Premji vow to tap ‘homeland’ talent
Hrithik, Didi score over Vande Mataram
Gill trains guns on graffiti
Best of Bengali art and culture at Curzon Park
Lockout lifted at club
Water tax shelved in Salt Lake
Hawkers back on Sunset signal from Buddha

 
 
PREMJI VOW TO TAP ‘HOMELAND’ TALENT 
 
 
BY SUTANUKA GHOSAL
 
Calcutta, April 10: 
It’s target West Bengal for Wipro. Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Corporation, has decided to pump up to Rs 80 crore into the state in the next two years.

After having signed a memorandum of understanding with Wipro for setting up a software development centre on a 12-acre plot on the EM Bypass, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee offered Premji a 30-acre plot at Nonadanga, near Ruby General Hospital.

“Wipro officials had come here on March 1. We showed them the plot of land at Nonadanga. Now, they will take the final decision,” Bhattacharjee said after a 40-minute meeting with Premji on Tuesday afternoon.

“Our top priority is to complete the projects as fast as possible,” announced the Wipro chief at Writers’ Buildings. He confirmed that the software major had already acquired the 12-acre plot on the Bypass and construction on the development centre would start within the next six months. The centre, which will house Wipro Technologies, the software export division of the company, is expected to be fully operational in the “next financial year”. The focus will be on applications in the area of telecommunication, embedded systems, datawarehousing and e-commerce.

The Calcutta complex will be Wipro’s sixth development centre in India, after those at Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune and Gurgaon. Part of the company’s grand expansion plans aimed at giving a thrust to the domestic market, the city centre will employ around 2,500 people.

“We have come to Calcutta to take advantage of the immense talent that is available from the various engineering colleges here,” said Premji. “The centre will be our headquarters for service to the eastern region,” he added.

Webel chairman Subrata Ganguly, who was present at the meeting at Writers’, said: “Wipro investing so heavily is a major boost for the state’s IT sector.”

On Monday, Premji had attended a dinner hosted by Somnath Chatterjee, chairman of the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Presidents of all leading city-based chambers, industrialists and technocrats including M.N. Dastur, Harsh Neotia, Subrata Ganguly, Bhaskar Pramanik, Joe Silva, and bureaucrats chief secretary Manish Gupta, home secretary S.N. Roy, industry secretary Jawhar Sircar and finance secretary Ashok Gupta were present.

Speaking on the occasion, Premji said he was “particularly happy” to do something for Bengal, as it marked a return to the roots for him. His father had started his career as a trader from Burrabazar, recalled the Wipro chief.

“We have urged him to invest further in the state... He is very positive about doing business in Bengal,” observed Somnath Chatterjee.

On Monday, Premji also had an hour-long chat with former chief minister Jyoti Basu. They, apparently, discussed what steps could be taken to hasten the development process in the state. Both agreed that the state had “excellent human resources”.

   

 
 
HRITHIK, DIDI SCORE OVER VANDE MATARAM 
 
 
BY DEEPANKAR GANGULY
 
Calcutta, April 10: 
Who wrote Vande Mataram?... What was the epicentre of the earthquake that shook ‘Gujrat’?

These, and not the questions on Hrithik Roshan or the ‘Didi of Bengal’, stumped students of Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan, appearing for the 50-mark general knowledge exam on Monday (part of question paper reproduced above, incorrect spellings and all).

“We obviously knew the answers to the ‘match and rewrite’ questions featuring Hrithik and Mamata. But many of us failed to answer the questions on the Gujarat earthquake and the National Song,” admitted a student of Class IV A, on Tuesday.

The day after the GK question paper created a ripple of excitement among students, but caused a few raised eyebrows among guardians and even teachers, principal Phool Acharjee stood her ground.

“I don’t think the questions were wrong. But I have asked the teachers to steer clear of present-day politics while setting question papers, as this might give rise to an unnecessary controversy. As for the mention of Hrithik Roshan, I really find nothing wrong. After all, he is the most talked-about personality in the field of entertainment today. As for those who allege that it’s a symbol of decadence, all I can say is that there’s no definition of decadent culture...”

The GK question paper on Monday was a mixture of the traditional and the trendy. So, while there were the age-old puzzlers like ‘Who is known as Gurudev’; ‘Which is the world’s highest mountain’ and ‘Name the man who built the Taj Mahal’, there were contemporary conundrums like ‘Name the “dat.com” that cost George Fernandes his chair’; ‘Name Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter’; ‘Name the man who broke Gavaskar’s record at the Eden Gardens in 2001’...

The students seemed most excited about the ‘modern’ nature of questions.

“These are the things and people we talk about in our everyday lives. It’s so much more fun answering questions like these,” exclaimed one 10-year-old.

A teacher of the school, however, claimed that a small section of the staff-room was opposed to the “frivolous” nature of questions. “I admit that those voicing opposition to the question paper were in the minority. But I feel it’s important that the voice of the old school is heard as well. After all, what kind of signals are we sending out to the guardians if their children can answer questions on Bollywood films, but not the National Song?”

The Ballygunge Shiksha Sadan GK paper has raised questions about examinations being monitored more closely by the apex body.

Jyotiprakash Ghosh, president of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education, whose attention had been drawn to Monday’s examination, said: “We have asked the Calcutta District Primary Council to enquire about the matter and submit a report at the earliest. We will not turn a blind eye to this. The rules for setting such examination papers have been clearly spelt out to school teachers at various workshops and orientation sessions conducted for this purpose. There is no reason why the guidelines should not be followed.”

   

 
 
GILL TRAINS GUNS ON GRAFFITI 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, April 10: 
Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill: “Are the walls of Calcutta clean?”

Chief electoral officer of the state Sabyasachi Sen: “Not yet. I am still looking forward to the political parties honouring their commitment to clean their graffiti from walls of public buildings.’’

Gill called the state election office from Delhi on Tuesday and sought a report on the progress in cleaning graffiti from walls of public buildings in Calcutta. The Chief Election Commissioner wanted all election graffiti wiped off city walls immediately and told Sen that he would come to Calcutta soon to find out if his instructions were being carried out or not.

He asked Sen to take up the matter once again with the parties responsible for sullying the walls. Sen contacted leaders of the nine recognised political parties on Tuesday and told them to remove all election posters and graffiti from the walls of public buildings at the earliest.

“You must clean up the walls before the Election Commission acts against your candidates for violating its directive. The Chief Election Commissioner himself is coming down to see whether his directive is being followed or not,’’ Sen told representatives of recognised parties.

Sen said he had requested party leaders not to put the extra burden of cleaning up walls on returning officers, as they were “already busy organising free and fair polls” in their areas.

“My returning officers are already weighed down by statutory work and I have told the leaders that the task of cleaning up walls should be taken up by their party workers,” Sen told reporters at Writers’ Buildings.

He admitted that no political party in the state had so far come forward to clean up the walls. “All the representatives present at the all-party meeting at Writers’ on April 1 had agreed to clean up the walls of public buildings and there was no reason to suspect their sincerity,” Sen said.

A meeting of returning officers and senior police officers has been called on Wednesday to review poll arrangements and graffiti clean-up in the city. Sen will meet returning officers in the districts on April 14 .

The Election Commission will send 128 poll observers from outside the state to “ensure free and fare polls” in West Bengal. Of these, 86 will monitor conduct of elections and 42 will check expenditure accounts of the candidates in fray.

They are likely to arrive on May 4 to get themselves acquainted with the areas of their work. The observers will be back on May 9 to take charge of their respective areas.

   

 
 
BEST OF BENGALI ART AND CULTURE AT CURZON PARK 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta,April 10: 
A corner of Curzon Park (now renamed Surendranath Park) will remain forever Bengal, thanks to Bhasha Shahid Smarak Samity, which has set up an enclosure called Bhasha Udyan there. The organisation will hold regular seminars and cultural programmes in the enclosure to promote the art and culture of Bengal.

Bhasha Udyan will be inaugurated by Rabindrasangeet exponent and city sheriff Suchitra Mitra on the morning of Poila Baisakh (April 14). Day-long cultural programmes will follow.

“We are trying to give Bhasha Udyan the ambience of Banga Sanskriti Sammelan and Mukta Mela of the Sixties and the Seventies,” said Ranadhir Das, a Samity member.

The inauguration will be followed by felicitation of eminent Calcuttans, like scientist B.D. Nag Chowdhury, film maker Mrinal Sen, set designer Khaled Chowdhury, light director Tapas Sen, stage personality Kumar Roy and singer Dwijen Mukherjee.

Artist Paritosh Sen will inaugurate an exhibition centre, named after sculptor Ramkinkar Baij. A marble structure at the south-eastern corner of the park will be christened Parash Pathar Angan after Satyajit Ray’s comic masterpiece. In the film, Tulsi Chakraborty, the protagonist, had stood under the structure to take shelter from a downpour. Actor Soumitra Chatterjee will inaugurate the Parash Pathar Angan in the afternoon.

The line-up for the day-long musical programme includes Ajoy Chakraborty, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta, Banashri Sengupta, Jatileswar Mukhopadhyay and Subir Sen. The Samity’s Bengali New Year’s Day celebrations will start on the eve, April 13, with performances by folk artistes Amar Pal, Prahlad Brahmachari and Sukhabilas Barma on Lalan Mancha, which had been erected earlier by the Samity.

   

 
 
LOCKOUT LIFTED AT CLUB 
 
 
BY SUBHRO SAHA
 
Calcutta,April 10: 
After an extended period of closure, Saturday Club, one of the premier stops on the city’s club circuit, reopened on Tuesday following a memorandum of understanding signed by the management and the Citu-affiliated staff union.

The management had slapped a lockout on January 21 after employees, pressing for a charter of demands, gheraoed and threatened vice-president T.P. Roy on January 16. Roy had to be rescued by the police later.

“We have sorted out the differences with the union and a lot of credit for that goes to Citu leader Rajdeo Goala. The club is now officially open, but it will take us another 10 days to inform the court and take possession of the premises back from the special officers, replenish inventory and clean up the place before we can entertain members again,” said club president Prem Nayar.

The staff union, representing the 160-odd employees, was agitating against the management’s decision to do away with the club’s own medicare facilities, which ran parallel to the statutory ESI scheme and to freeze the Club Special Dearness Allowance (CSDA) at last December’s rates.

According to the revised proposals drafted by the management, to which the union put its seal of approval on Tuesday, each employee will be entitled to a yearly medical cover to the extent of Rs 25,000 in case of hospitalisation, over and above the customary ESI scheme, and there will be a single-linkage dearness allowance, instead of the earlier double-DA system.

“The additional manpower cost burden would have been Rs 90 lakh had we complied with all the demands in the charter. We have also made it clear that there will be no automatic employment of the employees’ next of kin and no outsiders will be allowed to stay inside the premises,” said the club president.

For the staff union, hit hard by the no-work-no-pay diktat, the reopening of the club is welcome news. “I had always maintained that the issues weren’t so contentious that they can’t be sorted out. I am happy for the staff who will enjoy a hike of Rs 381 per month, besides getting arrears for the period since the last agreement expired,” said Goala.

   

 
 
WATER TAX SHELVED IN SALT LAKE 
 
 
BY SHANKAR MUKHERJEE
 
Calcutta,April 10: 
Taking a cue from its city counterpart, the CPM-controlled Salt Lake municipality has decided to shelve the proposal to impose water tax on the township.

Till three months ago, the municipality was keen on imposing water tax, in compliance with recent guidelines of the state urban development department.

The CPM’s turnaround is being attributed to the impending Assembly elections. Party poll managers feel such an “unpleasant” move will send wrong signals to the electorate.

The decision to defer the imposition of water tax was taken at the civic board meeting held last week, reportedly under pressure from the Opposition Trinamul Congress councillors.

“We had to rethink the decision as the supply of drinking water is not adequate yet. It will be an injustice to tax people without meeting their requirement. The tax will be imposed when we can supply them with adequate water,’’ said Dilip Gupta, chairman of the municipality.

City mayor Subrata Mukherjee had shelved the tax proposal in Calcutta citing the same reason.

Six to 6.5 million gallons of water are supplied to Salt Lake. Of this volume, about three million gallons are obtained from the Palta waterworks. The rest is pumped up by 40 deep tubewells.

Of 23 wards, two wards (14 and 23), including the industrial sector, do not get any water from the municipality. Water is also not supplied to the Central government staff quarters. Residents in these wards have to make do with water from deep tubewells.

The population of Salt Lake has increased to 1.6 lakh, with a floating population of about 40,000. According to the engineers, the present volume of supply is far short of the requirement, especially during summer.

“If we get 100 gallons a day, we can supply a sufficient volume of water to the residents. Presently, there is a daily shortfall of 3.5 million gallons,” said Samir Shi, municipality executive engineer.

“We are sinking eight more deep tubewells. But until the supply from Palta increases, the problem will persist. We also need at least another three million gallons from Tallah daily,’’ Gupta said. He has discussed the matter with urban development minister Asoke Bhattacharya, who assured him of an increased supply from Palta. The municipality has started repairing choked underground pipelines to increase the flow of water.

Arms seizure: A large quantity of firearms, ammunition and bombs were seized during week-long raids by the police all over the state, following orders from the Election Commission. According to an official report, 96 weapons, including four rifles and a pistol, 568 bombs and a huge quantity of ammunition and bomb-making material were seized between April 2 and April 9.

   

 
 
HAWKERS BACK ON SUNSET SIGNAL FROM BUDDHA 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta,April 10: 
The state government is set to undo all the good achieved by Operation Sunshine. After four-and-a-half years of keeping pavements free from encroachment, a U-turn in policy will see hawkers back on 21 major roads in the city.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee announced the decision to allow hawkers to return at an assembly of workers belonging to the unorganised sector on Sunday. Under Sections 371 and 372 of the CMC Act, 1981, it is illegal to sell anything by obstructing the road or the pavement.

Within 12 hours of Bhattacharjee’s announcement, the number of hawkers had swelled in different areas.

A conservancy official said that on Monday morning, more than 25 new hawkers were spotted on Grant Street alone. On Brabourne Road, the hawker count had risen by around 50. In Hatibagan and Gariahat, too, hawkers had increased in number, he confirmed.

“It is going to be Operation Sunset. There is no stopping the hawkers now,” said the official, who was associated with the anti-eviction move in November 1996.

To save face, CPM leader and former member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, Kanti Ganguly, one of the prime movers behind Operation Sunshine, said: “The drive was against encroachers only.”

The government’s softening of attitude is reportedly the result of consistent lobbying by CPM-affiliated hawkers’ unions. According to Trinamul Congress leaders, even Mamata Banerjee is in favour of allowing the hawkers to return on the pavements.

   
 

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