Monks see red over sage slur
Lama sings amity sermon
Fresh parleys fail to end STAR stand-off
Go-slow raises cooking gas crisis spectre
Cyber with a cause
Battery buses on road this year
2 young men mowed down
Relax, homoeo shows you how
Two ISI agents arrested
Scam rocks Manipur govt dept

 
 
MONKS SEE RED OVER SAGE SLUR 
 
 
BY MITA MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
Tor chaitanya hok (May you find enlightenment),” says the sage.

Chaitanya chaina, amay mukhyamantri korey dao, thakur (I don’t want enlightenment, please make me chief minister, O Lord),” replies the devotee.

The sage: Ramakrishna Paramhansa, with an Ajit Panja look.

The devotee: Unmistakably Mamata Banerjee.

The writing on the wall: It’s war out there, with poll graffiti as cartoon proving a potent weapon to ridicule rivals.

But this time, the joke’s on the ruling CPM. The dig at Trinamul leader Ajit Panja’s portrayal of Ramakrishna, and Mamata’s vaulting ambition, has run into a wall of opposition in the form of the monks who matter.

Religious leaders of Ramakrishna Mission, and followers of the order, have taken serious exception to the manner in which the famous words spoken by the sage to actress Nati Binodini, have been portrayed in cartoons plastered all over city walls.

At the intersection of Elgin Road and Harish Mukherjee Road, Cossipore, Munshibazar, Beleghata and Lake Town, Howrah and Hooghly, Nati Binodini has been depicted as Mamata, kneeling at the feet of Ajit Panja as Ramakrishna.

The Mission has described the graffiti as a “vulgar attempt to denigrate the image of the great spiritual leader”. Swami Sanatanananda, general secretary of Baranagar Ramakrishna Mission, said: “We don’t approve of anyone using a great personality like Thakur Ramakrishna as an element of caricature.”

Swami Paritushtananda at the Mission headquarters in Belur Math added: “We are extremely hurt to see the way in which Thakur has been portrayed.”

Others associated with the Mission also reacted sharply to the CPM graffiti. “It is extremely vulgar. I don’t care whether it involves Ajit Panja or Mamata Banerjee, the CPM or the Congress. My only concern is the way Ramakrishna has been used in a poll graffiti. It is in real bad taste and I strongly object to it,” said Shankari Prasad Basu, academician and former teacher at Calcutta University.

Arun Ghosh, a bank employee and a Ramakrishna devotee, termed the caricature “unethical” and said “the bhaktas” were planning to mobilise public opinion against such “irresponsible acts by political parties that hurt public sentiment”.

Reacting to the rising voices of criticism, Left Front chairman and CPM Politburo member Sailen Dasgupta said the party had no intention of hurting anybody’s sentiments. “We will discuss the matter with state party secretary Anil Biswas and take appropriate action,” promised Dasgupta.

With poll graffiti taking up every inch of available space on city walls and senior politicians doing nothing to stop the flouting of rules laid down by the Election Commission, it’s now up to individual organisations to try and do their bit.

Milan Sangha, a club which runs an art school in north Calcutta, has devised one method to ensure that political parties steer clear of walls in their area. So, on Sitaram Ghosh Street, instead of the red sickle or the green grass and orange flowers, the walls are full of poetry, limericks and landscape paintings. Members of the club have urged students of the art school to use the walls as drawing books, with the sole intention of keeping the graffiti brigade at bay. “We started this in December, anticipating that political parties would start defacing the walls as elections approached,” said a teacher of the art school.

   

 
 
LAMA SINGS AMITY SERMON 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
Waiting under the scorching sun for four hours and jostling for a toehold against an army of mediapersons and securitymen didn’t go waste for Samphel Dorji. The 21-year-old B.Com student of St Xavier’s College not only managed to catch a glimpse of Dalai Lama, he even shook hands with His Holiness, and actually spoke to him, on Monday afternoon.

On his way from Taiwan to Delhi, the Dalai Lama stopped over for a few hours in Calcutta. “He advised me and my friends to study hard and be good. He also asked us to remember our roots and always feel proud of being Tibetans,” gushed Dorji. But not everyone was as lucky as the boy from Darjeeling. Tibetan followers of the Lama in Calcutta, like S. Norbu and Chewang Choden, were among a host of others who returned dejected as pandemonium marked the brief stay of the Buddhist monk in public glare.

Much before the arrival of the 66-year-old man in red-and-gold robes, crowds thronged Chowringhee Road. While some awaited the opportunity to meet the Tibetan leader in exile, others were drawn by the rumour that Hrithik Roshan was to make an appearance.

When the Nobel Peace Laureate finally arrived at the Oberoi Grand around 1.40 pm, he was greeted by an unruly charge of the media brigade. Amidst the pushing and shoving, rang out shouts of — “Mr Lama, please, please, stop...” and even “Lama-da, please turn this side...”

Finally, the Dalai Lama did plonk down on a sofa for a brief, impromptu Q&A. “I am here just to eat and sleep,” smiled the ambassador of peace, visibly tired after his controversial Taiwan tour. He termed the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan as “unfortunate and sad”, and stressed the need for “religious harmony” at the international level.

On the proposed mass conversion of a million lower-caste Hindus to Buddhism on October 14, the Dalai Lama said the move should not be the result of “resentment towards another religion”. Referring to Buddhism and Hinduism as “twin brother and sister”, he said more and more people were embracing the Buddha dharma “in order to be more equal”. He expressed “satisfaction” over the India government’s handling of the Karmapa issue, and then declared that he “liked Calcutta... and Howrah bridge very much”, before retiring to his hotel room. He will leave for Delhi on Tuesday morning, before heading back to Dharamsala.

   

 
 
FRESH PARLEYS FAIL TO END STAR STAND-OFF 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
For KBC addicts in Dum Dum, Lake Town, Kalindi, Karunamoyee, BD Block in Salt Lake, Southern Avenue and Prince Anwar Shah Road, it’s a case of lost, found and lost.

Even as the second meeting between city cable operators and STAR officials on Monday failed to resolve the fee hike dispute, viewers in these areas have had their STAR bouquet snatched away from them a second time.

Monday’s lengthy parleys proved unproductive, with the cablemen clamouring for a discount and STAR refusing to “make an exception for Calcutta”. To make their case “stronger” before the dialogue with the broadcaster, the city cable operators’ joint action committee has browbeaten those individual operators into turning off the decoders which they had obtained from STAR to beam the bouquet under viewer pressure.

Thus, local networks like DDFCN in Dum Dum, UCN in Lake Town, Vistel on Southern Avenue and Multivision on Prince Anwar Shah Road, have all switched off “under instructions” from the committee. “Yes, it gives us more leverage on the negotiation table if the entire city is switched off,” admitted committee spokesman Tarak Saha.

But, the committee failed to extract much purchase from the second meeting, with STAR sticking to its guns. “There’s no way we can give them a discount on our all-India rates, even if they don’t lift the boycott for another three months,” said Yashpal Khanna, senior vice-president, corporate communications, STAR.

The murmurs of protest from viewers are growing louder and stung by consumer backlash, DDCTN, a local operator at Nagerbazar has approached STAR for decoders.

   

 
 
GO-SLOW RAISES COOKING GAS CRISIS SPECTRE 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
The spectre of a cooking gas shortage is looming large over kitchens in Calcutta and the districts, with the agitation launched by the Citu-led employees’ union at installations of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) entering its second week.

On April 2, the IOC Shramik Union had resorted to a strike demanding immediate implementation of the all-India long-term agreement on wages and other employees’ demands signed by the management and 20 unions in January this year. On April 6, the union called off the strike and resorted to a “go-slow” instead.

Over the past three days, work at IOC’s Kalyani and Durgapur LPG bottling plants has slowed to a crawl. “We are bringing in 45,000 LPG cylinders from our units in Visakhapatnam, Varanasi and Allahabad to try and clear the backlog that has formed in the city,” said O.N. Marwaha, director (marketing), IOC, after meeting chief secretary Manish Gupta on Monday. “We have also sought the Centre’s approval to move other products, like petrol and diesel, into West Bengal as the agitation is affecting supplies,” he added. While the daily demand in Calcutta is for 36,000 LPG cylinders, the districts require 54,000 cylinders a day.

The problem in Bengal stems from the Intuc-led employees’ union opposing the all-India agreement reached in January. This has prevented implementation of the terms of agreement.

The IOC management hopes the matter will be resolved at a meeting with the Central Labour Commissioner on Tuesday in Delhi. “But if the go-slow continues, Calcutta will suffer an acute shortage of cooking gas,” warned Joydeb Sarkar, general secretary, West Bengal Petroleum Dealers’ Association.

   

 
 
CYBER WITH A CAUSE 
 
 
BY DEVADEEP PUROHIT
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
It’s an IT training centre which doesn’t sell the great Silicon Valley dream, nor does it charge course fees running into lakhs. Instead, students are taught basic computer skills with personalised care, for only Rs 100 a month.

This unique centre at Regent Estate, Jadavpur, is an initiative of Compass (Computer Association of Eastern India) and Ankur, a division of Nehru Children’s Museum. “The centre is for the economically-backward and physically-challenged unemployed youth,” explains G. Jayant, secretary, Compass.

The three-month programme, which started in October 2000, has 36 students on the rolls today, with several more queuing up. Students, divided into batches of 12, learn Windows, MS Office 97, Internet browsing for the first two months.

The last month is reserved for hardware know-how. It is during this phase that they are offered a specialisation, involving exclusive training as office assistant, junior technician, marketing or service co-ordinator.

“Certain jobs don’t require fancy degrees or strong technical knowledge. In smaller companies, a minimum technical orientation is enough, and our course is geared towards fulfilling that demand,” says Jayant.

For the first batch of students from the institute, it’s placement time. Many have already been absorbed in member-companies of Compass. The toppers have even netted sponsorships for “further training” at institutes like NIIT and Aptech.

Enthused by the success of the programme, Compass is keen to broaden its scope. They are planning to join hands with other “like-minded organisations”. Work on a similar centre in Howrah is already on. Next on the agenda is a centre for under-privileged children.

“The computer course for deprived children should start by the end of April. For this, we are approaching various MNCs to support us with software,” concludes Jayant.

   

 
 
BATTERY BUSES ON ROAD THIS YEAR 
 
 
BY KUNAL SENGUPTA
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
The state transport department is taking an initiative to reduce pollution by introducing battery-powered buses and three-wheelers in the street this year. And if the diesel-to-battery shift is successful, Calcutta will be the country’s first metro to go for the non-conventional energy.

The transport department, the state pollution control board and the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) are working on a plan to try and popularise the use of battery-powered public transport vehicles. They aim to run 20 such buses in the next few years.

With two battery-run buses plying successfully for the past two years between Ultadanga and Salt Lake, at least four more will be introduced on another route in the next two months. Two three-wheelers will run in the same area. “We are considering the Ultadanga-Park Circus stretch to run these electrically-powered vehicles, which need roads without tram tracks,” said WBREDA chief S.P. Gonchowdhury.

The two buses, running at an average speed of 40 kmph and operating for the past two years, have generated Rs 1 lakh each a year. The 16-seater buses are being manufactured by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (Bhel) at its Bhopal plant. The West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation (WBSTC), which operates them, proposes to follow the fare structure of the Ultadanga-Salt Lake route. “We want to keep the fare at an even rate of Rs 5 a trip, but nothing has been finalised as yet,” said WBSTC managing director Santanu Goswami.

However, the state government wants Bhel to reduce the cost of the buses, which come for Rs 12 lakh a vehicle. “The price is too high. It will, perhaps, come down with technical innovations,” Gonchowdhury said. Manufactured in Lucknow by Scooters India, the seven-seater three-wheelers come for Rs 2.5 lakh each. “The battery has a life of four years and needs a six-hour charge every day,” he said. Zero-emission buses run for a mile using the energy equivalent of a 100-watt bulb burning for 10 hours.

   

 
 
2 YOUNG MEN MOWED DOWN 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
Two youth were gunned down in separate incidents in south Calcutta and on the city’s northern fringes on Monday. Around 1.30 pm, four men chased and shot an unidentified 26-year-old youth from point-blank range in crowded Bright Street, in the Karaya area.

Mohammad Shamim, resident of the area, said the four men were chasing a youth in white jeans and T-shirt. “He ran towards Dilkhusa Street. One of the goons opened fire and the youth slumped to the pavement. The group drew closer and pumped another bullet into his head,” he said.

People rushed out on hearing the sound of bullets. The assailants hurled four bombs and fled through a narrow lane leading to Karaya police station. Later, Karaya police arrived on the spot and sent the body for post-mortem. Ranjit Pachnanda, deputy commissioner of police, south division, said the victim was an outsider and gang rivalry may have triggered the killing.

In the other incident, two unidentified assailants pumped bullets into Mohammad Saleem, 27, while he was returning home near Dum Dum airport early on Monday. The assailants sped off on a motorcycle. Saleem succumbed to his injuries on way to R.G. Kar Hospital. “It was too dark for anyone to identify the miscreants. The motive is unclear,” said additional superintendent of police (Barrackpore), Pijush Pandey.

   

 
 
RELAX, HOMOEO SHOWS YOU HOW 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, April 9 : 
Fight stress with homoeopathy. The Positive Health Clinic promises to treat psychological disorders the natural way, at its new stress clinic, scheduled to open by mid-April.

The new AJC Bose Road clinic will address anxiety in a specialised manner, in addition to its current hair and skin therapies. The three consultants at the six-month-old clinic have been trained in relaxation methods, such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga, so they can provide holistic counselling to clients.

“Nationwide, there has been a rise in stress disorders, mostly work-related,” explains company chairman and managing director Dr Mukesh Batra. “Many problems that patients complain of are psychosomatic,” he adds.

Asthma, backaches, depression, lack of concentration, irritability are treatable through homoeopathy, with zero side-effects. “Many clients have complained of the ill-effects of mood-influencing drugs. The homoeo remedies have no long-term damage,” he adds.

Citing the case of a boy who suffered from asthma attacks, Batra said: “The boy was not responding to conventional treatment. Then we found he only had problems when his father was leaving town. He was cured after treatment for separation anxiety.”

From identification of stress-related problems, and the prescription of the medication, with the help of the clinic’s customised software, and relaxation counselling, all will be available at the clinic.

“A certain amount of stress is positive... So we try to maintain a balance,” says the doctor of 27 years.

   

 
 
TWO ISI AGENTS ARRESTED 
 
 
FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT
 
Agartala, April 9: 
For the first time, Tripura police have arrested two suspected agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. Police in Sonamura subdivision of West Tripura yesterday arrested a leading ISI agent and his henchman and recovered highly incriminating documents.

Giving details, police sources said a team from Jatrapur police station in Sonamura subdivision yesterday raided the house of one Dhananjay Debnath in Machhima village. The police recovered documents relating to the banned National Liberation Front of Tripura, 16 blank letter pads, 18 envelopes marked with addresses and three rubber stamps from his shop.

One of the rubber stamps contained the words “south zone” while another carried the name of “Abdul Karim — area commander ISI.” The third stamp contained the name of Momin Mia, an ISI agent. After interrogating Dhananjay Debnath, police came to know the address of Momin Mia and arrested him from his residence at nearby Tamasabari village. An affluent businessman, Momin Mia had suddenly amassed property. Both the arrested persons are now being interrogated. The third man in the chain, “area commander” Abdul Karim, is still untraced and security forces have been alerted.

   

 
 
SCAM ROCKS MANIPUR GOVT DEPT 
 
 
FROM OINAM SUNIL
 
Imphal, April 9: 
Nine officials of state family welfare department and a supplier were arrested last night by Imphal West police on charges of misappropriation of public money.

The family welfare department was in the eye of a storm after its officials were found disbursing over Rs 41 lakh to a firm despite encashment restrictions by the state finance department.

Though the amount was disbursed for the supply of store items, the material did not reach the department. Officials allegedly signed on papers showing the reciept of the items. Those arrested include two retired directors of the family welfare department —- N. Kshiroda Devi and M. Amusana Singh. The rest, who are still serving in the department, are Khundrakpam Pramodkumar, deputy director (administration), S. Nilakomol, deputy director Y. Sadananda Singh, joint director S. Kumar, joint director H. Mohendro, cashier L. Kenjit Singh, store inspector Thokchom Rajnikanta and the medical store keeper.

Owner of the firm Marjing Drugs, Khoisnam Japan Meitei, was also arrested. The accused persons were produced before the chief judicial magistrate this afternoon and remanded in police custody for a day. Those arrested were charged under Sections 409, 471, 468, 120-B of Indian Penal Code and 13 (2) Prevention of Corruption Act. They will be produced in the chief judicial magistrate’s court tomorrow.

According to sources, police first lodged the case after coming to know that the “disbursed amount” did not reach the department despite the officials acknowledging the receipt of the items. The police came across a letter written by family welfare commissioners L. Gangte on April 3 to principal secretary, finance department, seeking permission to deposit the “encashed” amount.

This is the first major crackdown on corruption in a government department after Radhabinod Koijam-led People’s Front ministry came to power on February 15. Sources said the scam in the family welfare department has sparked panic among government officials.

Police post ransacked

A newly-constructed police post at Molcham in Manipur’s Chandel district was damaged in a bomb attack by militants on Saturday, according to a delayed report.

Director-general of police D.S. Grewal told The Telegraph today that the attack was possibly carried out by a militant outfit. He said the police post was yet to be inaugurated, which is why only five policemen were present at the building when the incident took place. The brick wall and the tin roof were damaged.

   
 

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