation measures such as food for work and labour-intensive programmes were likely to suffer in view of a funds crunch.

Patnaik said here the total cash deficit for the current year would be Rs 1,700 crore, including the Rs 740-crore as debt servicing liability. “Even if the Centre writes off the debt servicing liability to the extent of Rs 767.23 crore, payable to it between December 2000 and March 2001, the state will be left with a huge deficit of nearly Rs 1,000 crore. In this scenario, it will not be possible to release the state’s share of Rs 380 crore under Centrally planned schemes schemes like the Indira Awas Yojana, accelerated rural water supply and food for work,” he said.

Patnaik said unless there was cash generation, it would also not be possible to release funds for labour-intensive works, drinking water and other drought-mitigation works, Patnaik said the Centre should park its share for these measures even if the state government could not, as it had done in the case of Gujarat in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Patnaik said all efforts to generate additional revenue and curtail revenue expenditure through the proposed fiscal re-adjustment programme would not succeed unless the Centre supplemented the state’s efforts by restructuring the debt stock of the state.

The state’s loan burden, amounting to Rs 18,100 crore, will increase to Rs 22,000 crore by the end of March 2001, Patnaik said.

   
 

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